Tag Archives: Tron Ambassadors

FEATURE: The Tron Ambassadors Programme Part 2

Since 2003 the Tron have enabled young people to experience a range of the career opportunities available within a fully operational theatre via the one-year Tron Ambassadors scheme. Through this scheme they foster deeper connections with the theatre itself, and the work they do both in-house and within the community, as well as an understanding of the wider theatre and creative arts industries.

Tron Ambassadors take part in regular workshops with Tron staff, external visitors and leading professionals to identify and develop transferable skills. Previous Tron Ambassadors have worked with the Tron’s production, marketing and front of house departments, theatre critics, set and costume designers and professional actors and directors. The programme also allows the Ambassadors to gain an Arts Award qualification from their full participation in the programme.

For the past four years, I have been lucky enough to work with these talented young people on the theatre criticism element of the programme. Always a joy to discover new voices and foster new talent in the field of arts criticism, I have also had the privilege of working with the most talented writers at The Reviews Hub.

Published here are the next batch of reviews of How Not to Drown, Dritan Kastrati’s perilous asylum story.

Reviewer: Helena Leite

ThickSkin’s production of How Not To Drown, the story of eleven-year-old asylum seeker Dritan Kastrati’s unaccompanied journey to the UK, pulls on the heart strings and leaves us all questioning how much we should appreciate our own lives.

Kastrati’s journey begins in 2002 within the aftermath of the Kosovan War and at such a young age is sent away by his parents to be smuggled to the UK for safety. His journey is perilous and the only things he has in order to survive are his wit and charm. Kastrati struggles to cling to his identity and feels a sense of self-loss when he is put into the British care system.

Dritan himself tells the entire story, and in a Brechtian style of switching roles suddenly, other members of the cast also play the role of Kastrati as well as the influential people in his journey. This aspect of the performance stands out, catching the attention,  leaving you curious to see the other actors’ interpretation of the eleven-year-old Dritan.

The set design is simple but affective, showing the limited amount of supplies Dritan had, and also, the fact the acting space is a raised, relatively small, wooden platform, emphasises this young boy’s isolation. The platform is also on a slight gradient, seemingly representing the mental and physical struggle Kastrati faced on his journey, the actors having to work tirelessly to keep up their energy.

How Not To Drown is more than worthy of its Scotsman Fringe First Award and is definitely to be recommended to anyone who enjoys true theatrical authenticity, and also those who are willing to learn of the trials asylum seekers must go through in order to survive.

 

Reviewer: Holly Morton

Forward, forward, forward. Or Down. Or Nothing. The mantra Dritan Kastrati repeats to himself in How Not To Drown, his intensely emotional life story.Through his play, Kastrati sheds light on the previously unseen side of foster care in the UK, and the unfathomable difficulties faced by refugees.

Kastrati himself is brilliant, laying his whole life out for the audience to step into, and punctuating every scene with his real, raw emotion. The five fantastic actors, who perfectly flick between roles throughout, manage to perform flawless choreography on a tilted, rotating stage. Words cannot encapsulate the effect How Not To Drown has on the audience, which shares an essential message on family that all deserve to see.

Reviewer: Abbie Miller

This amazing tale tells the extremely hard but true story of a young Albanian/Kosovan child named Dritan. Dritan’s father forces him to leave his home country for his own safety. This amazing young boy has only ever known war and violence now must take on a whole different type of challenge in the British foster care system. This tragic yet inspiring story is by the Thick Skin theatre company and they manage to do an amazing job telling it.

Even though not everyone can relate to this show, especially this reviewer as a sixteen-year-old Scottish girl, the message behind the show is still very clear. It teaches you to have strength, gives you perspective on your own life and even changes the way you view things.

The character Dritan is played by Kastrati himself which only makes this show even more special. This cast, although small, are an extremely strong team who all trust and rely on each other, making the show ten times better, as you can practically see their bond.

The characters in the show are not restricted by age or gender or even race, and no one actor is set to play the same character for the whole play, which shows us just how truly talented these actors are. To be able to change to a completely different character in a second is truly phenomenal.

