Glasgow-based, writer May Sumbwanyambe’s Enough of Him is the first in a series of planned works based on the historical experiences of Black people in Scotland.
This first work is based on the life of Joseph Knight, a young Guinean man brought to Jamaica and enslaved to Sir John Wedderburn on the Ballendean Estate near Inchture in Perthshire. A young man who was, to a degree, successful in arguing that Scot’s Law could not support the status of slavery. After being inspired by the Somerset v Stewart case in 1772, Knight seeks his own freedom, culminating in his own legal battles in the 1770s.
Sumbwanyambe’s work deals less with the historically significant legal case and the cause of Abolitionism, rather the personal relationship between Knight and Wedderburn.
Played out in front of a backdrop of Alexander Nasmyth’s Landscape, Loch Katrine, atmospherically lit by Emma Jones (it breathes Jamaican fire and dreich Scottish skies in equal measure) and to an unsettling soundtrack from composer John Pfumojena, there is a discomfort that pervades the whole work, a claustrophobia and unease.
Regardless of how often Wedderburn proclaims, “my boy”, “my Joseph”, or invites Knight to dine at his table much to the chagrin of the lady of the manor, plays chess with him or discusses Plato, it is abundantly clear who is master and who is most definitely servant.
Matthew Pidgeon is flesh-crawlingly abhorrent as Wedderburn, both in his dealings with Knight and in his intimacy issues with his desperate wife (Rachael-Rose McLaren). Catriona Faint delivers a tower of strength performance as servant Annie, the object of Knight’s affection and his future wife. Crucial to the play’s success is Omar Austin’s central performance as Knight. He exudes a quiet power and dignity throughout despite walking the tightrope of his mercurial master’s emotions on a daily basis.
By no means a comfortable watch. It thrusts a mirror in our faces: on the surface there may seem to be plenty to pat ourselves on the back about Scotland’s seemingly enlightened attitude towards slavery in the 18th Century (and this triumph in the law courts) but the reality was far, far murkier.
An enlightening, unsettling, uncomfortable but masterfully written play from Sumbwanyambe. There is much to look forward to if promised works on Robert Wedderburn, James McCune Smith, Frederick Douglass, Ira Aldridge and Tom Johnson are produced.
Continues on tour to Cumbernauld, Musselburgh, and Perth.
The story of the Rocket Post (the subject of two films and this stage production) is a long-told but largely forgotten Scottish legend.
It’s July 1934 in the Western Isles and there’s a crowd gathered on a sandy beach to watch German scientist Gerhard Zucker. Zucker wants to connect the world and believes the future of communication is rockets, more specifically, rocket post. He chooses a 1600 metre flight path between the Isles of Harris and the (now) unpopulated Scarp to deliver his cargo. Zucker loads the letters, lights the fuse and… well, what could possibly go wrong? Plenty as it happens. The gunpowder fuelled rocket disintegrates into a hailstorm of singed paper confetti and he only has three days to fix it.
Revived from the original 2017 National Theatre of Scotland production, this utterly charming musical play aimed at children aged six plus, combines, to great effect: storytelling; puppetry; clever and captivating props, and a mix of songs old and new in German, Gaelic and English.
It is a story of hope and optimism, of faith in the future, traditional versus new, the status quo versus change, life at home or venturing into the big wide world as well as a subtle musing on the effect of technology that resonates down the years. Amid great scepticism and a little anti-German sentiment from the local population, Gerhard pursues his dream and along the way inspires local woman Bellag to see beyond her horizons.
The mark of success for this production is its ability to appeal to its wide-ranging audience. The smallest members are awe-struck at the storytelling and stage craft, and the writing is highly amusing and has a cleverness that has much to be appreciated by the adults. The cast (David Rankine, MJ Deans and Ailie Cohen) have a magnetism that draws you in and keeps you enthralled. Utterly, utterly charming, it leaves you with a feeling of warmth as you step out into the cold Autumn night.
