Tag Archives: Michael Emans

REVIEW: The Browning Version – Rapture Bites – EK Arts Centre, East Kilbride

Second up in the inventively curated Rapture Bites season is Terence Rattigan’s 1948 classic, The Browning Version. Almost always guaranteed to wring a tear from even those with the hardest of hearts, it again proves so today at a packed East Kilbride Arts Centre.

Dubbed “the crock” by his students and despised for his unyielding manner and humourlessness (unlike his unfaithful, younger wife), it’s the last day of work at an un-named English public school for Classics teacher Andrew Crocker-Harris (the Himmler of the Lower Fifth) before moving to a new post. It takes a gift from one of his pupils, to prompt him to reflect on his past, look to what his future may be, and think deeply how he is going to end his tenure at the school where he has spent the best part of his life.

Rattigan’s 70 year-old play speaks to us down through the decades, dealing as it does with universal themes: our increasing feelings of uselessness as we age, the guilt of remaining in a marriage of unequal emotion, the consequence of our decisions in early life, the regret at potential unfulfilled. Michael Emans’ again demonstrates his sure hand at the helm of the production. Every subtle nuance is coaxed out of every beautifully written line. 

This is one of the most exquisitely acted productions I’ve seen in a very long time, rarely have I seen such a perfectly cast and performed piece. Robin Kingsland is a beautifully judged Crocker-Harris (I defy you not to have a glimmer of a tear in your eye near the end) as is Paul Albertson as Hunter who despite being Crocker-Harris’ wife’s lover, shows the most compassion towards him at the end. Michael Mackenzie does a fine job of demonstrating Head Master, Dr. Frobisher’s crushing insensitivity towards the departing master, but, it is Dylan Blore as schoolboy Taplow who turns in an utterly scene-stealing performance. 

Rightly regarded as a 70-minute masterpiece, this production from Rapture Theatre is as close to perfection as you are likely to see on any stage – truly out-standing and proves that sometimes an anti-climax is the most perfect way to end.

 

REVIEW: The Twelve Pound Look – East Kilbride Arts Centre

Published in 1910, in the midst of the suffragette movement, J.M. Barrie’s The Twelve Pound Look, is an astonishingly relevant, early feminist drama, rightly regarded as one of the most perfect examples of a one-act play in contemporary drama.

Rapture Theatre are to be lauded for their decision to stage the play as part of their inaugural Rapture Bites lunchtime classics, theatre season, which is being presented here at East Kilbride Arts Centre and in slightly different forms at: The Byre Theatre, St. Andrews; Eastwood Park Theatre, Giffnock; Eastgate Theatre, Peebles; Adam Smith Theatre, Kirkaldy; Harbour Arts Centre, Irvine and CatStrand, New Galloway. The afternoon includes a light lunch, tea, coffee or soft drink as well as a top-quality play from Scotland’s premier touring theatre company.

Harry Sims is the classic example of a man of his time: a pompous, upper class, status-obsessed chauvinist. On the eve of his Knighthood, Harry has enlisted the help of his simpering, supportive, younger, second ‘trophy’ wife to help him practise for the ceremony. Such is his blind self-belief, that he hires a secretary from an agency to respond to the avalanche of correspondence that he expects on the announcement of his award. The secretary turns out to be Kate, the first Mrs. Sims who left him unceremoniously in the middle of the night years before, leaving behind only a note. Harry knows no reason why any sane woman would leave him. The first Mrs. Sims eloquently avails him of the precise reasons why and how she came to secure her freedom.

That such serious subject matter is doused in such humour, shows the adroitness of Barrie. The script is sharp and astute and exquisitely written. While on the surface it all seems like a perfectly palatable piece of fluff for an Edwardian audience, it carries a much deeper message. Who knew that Barrie was such a supporter of the equality of the sexes?

Much of the success of the production is the clarity of direction of Michael Emans and the attractive yet uncomplicated production design, but it is the central performance of Julia Watson as Kate that seals the deal as a polished jewel of a production. Watson is captivating, the elegant fluency and calm assurance with which she skilfully takes Harry down more than a peg or two, is an utter delight to witness.

Rapture Bites, is a welcome addition to the lunchtime theatre movement and with quality such as this, an entertaining time seems assured.

Next up in the series is Terrence Rattigan’s classic The Browning Version on 10th March and Harold Pinter’s A Kind of Alaska on 31 March.

*Please note that this writer has no affiliations with the venues, playwrights or theatre companies whose productions are reviewed on the blog. 

REVIEW: The Collection – Motherwell Theatre, Motherwell

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This article was originally written for and published by The Public Reviews at: http://www.thepublicreviews.com/the-collection-motherwell-theatre-motherwell/

Writer: Mike Cullen

Director: Michael Emans

The Public Reviews Rating: ★★★½☆

Mike Cullen’s The Collection is a tale of desperation, conscience, poverty, avarice, inevitable tragedy and depressing relevance and resonance, despite being written almost twenty years ago. After ten years, Bob Lawson (Jimmy Chisholm) is at the top of his “profession”, something to be proud of you would think, well it would be, were it not for the fact that his “profession” is debt collection. But Lawson’s life is shattered forever when one of his female clients commits suicide. Charting the sordid dealings and the financially, morally and spiritually bankrupt characters who pass through the collection agency’s doors, this is a grim tale for our grim times.

The smell of testosterone and desperation hangs heavy in the air and Cullen’s work wears its influences on its sleeve: the gritty dialogue, grim humour and male egos at their worst, particularly in the interactions between the wholly repellent hard man Joe played with chilling detachment by David Tarkenter and naive new boy Billy (Tam Dean Burn) can’t help but remind one of the work of David Mamet.

The dialogue is, as expected raw, the humour black and the drama intense, however, there is an overwhelming sense of inevitability and predictability about the whole affair. The storyline, whilst compelling never fully develops: it makes no comment on the causes of debt nor does it offer any solutions or judgements, and the portrayal of women as easy victims, willing to sell themselves for “a mutually beneficial business agreement” is quite frankly, offensive.

The small cast of actors more than makes up for its faults though, and Jimmy Chisholm’s central performance as Lawson is flawless. Tam Dean Burn too, turns in a convincing portrayal of the eager to impress new employee Billy who, despite initial reservations, throws the conscience he once had to the wind, in order to impress his boss.

Nearing the end of a national tour, this company is a well-oiled machine, both the scene changes and the interactions between the actors are seamless, slick and well-honed. Entertainment it is not, rather it is an often bleak but utterly compelling portrayal of an all too real and hellishly common problem enacted by a hugely talented cast.