It is impossible not to enthralled when watching this play even though there are no dramatic costumes or intricate sets, the story is the only thing needed. They way the lights are used is enough to keep you on your seats too, when Dritan is on the raft heading for England there is a red floodlight used to represent the danger he is in and when he falls into the water the red floodlight changes to a blue one, this represents the water that surrounds him as he tries to escape it.

We watch as Dritan makes the hard and gruelling journey to England and then his terrifying experience whilst trying to get registered as a British citizen, then as he suffers in the foster care system after being taken away from his brother who had been sent to England a few years before Dritan. At school, there is no respite as he is constantly bullied for not being white and not being able to speak English. Throughout the play you have the urge to stand up and tell Dritan that everything will be alright whilst also being too scared to move a muscle in fear you miss something.

How Not to Drown is a truly exceptional play that will have you leaving the theatre an emotional wreck with a new point of view on the world. This story will hopefully become known across the world so that people know they are not alone and teach people how hard life can be for different people; you should always treat people the way you want to be treated yourself – no matter what.

Reviewer: Danny Taggart

The moving story How Not to Drown is the story of the hard life of Kosovan/Albanian boy, Dritan Kastrati, who is forced by his father to seek a new beginning in a new country. The young kid who has previously grown up surrounded by war and destruction, now must face another kind of hardship in the UK foster care system. The uplifting, but traumatic show is by the theatre company Thick Skin.

While the show is hard to relate to as a 14-year-old Glaswegian teenager it is easy to see the message is very important. This play changes your outlook on life by making you think about how easy you have it. And the fact that Dritan is played by Dritan Kastrati himself, makes the whole thing even more powerful.

The show cleverly has interchanging roles, allowing you to see each one of these talented actors’ performance of Dritan. The cast seamlessly switching between roles without breaking the atmosphere. The small cast seem to have a very strong relationship which only adds to making you feel like part of the action.

Like the rotating roles, the stage also rotates giving you different perspectives of the action. Allowing you to never become bored of the one very simple-seeming set. This is not the only clever aspect of the set design with a chain that allows the actors to lean into the audience which connects you to them.

There is clever use of light too, when a character leans into the audience, a very simple white light shines on them showing their emotions or thoughts at that time. The sound and music immerse you into the show making you feel like you are that little scared young boy.

As you follow Kastrati from his journey on the boat trying to make his way to the UK, to the tough asylum seeking process and then through his horrible experience in the foster care system where he was so excluded from his normal way of life, you just want to tell him everything is going to end up fine, How Not To Drown is a phenomenal play. It will have you walking out at the end with a new perspective.

This show should be remembered and will hopefully make many people have a new outlook on the tough prospects that people on our very doorsteps go through every day of their lives.

 

Reviewer: Jack Byrne

Fringe First Award-winning How Not to Drown, manages to defy expectations and leave a lasting impact.

How Not to Drown focuses on the true story of Dritan Kastrati, writer and star of the play. It tells of how, when he was only 11 years old, his father sent him on his own to the UK from their home in Kosovo, to escape the Kosovan war.

Before the performance even begins, we are met with the stage; a makeshift raft made from planks of wood nailed together, raised up at one side to create a downward slope. Very clever, from the outset, it creates a sense of imbalance. The actors are constantly working to stay upright as they move around the stage.

From the outset we are drawn into Kastrati’s story. It is a harrowing yet uplifting tale, full of humour and heart. The fact that Kastrati himself is telling the story, makes it more real. It takes great bravery to stand in front of an audience and share intimate details of your own personal experience.

The storytelling is fast paced and, as we move from scene to scene, Kastrati and the four other actors are constantly changing characters, with each actor playing Dritan at least once. The idea that they are all Dritan symbolised how we can all relate to his story in some way or another. By the end of the performance you will be in tears, completely moved by the performance, unexpectedly deeply affected by the show, with new-found respect for Kastrati and everyone who has gone through the same thing.

The show is outstanding and definitely to be recommended. Go and see it if you get the chance.

 

Reviewer: Ros Butchart

How Not to Drown is an emotive and captivating play based around the true story of a young boy’s journey from his conflict endangered home to England. It is thought provoking and strikes the perfect balance between heartbreaking and humorous.