Reviewed on 24 October 2022 and continues touring | Image: Contributed
Featured below is a selection of the reviews from this year’s Tron Ambassadors. I’m sure you’ll agree, the quality and insight is worthy of writers way beyond the years of these young people. Doubtless, ones to watch for the future.
The reviews that appear here are the unedited submissions by the writers. The writers range in age from 14 to 18 years of age.
Reviewer: Caitlin Scollin
Drawing from the real potato-picking Irish immigrants of 1936, Theatre Gu Leòr’s new play Scotties is innovative, shocking, and important to today’s audiences.
The lights go down as the play begins, and we see teenager Michael arguing with his Gaelic-speaking parents over a history project. He is tired, weighed down with homework, and embarrassed by his Gaelic heritage. After a visit from his grandmother, he falls asleep, drifting off just as figures in the distance begin to rise and sway. He is thrust into a field, and finds himself in 1930s Kirkintilloch. The audience are left just as clueless as him, as he wakes up in a completely different landscape, one that will mean more to him and his family than he could have ever expected.
Though I was initially thrown by the three different languages the play presented us with, by the end I forgot that I had once been worried by that. I could only understand the English properly, but I managed to understand the lines in different languages through the actors’ expressions. I found it captivating to watch, with so much to take in (through dialogue, movement, lighting, set, and music).
The play continues as Michael talks to Molly (the only character from the past that can see him, eventually revealed to be his own grandmother) and she explains their journey from Achill and introduces him to her “herd”. Michael stays with her for the rest of his time in the field, even when her friend professes his love for her and when their bothy is set on fire. I was enchanted by the magic in the story, and the melodic Gaelic chanting. The audience feel as if they are intruding, as the names of those who died in the fire are read out (named just once in the play as a mark of respect) and Molly weeps over the coffin. We watch her descend into isolation, refusing to even talk to her own daughter- Michael’s grandmother- as she raises her in Scotland too.
Scotties is a play about our relationship with the past, but it is also relevant to modern times. For example, the plaque placed to remember the Scotties in Kirkintilloch was immediately defaced in 2013, confirming tensions between Irish and Scottish communities even nowadays. It also tackles the issue of immigration all over the world. We begin to realise that it isn’t strictly an idea of the past, for people to flee one place to make better lives for themselves, and then be treated with hostility wherever they land. History does tend to repeat itself. The play makes a good point of talking about this in the very last scene.
Accompanied by a clever use of lighting and an interesting and efficient set, the cast dance and sing their way through a whirlwind hour and a half. One of the most memorable scenes is a dance where half the characters pick up instruments and half fall into a traditional dance that it was impossible not to smile at. The play is good at this, incorporating funny and lighthearted scenes in a heartbreaking and raw performance. I found myself crying towards the end, from where the pivotal fire was set to the very last scene.
Reviewer: Jennifer Wright
Recently I had the pleasure of seeing “Scotties” at the Tron Theatre. I had no idea that it was possible to not comprehend the language throughout the majority of a play, yet still be able to understand the raw emotion presented.
Muireann Kelly and Frances Poet’s jointly written play centres around the Glasgow teenager, Micheal (Ryan Hunter) and thoroughly explores and celebrates Scottish culture. A school history project leads Micheal to slip into a dream where he can see clearly the lives of the boys who died in the Kirkintilloch tragedy just prior to the fire. He witnesses the final days of the boys who died as well as their experiences as Irish workers living in poverty during the early 1900s. However, Michael is only able to communicate with Molly (Faoileann Cunningham) who guides him through the past and shows what it means to be a migrant worker in Scotland in the 1930s.
While the challenge of working in multiple languages may seem daunting to some, the cast of ‘Scotties’ not only executed the play with utter passion and clarity but were also to convey to the audience the plot and dialogue through powerful acting where other actors would severely struggle to evoke anything other than complete confusion. Every actor had their own unique and dynamic presence and complemented each other’s performance well. There was no weak link in ‘Scotties’ making for an incredibly enjoyable and emotional evening.