Throughout the play there are certain powerful themes that are emphasised, one being that the young boy, Dritan Kastrati or Tan as he is known, is unable to swim. Tan repeats a sort of mantra to himself “forward, forward or down or nothing”, and this serves as a powerful metaphor for the obstacles he faces while growing up and struggling to get to England, the struggle find a home there and then find a place that really feels like home at all. This play deals with real life issues such as the difficulties people in war effected countries face, being an immigrant in a foreign country and the overwhelming bureaucracy of the care system.

At the very beginning of the show we see Dritan being thrown into a river by his older brother and his brothers’ friends, and this is done beautifully as Dritan is tilted forward at an impossible angle of an already tilted stage when he says his mantra for the first time.

This opening is extremely effective in grasping the watcher’s attention, but more so than that, keeping it with the same enchanting intensity consistently present throughout. The ideas of repeated patterns and themes, for example Dritan’s mantra and his ability to read the true intentions of others (which proves to be a key skill that helps him on his journey) , these factors are both impressive and impactful as they really help the audience sink into the rhythm of the play.

Another impressive aspect of the show is the set and staging, with a small cast of only five the storytelling is seamless and engaging. The play is set on a raised, angled wooden surface that represented a raft, the actors ducking behind the stage and appearing again as a different character or to bring on props so smoothly it contributes to the overall dynamic of the play. The piece also incorporates a lot of physical theatre and this is executed flawlessly, the group moving as one.

This is a sharp and well executed production, and the raw emotion displayed on stage leaves you breathless. Without a doubt one of the most impactful pieces of theatre on the current theatrical scene.

Beautifully constructed, this truthful play tells a story that needs to be heard.

Images: Mihaela Bodlovic

FEATURE: The Tron Ambassadors Programme Part 1

Since 2003 the Tron have enabled young people to experience a range of the career opportunities available within a fully operational theatre via the one-year Tron Ambassadors scheme. Through this scheme they foster deeper connections with the theatre itself, and the work they do both in-house and within the community, as well as an understanding of the wider theatre and creative arts industries.

Tron Ambassadors take part in regular workshops with Tron staff, external visitors and leading professionals to identify and develop transferable skills. Previous Tron Ambassadors have worked with the Tron’s production, marketing and front of house departments, theatre critics, set and costume designers and professional actors and directors. The programme also allows the Ambassadors to gain an Arts Award qualification from their full participation in the programme.

For the past four years, I have been lucky enough to work with these talented young people on the theatre criticism element of the programme. Always a joy to discover new voices and foster new talent in the field of arts criticism, I have also had the privilege of working with the most talented writers at The Reviews Hub.

Published here are the first batch of reviews of How Not to Drown, Dritan Kastrati’s perilous asylum story.

 

How Not to Drown

Reviewer: Holly Noble

Far too often we see on the news the horrific scenes of refugees fleeing their homes, family and friends just to get the taste of freedom. We see boats upturned, people struggling to swim and the terrifying death toll that increases every year. It isn’t often we hear a first-hand account from someone who was successful in the journey.

Dritan Kastrati’s How Not to Drown tells of his extraordinary personal story of loss, hardship and loneliness as he navigates his way to London, the danger of being caught always following him. What you often don’t hear is what happens after immigrants seek refuge. For Kastrati this was anything but easy; through learning a new culture and language, to trying to find a loving family through the foster care system.

The acting is excellent, giving you goose bumps, knowing that Kastrati is standing right in front of you as he tells you the story of his trials and tribulations.

The stage resembles a raft on an angle that spins around, this original device is effective in conveying the story. The small cast and the limited number of props are effective rather than distracting. The lighting and music is tied in well, giving you chills and adding drama.

After seeing How Not to Drown, it is clear, that it deserves all the recognition and awards it has received.

 

Reviewer: Astrid Allen

How not to drown is the story of Dritan Kastrati, an 11-year-old refugee from Kosovo travelling to the UK sent by his father to find his brother in London. Kastrati co-writer and actor performs his own life story, and the result is powerful and moving. The play explores what it is like to be torn between two cultures and the true inhuman nature of the UK fostering system.

In the first half of the play we get to see Dritan’s perilous journey on train, boat and lorry. The cast all have backgrounds in movement and director Neil Bettles choreographs movement with beautiful fluidity and keeps the audience in suspense during the journey.