Although, it is not only the acting that should be applauded here; choreographer Jessica Kennedy must be recognised for her hauntingly beautiful movement that complimented the plot, dialogue, and music (by Laoise Kelly) perfectly. Moments that could easily have been glossed over became pivotal scenes due to the immaculate choreography. Overall the creative team’s choices made a play that could have come off as confusing and predictable, an utter success. They managed to find the delicate balance between overdone and completely sporadic, resulting in a fascinatingly surreal play that truly mesmerised the audience.
“Scotties” is a truly spectacular play which explores a part of Scottish history that is not nearly talked about enough, presenting themes that are still prevalent in today’s society. This incredible show will not be soon forgotten, nor, hopefully, will the messages conveyed throughout.
Reviewer: Lucy Robinson
Scotties, by Muireann Kelly and Frances Poet, follows the story of a young boy, Michael, living in modern-day Glasgow, and his journey to rediscovering his Irish roots through his investigation of a historic fire that killed ten boys in a Scottish bothy.
Spoken in an at first confusing, but generally effective combination of Gaelic and English, it explores the background of both Irish and Scottish languages to produce a very thought-provoking piece. It cleverly drew parallels between past and present immigration, and the tension it creates within communities, which helped to make the themes much more accessible to any audience.
The set’s drab browns and greys, echoing the dreary landscape of agricultural Scotland between the wars, was offset by lighting, designed by Simon Wilkinson, that managed to transform each scene to fit the atmosphere.
Accompanied by traditional folk music that although will tug at the heartstrings of any patriotic Scot, is often haunting and eerie. Each cast member is both an actor and musician, with a particularly good piping performance from Alana MacInnes, and Ryan Hunter’s promising debut as Michael.
Reviewer: Molly Knox
Theatre Guleòr’s latest production ‘Scotties’ is a beautiful triumph that balances a tender and flowing physicality and dialogue with witty, refreshing and funny characters. The piece was inspired by a telegram, sent from Ireland following the death of ten young men from Achill in a Bothy fire in Kirkintilloch and explores not only this untold tragedy but so many valuable issues that relate heavily to today’s world.
When you first take a seat before the show begins, you are sat face to face with a stunning set (that is used throughout the show as a means of delicate and elaborate story-telling) covered in soil, a number of theatre gauzes and a simplistic set of wood furniture; these features being a bleak yet humble reminder of life’s cycle, that we all return to the earth we abide on. I particularly appreciated the use of contrast in the lighting used as it conjured up not only feelings of joy and nostalgia, but of hauntingly elegant grief. The use of live music was also very charming; the traditional Scottish and Irish instruments like fiddles, pipes and accordions made my experience all the more raw in both the light-hearted and solemn moments of the play.
Ryan Hunter’s charismatic, tongue-in-cheek portrayal of Michael, a teenage boy from modern day Glasgow, added a sense of down-to-earth comedic relief that balanced very well with the gritty, fragile aspects of the stirring plot and emotive characters. Every single actor clearly gave their all to the performance and created many moments of powerful, hard-hitting theatre. In particular, one scene between Faoileann Cunningham (playing Molly) and Colin Campbell, where both actors gave breath-taking and heart-breaking performances.
Whilst watching ‘Scotties’ I couldn’t help but notice the important issues and themes woven into the roots of the play itself- be they political or a lesson in human kindness, ‘Scotties’ had me questioning things. From the way we treat and view immigrants, to intergenerational and family relationships, to grief and loss and even the role of identity in one’s life.
Additionally, I found the use of both Scottish and Irish dialect and language alongside English to be especially effective in adding realism to the piece, and as somebody who doesn’t speak a word of Gaelic, ‘Scotties’ was completely accessible and understandable! The incorporation of more than one language into the dialogue is something uniquely brilliant to ‘Scotties’ and Theatre Guleòr’s work as a whole. The writers, Muireann Kelly and Frances Poet had clearly put an immense amount of thought into everything; from combining English and Gaelic into the production in a coherent way for both Gaelic and non-Gaelic speakers, to having a good balance of light and shade all through the piece.
Overall, after leaving the theatre from seeing ‘Scotties’ I felt refreshed by every detail of the production. So, if you’re looking for an inspiring piece of theatre full to burst with witty perspectives and commentary on the new and old, met with a moving story that brings to light a tragedy that had been long forgotten- then I suggest you book tickets to see Theatre Guleòr’s ‘Scotties’!
New musical The Sunshine Ghost tells the comic story of the acquisition of Castle MacKinnon by a love-struck billionaire and property tycoon, Glen Duval, for his fiancé, Astrobeth – Hollywood’s favourite astrologer. Brought stone by stone from a remote rocky outcrop on a small Scottish Island all the way to Naples, Florida, they soon discover that the castle’s previous owner has not quite ‘left’ the building…
Tell us a little bit about the musical and your role…
My name is Barrie Hunter, and I play the role of Glen Duval, a 1950’s American billionaire property tycoon in The Sunshine Ghost. He has promised to move an old Scottish castle from Scotland to the US to win the affection and the hand in marriage of Astrobeth, a celebrity radio clairvoyant. Little does he know there is a spiritual entity from the past who’s not quite ready to give up his ancestral seat.
Barrie Hunter (left)
Tell me about life backstage.
Life backstage on tour is a moveable feast, as no two venues are the same, so you cut your cloth accordingly, depending on how much room you have on and offstage/dressing room situations/where you can grab some dinner etc. It’s a daily adventure!
Performing in musicals can be physically demanding, how do you keep your performance fresh/ look after yourself when you have to be on top form on stage every night?
Looking after yourself whilst touring is vital – I rest up whenever I can, take on lots of water, and if we go for a small refreshment after, it’s good if you can find a place that’s not too noisy, as talking over loud environments is a sure-fire way to damage you vocally. This show is a big sing for all of us, as there are only five actors and a musician singing the whole show (23 numbers!), and it’s technically quite tricky too at times – lots of lovely harmonies and the like-so we have to be on it all the time!
Keeping the show fresh is a fairly easy ask, especially on a job like this, as it’s a fairly quick process to get it up and running, and the tour is done and dusted within a month, so there’s no time for it to get stale! It’s always useful to remember that every audience is seeing the show for the first time, so that helps too.
Can we go back a bit and talk about what inspired you to become a performer and the path you took to become one?
I was inspired to be an actor after getting involved with my local youth theatre, Harlequin, on the south side of Glasgow. I then moved on to Giffnock Theatre Players, doing plays, and subsequently auditioned (twice!), for the RSAMD (now RCS), and graduated from there 22 years ago…wow, I’m old. Since then, I have worked in theatre, doing plays, musicals, pantos (this is my 7th year as the Perth Theatre Dame), and done the usual bits of telly, radio etc.
Any advice for aspiring performers?
The advice I would give to aspiring actors would be: be punctual, do your research, listen to others, and whatever you may be doing, just try to find the truth of it-these things really help me, and others, in getting the job done.
Image by Eoin Carey
Finally, why should people come along to see the show?
Folk should come along to The Sunshine Ghost because they will have a hoot watching a very funny show with lots of lovely music being performed by a bunch of folk who really know what they’re doing…and me! Oh, and we have a very shiny floor and flashing lights and ladders and crates and…Ach, just come along and you’ll find out for yourself…
The Sunshine Ghost is now on tour in Scotland and will be at Eastwood Park Theatre on Thursday 19 October 2017 at 7.30pm. Tickets are priced at £17 standard and £15 concession. If you bring a group of ten people one person goes free.
Were you a cynic, you could accuse the National Theatre of Scotland of cashing in on the rising tide of nationalism and the appetite for locally sourced produce in its choice of Yer Granny, a Glaswegian version of Roberto Cossa’s 1977 Argentinian hit comedy La Nona. Rolling out a cast of homegrown TV comedy favourites and capitalising on the seemingly never ending appeal of farce, certainly wouldn’t seem to do Douglas Maxwell’s adaptation any harm either.