When Dritan arrives in London he meets his 17 year old brother but they are soon separated and Dritan is put into foster care as his brother cannot legally look after him. He cannot understand why he would not be able to stay with his brother but he does not have the English to explain. Heartbreakingly, Dritan is put into a number of uncaring foster families until he is 16 and is legally allowed to leave care. He never truly feels at home with his carers and he can tell that none of them will ever really love him, Dritan misses his family and that feeling of being loved.

After his 16th birthday Dritan goes back to see his parents but they’ve moved from his childhood home and it doesn’t feel the same as it used to. Dritan is lost and no longer understands his own identity. This play is heart-wrenchingly honest, it holds nothing back from the audience and will invariably make you cry.

Reviewer: Devin McWhirter

Theatre has the power to portray important messages in an entertaining way and can draw a variety of emotions from audience members, and we see this in the extraordinary How not to Drown.

The play portrays the true story of Dritan Kastrati’s childhood and the dangerous journey from his war ridden home to the safety of his brother in London.

How Not to Drown, has the power both to draw you to the edge of your as it portrays Kastrati’s dangerous journey to get to London, and evoke anger and sadness at the discrimination and hardships he has had to face from the Law, Child Services and the carers he was forced to live with. It also moves greatly, particularly the scenes of him being torn away from his family.

How Not to Drown is a very relevant and important story that should be see and listened to by the widest audience possible.

Reviewer: Amy Waterston 

How Not to Drown is an exquisite piece of theatre which is a perfect example of theatre being a “mirror of society.”

The production’s use of the five versatile actors in multiple roles, not only showcases the cast’s acting ability, but also the intricate direction of the production, forcing the audience to realise the true horror of what is happening to people living in care today.

How Not to Drown captures these raw issues, due to the storyline following the real life of the lead actor Dritan Kastrati. The physicality of the piece draws the audience’s attention to the whirlwind of issues that Kastrati experienced. As an audience member, the piece really hits home as its impossible to question fact. This emphasised the upsetting reality and was a prime example of how powerful physical theatre can be.

Reviewer: Jacob McMillan

The story of a young Kosovan refugee and his treacherous journey through human smugglers, foster care, and life; told first-hand by the man he has become.
This play, from the staging to the sound design to the performances, is both heart-breaking and heart-warming. Caught in the middle of the Kosovan-Albanian war, Dritan Kastrati left his home at eleven but didn’t know that he would never truly find it again.
The staging in this performance is incredible; the slanted stage is simply genius. Throughout the play, the performers lean out, as if to tell a secret, to the audience. This creates a sense of involvement for the audience, you are on the smuggling boat or in the foster home with the protagonists. It is no wonder why this play won the Scotsman Fringe First Award.
Truly brilliant, it will be interesting to see what comes from next from Kastrati.

Reviewer: Stanley Stefani

How Not to Drown is a masterclass in theatrical storytelling, portrayed by the man who went through it.

Utilising the very clever use of a rotating slanted stage to add to the creativity throughout the play, Dritan Kastrati tells the emotionally compelling story of growing up and being forced to leave his home country to join his brother his London. Conveying the full journey that 11-year-old Dritan takes in order to escape the wars in his home.

This is a beautifully told story and is a must see for anyone with an interest in amazing pieces of theatre.

Reviewer: Euan Warnock

It is interesting to think that How Not To Drown is named the way it is, not just because of the instances of our real life protagonist panicking under the depths, but also because of the feeling that the performance engenders in you, a ‘sinking feeling’, right down to the caverns of your soul.

Right from the opening five minutes, all the way to the final third… as a matter of fact, those would be the most brilliant part of an already great drama, How Not To Drown manages to keep its audience captivated with an ever-twisting, ever-turning, (most of the time quite literally, with the remarkable stage design) real life tale of a little refugee boy trying to worm his way through the British asylum system.

The innovative set design, especially the smaller and raised addition on which the actors spend almost the entire performance, causes the show to feel even smaller in scale, but this disadvantage is used to a wonderful degree. Whenever the stage feels small, it is because it is meant to feel claustrophobic, and the way it moves, without spoiling anything, is used fantastically.

One of the main draws of this production is that it is a real life story, written and performed by the man (Dritan Kastrati) who lived through it, and for the final third of the play it becomes quite clear that he isn’t fully acting, he is still clearly feeling all of the emotions of how it happened all those years ago.