Be it cynical or clever, Yer Granny plays to its audience: it’s still 1977, but now reset to a flat above the family’s Glasgow chip shop, it explores how far a family on the financial brink will go to rid itself of its problems.
Gregor Fisher goes for the grotesque as the titular granny who’s eating the family out of house and home and there is strong support from Jonathan Watson as patriarch Cammy and Paul Riley as the wannabe composer and full time shirker Charlie, but it’s Barbara Rafferty’s hysterical transformation from mild mannered Aunt Angela to gun-toting drug dealer, that stays in the memory.
Undoubtedly laugh out loud funny, there’s a darker heart that the surface laughs mask, but one can’t help feeling opportunities were missed and a descent into crudity in the second half robs the piece of potential depth.
Undeniably watchable, laugh-out-loud funny in parts, but the descent into easy stereotypes and Mrs. Brown’s Boys territory, render it a two, rather than three dimensional production.
reviewed at Glasgow King’s Theatre 27 May now touring Scotland and Northern Ireland
Writer Jack Thorne and director John Tiffany’s beautifully sensitive version of John Ajvide Lindqvist’s 2004 Swedish horror novel Let the Right One In, turns this vampire tale, (though the ‘V’ word is never mentioned) into something more akin to a fairy tale; albeit a very bloody fairy tale.
Mercilessly bullied schoolboy Oskar, (Martin Quinn in his professional debut) finds love and understanding with his mysterious new neighbour Eli (Rebecca Benson), but Eli has a secret, whilst she may look like a teenage girl she has been a teenager for a very, very, long time. As the tentative and tender relationship builds between the pair, the town is gripped by fear; there’s a serial killer on the loose. The locals hurry through the snow-covered birch forest, stealing nervous glances behind them at every little sound. The killer on the loose is Hakan, who happens to be Eli’s protector, a man who prowls the woods at night to feed his young charge, stringing his prey up by the ankles in order to drain them dry.
Thorne’s adaptation has taken the darkest elements of the original novel and added in sensitive direction from John Tiffany, original design by Christine Jones and a chillingly atmospheric sound design and score from Gareth Fry and Olafur Arnald. This is a genuinely thrilling chiller; there is a moment where the entire audience jump out of their collective skins and the climactic swimming pool scene is an absolute nerve-shredder.
This is the first West End transfer for the National Theatre of Scotland (after a successful premiere in Dundee and sell-out run at the Royal Court) and an unusual and unique piece of work for the West End, but the West End is all the better for it. The subject matter has doubtlessly attracted many of this predominantly young audience, thankfully, Twilight it isn’t. Instead this is a tender, moving, atmospheric and at times terrifying, love story of two outcasts beautifully staged and acted.
Try to catch it before its limited run ends on the 30th of August.
“What happens after the dictator falls?” That is the question Scottish playwright David Greig answers in his masterful work Dunsinane.
The English army, led by General Siward, are occupying Scotland: they have killed Macbeth and captured the castle at Dunsinane and are just about managing to maintain the uneasy peace. But unlike Shakespeare’s tale, this time the Lady is not dead. She is very much alive and well and exploiting every English myth about the mysterious Celts to plot her return to power.
Though set in 11th Century Scotland the examination of the effect of occupation on both the troops and the conquered populace has a depressing resonance, it could just as easily be Afghanistan or Iraq in 2013. Gruach (Lady Macbeth) perfectly encapsulates in one phrase the feeling of the native when a foreign power justifies a war in pursuit of peace in another’s country: “Your ‘peace’ is just another word for you winning,” she spits.
The cultural differences between the Scots and the English are exploited to good effect by Grieg and for all the drama and intrigue the play is replete with unexpected humour as the troops attempt to negotiate the intricate politics and allegiances of the clan system and come to terms with the restless natives, their customs and the unforgiving climate.