This is a five-star production, unique and expertly staged, with incredible acting, and a captivating story of a little boy washed up in the United Kingdom, trying to find his way along the path to happiness.

More Tron Ambassadors reviews to follow in part 2.

TRON AMBASSADORS’ REVIEWS: Scotties – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

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’!

For more information on the Tron Ambassadors programme visit: https://www.tron.co.uk/education/tron_ambassadors/

 

 

FEATURE: Tron Ambassadors guest reviews

This month, I again had the chance to work with the Tron Theatre on their Ambassadors programme, delivering their theatre reviewing workshop.

The Tron Ambassadors scheme gives pupils the chance to be behind-the-scenes at a working theatre. It enables young people to make a deeper connection with the Tron Theatre and gain a better understanding of the industry. As well as providing participants with opportunities to take part in workshops, tasks, and interviewing and observing industry professionals, the Ambassadors are given opportunities to understand the transferable skills they are learning and how they can be applied to any career path they choose to take when leaving school.

Below are the reviews submitted by this year’s Ambassadors, I am sure you’ll agree the quality in many instances is equal to that of any published critic. Biographies of the writers are available at: https://www.tron.co.uk/education/work-for-schools/tron_ambassadors/

Stand By – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

Reviewer: Daniel Cawley

Stand By is an exceptionally well written and powerful piece of theatre from the pen of former police officer Adam McNamara, who reverently conveys to the audience the warts and all portrayal of the all too often hidden aspect of on the ground police work.

By looking at the strength of character of four very different personalities and how their work impacts on their personal lives, this helps humanise the people behind the uniform who, as authority figures are often perceived as indifferent and emotionless to these qualities.

With much of the action taking place within a simulated, dimly lit police van, the play, on this occasion expertly directed by Joe Douglas, draws the audience in even further through the unique and innovative use of amplified earpieces. These allow the audience to hear radio broadcasts in sync with the actors and immerses them in the tension felt by police officers on call.

With some hilarious comedic moments and strong physical theatre elements this is a show not to be missed and thoroughly deserves the rave reviews received to date.

So, don’t stand by and let this one escape, catch it while you can.

Team Viking – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

Reviewer: Daniel Cawley

Following on from its successful run at this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe, James Rowland brings his captivating one man show Team Viking to audiences across the country.

Using every inch of the almost bare stage and delivering his soliloquy in a black funeral suit, Rowland paints a picture of childhood memories and friendships forged, interspersed with music and rhyme, with verses becoming longer and more descriptive with each passing scene.  The main focus of the show is the personal homage Rowland pays to his friend who has asked for something special when he dies.  And special it is.

Coming quicker than any of them expected (his friend being diagnosed with an aggressive form of heart cancer at the tender age of 25), Rowland and other friend Sarah decide to re-enact a scene from all three’s favourite childhood film The Vikings and proceed to give their friend a Viking send off, casting him adrift in a boat set alight which proceeds to blow up with a ‘BOOM.’

From his hilarious rendition of body snatching from the chapel of rest before his friend becomes one with the earth, through to the genuine anguish he feels in the loss of his friend, Rowland’s expert storytelling can flip the mood from laugh out loud hilarity to sombre and reflective in a split second – leading the audience to experience a genuine emotional rollercoaster during the hour long set.

With simple and effective staging by director Daniel Goldman, this production is beautifully done and the true connotations of the story, albeit alluded to as the end not being the end, strike a chord with much of the audience.

If Team Viking is anything to go by, Rowland’s newest venture 100 Different Words For Love is a must see, even if just to see a storytelling master at his craft.

Team Viking – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

Reviewer: Harry Reid

Team Viking is the true story of narrator, James Rowland, giving one of his best friends a proper Viking burial after contracting a very rare type of heart cancer.

From the very start of the performance there’s a strong connection to the characters through Rowland’s way of telling a story. He does a brilliant job of bringing you into his life and making you feel like you are also his friend, you are talking to him and no one else. There are no other actors, which makes the whole story that much more human, it’s like a friend telling you a crazy story that happened to them.

The connection to the characters strengthens as the story progresses, with us following James into his spiral of depression. We can really see and understand the emotions that he was feeling at that time, and by the end of the production, it has you holding back tears, you really see how much James cared for his friend.

The incorporation of the song that Rowland wrote into the play is also very clever. Each time a section of the song was added, it reflects the emotions that James is feeling at that point in the story: with the happy melody at the start, giving off an innocent vibe, then with the vocal inclusion, the use of different tones of voice showed James’ emotions, and then the beat of the song being included when James was at his lowest point. At first, these musical transitions are a bit jarring and confusing, but by the end of the play the puzzle pieces connect and it makes sense.

The delivery is spot on. Rowland manages to nail every joke and strike a reaction from the audience whenever he wants, he speaks to the audience like real people, a trait that’s very admirable. Overall, Team Viking is a wonderful dive into this sentimental story in the life of James Rowland with great acting and delivery. Highly recommended – see it if it ever comes back.

Stand By – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

Personal response by Morven Little

On the days leading up to Stand By I was, admittedly, a little sceptical. The premise didn’t particularly spark any interest in me, and the topic isn’t something I tend to gravitate towards, but I tried to remain open-minded. It may not have been a show that I would have necessarily chosen to see, but nevertheless, I wasn’t entirely disinterested; the inclusion of the ear pieces was intriguing, and I was very excited to discover how the stage would be set up. And, ultimately, I was pleasantly surprised.

At first, I struggled a little to get into it, but soon, I actually found myself quite enjoying it. The earpieces, which I had anticipated as being slightly distracting, were an extremely clever addition and enhanced the overall performance. The technology worked wonders in making me feel that I was part of the narrative, and allowed me to connect with the police officers very easily. I especially enjoyed the use of the earpieces at the beginning of the show: as the lights dimmed, a drum beat began playing through the earpieces, and was soon joined by additional instruments playing through the theatre sound system. This, in my opinion, was an excellent touch, and made the audience pay attention to their earpieces from the very beginning.

I also adored the minimalistic way in which the show was presented. By having only four characters and little interaction with the world outside the van (besides transmissions over the earpieces and few sound effects), writer Adam McNamara created a very insular environment. At points in the show, some of the officers would leave the van, but the audience never left with them – we were restricted to the confines of the van. This was effective for a multitude of reasons: it gave those watching an impression of the lack of information about the situation the officers were receiving, allowed the show to be much more character-driven, and gave the audience ample time to connect and get to know the characters – a necessary part of any drama piece. It was like a dramatic monologue with more than one narrator; a simple set up, but with small details throughout in order to give an insight to the absent world outside. My favourite example of this was the sound of raindrops hitting the roof of the van, so silent that I barely even registered it. And the writing itself was just as subtle. Details of each character’s personal lives were weaved into witty banter and smart, sharp dialogue. As the show progressed, you discovered more about their lives out of uniform and developed sympathy for them. I felt as though I knew the characters and found that I genuinely cared about what happened to them – testament to both brilliant performances from the actors and fabulous writing and direction.

Overall, I was very surprised by how much I enjoyed Stand By. It was genuinely funny, believable, sharp and extremely clever, and has encouraged me to be more open to shows that I wouldn’t have necessarily chosen to see.

Team Viking – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

Reviewer: Josh Brown

James Rowland stars in this joyous one-man performance reflecting his enjoyment, devastation, struggle with life and the biggest hurdle he has encountered as his best friend Tom is diagnosed with heart cancer and Tom has been given only 3 months to live. But Tom has one wish and that is to have a Viking Burial.

You will cry with laughter then the next minute sadness, as the astonishing acting from Rowland makes you feel so much in the space of so little time. He takes you from one end of the emotional spectrum to the other. Rowland connects to his audience on a different level, as through his story you feel as if you’ve known him for years and he’s a close friend, in the theatre he creates a warm atmosphere and you just love him and support him through his struggles.

The comedy is sharp and witty and very natural and to the point. You feel as if you are great pals just having a laugh about something you really know you shouldn’t be laughing about. James’s balance of laughter and the depressing reality of life is phenomenal. This show is an absolute must see.