The perfectly controlled central performance of Jonny Phillips is utterly enthralling, he has the audience transfixed from the moment he strides onstage and holds them in his thrall to the bitter end. Siobhan Redmond is hypnotic as Lady Macbeth and the pair are ably supported by a talented ensemble, in particular, Tom Gill as The Boy Soldier, Joshua Jenkins as Eric the Archer and Sandy Grierson as Malcolm.
David Grieg is a writer of rare form and there is as much lyrical poetry in the lines as laughs. The action moves swiftly under the direction of Roxana Silbert and the two and a half hour running time flies by in the blink of an eye, leaving you wanting more. This is a compelling tale, vibrantly told, an unalloyed triumph and a pure pleasure to watch.
Scottish actor David McGranaghan recently joined the cast of the West End smash Jersey Boys in the starring role of Nick Massi. David’s impressive credits include: Colin in Chariots of Fire; Lucentio in The Taming of the Shrew; Father Damian in Be Near Me in the Donmar Warehouse/ National Theatre of Scotland production, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Boyfriend and Lady Be Good at the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre.
Glasgow Theatre Blog had a chance to talk to David about his path from pupil at the Dance School of Scotland to the West End via the Royal Shakespeare Company and award-winning board game inventing!
Can we go back to the start, tell us about your background and what inspired you to become an actor.
I started off singing in my school’s music department. Through this came concerts and performances, so I almost fell into acting through my love for music. To move into working on scripts after performing lyrics and characters felt like a natural progression.
I see that you were a pupil at the Dance School of Scotland; I have interviewed many actors for this series and a large number are alumni of the school; what do you think it is about the training there that has produced so many top-rank West End performers?
I think that the teachers are very dedicated to their work, and their passion for the arts feeds into their pupils. Also they let us know from the very beginning that everything is down to hard work, so improvements are down to dedication and focus. I think from looking at myself and fellow Dance School students you can still see that in their attitude towards work and the industry.
You have a very varied CV, from the RSC to the Regents Park Open Air Theatre and much more in between, what have been the highlights up to getting your current role in Jersey Boys?
I have been very lucky to jump around different types of theatre however working at the Donmar Warehouse which was a co-production with The National Theatre of Scotland was a great experience. It was a play called ‘Be Near Me’ which was set in my home turf of Ayrshire, and we premiered in Kilmarnock (40 minutes from my home) before we went down to London. Of course working on four completely different productions for the Royal Shakespeare Companies 50th Anniversary Season was another highlight. Working with phenomenal directors, actors and plays, it was as good as it can get for any young actor.
Before we talk about your starring role in Jersey Boys you are an award-winning entrepreneur, tell us about Game for Fame.
I invented a board game with fellow actor friend Joseph Pitcher (currently on tour with RSC’s Winter’s Tale) and we decided to go into business with it. It is fun family board game that takes the mick out of our celebrity obsessed society. Players must fight for fame and fortune by playing a number of fun games, and just like the real celeb circuit talent has nothing to do with success. While avoiding the Dole Queue or Re-Hab, players must attempt different games like guessing accents or talking with their tongue hanging out of their mouth, all with a very funny outcome (especially if a few glasses of wine are involved). It has been a great success for us both with deals from Tesco as well as a number of small stores and of course online, and we enjoy working on its success alongside our acting. For more information check out www.gameforfame.co.uk
Let’s talk about your current starring role as Nick Massi in Jersey Boys, tell us a bit about the role of Nick and how you have prepared for it.
Nick is the bass player of the famous Four Seasons group. He is described as the ‘harmony genius’ and his three passions are music, woman and booze…in that order. Since he hates conflict or the arguments that the four guys find themselves in, he is often the quiet member of the group until he gets pushed too far and blows up. For playing Nick I taught myself Bass guitar for a start. Just playing a bass makes you feel very cool, simple and effortless, which is very much like Nick. I also did a lot of research about New Jersey, watched lots of Four Season performances with a fine tooth comb and watched movies based around the area and time of the group. After that the Jersey Boys creative team had so many stories that had been passed down from the band regarding the real Nick Massi that became a massive influence when building the character up.
Jersey Boys is a phenomenal success in the West End, what is it like to join a show that is as well-established and well-loved as it is?
It’s exciting and intimidating at the same time. Since I was already a fan of the show I couldn’t wait to get the red jacket on and get going, however since it’s so well known you are aware that you are handling something that is precious to a lot of people, and if you mess up you will know about it. Thankfully that cast and creatives have all been great in guiding me during the rehearsal period while still giving me the freedom to explore my own ideas.
What do you think it is about Jersey Boys that makes it so popular with all age groups?
The music is timeless and appeals to all generations I think. I also think good theatre appeals to anyone no matter what age group they belong to. Our older audience members will remember some of the hits when they first came out however younger theatre goers will still surprise themselves with how many hits they know. The script is also based on their true story, and I think that each character and journey can resonate with all of us.
What drives you as a performer?
The excitement of auditioning or working on a role that you have lots of ideas for. Trying those ideas out and learning more about the character and yourself, going back to the drawing board and improving every time (well, hopefully improving). I think that is what drives me, the constant challenge and the never ending learning and discovering.
Are there any actors whom you admire or careers you’d like to emulate?
Hugh Jackman. Anyone that can do Oklahoma and Wolverine in one career has to be number one.
What ambitions would you still like to fulfil?
I now develop game shows for some companies off the back of Game For Fame so for one to work right through to commission would be a dream come true. Acting wise I’d love to do some Sondheim, Gabey in On The Town, work at venues such as The Globe and National and one day play MacBeth…not asking much really.
What advice would you give to any aspiring actors back home in Scotland?
Work hard. Put the hours in now and they will pay you back later.
Finally, what words best describe David McGranaghan?
Very good at Maths!
*DAVID AND HIS CO-STARS WILL BE APPEARING TOMORROW EVENING 6TH APRIL AT 7PM ON ANT AND DEC’S SATURDAY NIGHT TAKEAWAY*
The audience gather at the entrance to the Edwardian venue and are led to changing rooms. Some change into swimwear whilst some remain in the clothes in which they came. There’s nervous chatter and looks of apprehension, others sit in complete silence awaiting what’s to come, because what is to come is not clear, but holds the promise of being a theatrical experience that few, if any of us, have contemplated before. Seated on three sides of a small swimming pool, in an intimate room, in the recently re-opened Govanhill Baths, we are here to see Adrian Howells’ lifeguard, billed as a “multi-sensory poolside encounter,” a work which explores man’s complex and often ambiguous relationship with water.
The audience take to their seats, clad in towels and wait. The atmospheric surroundings of this crumbling building, and the blurring of the boundaries between performer and viewer evoke feelings of vulnerability at what lies ahead and indeed, what lies beneath the water. Howells enters and begins to cast the hypnotic spell of movement, visuals and sound, which takes us on an evocative, emotive and very personal, contemplative sensory journey to the heart of our feelings about water. Soon after a man, (Ira Mandela Siobhan) rises to his feet, strips to his trunks and joins Howells, representing, through beautifully mesmeric movement, his personal connection with this life sustaining and life-threatening medium. Both men, through the strength of their performances have the ability to change in a heartbeat the emotions of this seemingly fascinated audience. When they are joined by two other swimmers at the end, the narrative is complete, returning us to the emotional connection the local community have with this beloved building.
Every audience member will come to this experience with different emotional baggage, for some water will hold only happy memories, for some it may revive deep-seated fears and for some, especially those from the local area, the feeling will be sheer nostalgia, revisiting this building after an eleven year fight for its survival. This personal relationship with water will inform each audience member’s response to this piece. Go along, allow it to take you on a journey, and be prepared to be disconcerted, amazed, stimulated and moved, and above all, revel in the warmth and joy of this highly emotive and original piece.