*****

Stand By – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

Reviewer: Lillian Harle

Adam McNamara’s honest telling of policing in Scotland is witty and an honest representation of a life in blue. The audience are emerged in the performance from start to finish, wearing police earpieces with assorted situation reports being sounded. This only adds to the authenticity of the story. He portrays a somewhat mundane operation of four officers in a riot van waiting to be called into action to deal with a machete wielding maniac. The key word here is mundane. McNamara’s use of mundane topics lulls the audience into a false sense of security then smacks them with the brutal honesties of the simple dangers of being a police officer.

With Joe Douglas’ direction and Adam McNamara’s writing as well as performance, Stand By brings an authentic and fresh perspective on the Scottish police force. The audience are faced with four of Scotland’s finest: Chris (Adam McNamara), the sergeant in charge who is riddled with domestic problems; Rachel (Jamie Marie Leary), the straight talking and quick witted female officer; Davey (Andy Clark), the Dundee born and bred officer and Marty (Laurie Scott), an English transfer from London. The actors created a great chemistry between them, all by portraying realistic characters that the audience can relate to.

Natasha Jenkins uses a minimalistic set design in order not to take away from the witty and well written script. McNamara establishes the character’s personalities through the workaday conversation of the officers bored and waiting for orders. The writer creates a tense atmosphere through the use of the earpieces where orders are relayed in real-time to the audience.

Team Viking – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

Reviewer: Lewis Cox

Team Viking by James Rowland is a beautiful, simplistic but oddly mesmerising production.

On first entering and realising this is a one man show, there’s a slight trepidation: how on earth would one man be able to entertain an audience for a full hour and 20 minutes? Where on earth was his set? Will we get bored? As soon as the show begins all these questions disappear as quickly as they appear.

Through the simplicity of the lights and staging there are no barriers between the audience and the story. With nothing to guide us except Rowland’s words and movements everything comes naturally with a warming, but also at times moving performance. This is especially refreshing to see as constant set changes or cluttered and busy sets often lead the audience to dart their eyes around to gain understanding as to where they are.

There’s laughter, hysterical at times, but there is an underlining sadness throughout which makes it truly special, something we can all relate too. Directly addressing the audience is a wonderful feature as we feel like an integral part of the story, clinging onto every word anticipating what is going to happen next in this bizarre tale.

The breaking up of the story into what could be almost called ‘chapters’ was effective. Rowland always leaving the audience hanging, anticipating what was to come, mainly thanks to the terrific acting which one minute could have you howling with laughter, or almost in tears.

The Viking hat in the background is a nice simple prop, sitting there constantly reminding us of the meaning and reason for this performance, it helps set the scene more than any fancy backdrop could.

On a negative note, at certain times things need to be explained, or introduced and then the story then rambles off at a tangent, leaving you wishing for the story to kick back into life again.

Overall Team Viking is a heart-warming and hilarious play with some fine acting, and though simplistic, it has the ability to conjure up many emotions. It is a performance that will stick with you well into the journey home.

Team Viking – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

Reviewer: Ross Anderson

Team Viking is a one man show where James Rowland tells us a story about his best friend dying and Rowland his friends fulfilling his dying wish, to get a Viking send off. It was a great show with both comedy and sadness. The audience were in tears with laughter one moment then the next full of emotion.

FEATURE: Tron Ambassadors Guest Reviews – Grain in the Blood

Last month I had the privilege of working with the Tron Theatre on their Ambassadors programme, delivering the theatre reviewing workshop.

The Tron Ambassadors scheme gives pupils 16-18 the chance to be behind-the-scenes at a working theatre, enabling young people to make a deeper connection with the Tron Theatre itself and gain a better understanding of the performing arts industry. As well as providing participants with opportunities to take part in workshops, tasks, and interviewing and observing industry professionals, the Tron Ambassadors also learn that these new skills are transferable to any career path they choose to take when leaving school.

As part of the reviewing workshop, the Ambassadors were asked to submit a review of Rob Drummond’s Grain in the Blood. The standard of the submissions was so high that, instead of choosing a single review to be published, Glasgow Theatre Blog is publishing them all. So it’s going to be a long post, but no apologies as these young women’s critical voices represent the future of theatre reviewing.

*Please note that some reviews may contain spoilers.

Sarah Miele - Grain in the Blood. Credit: Mihaela Bodlovic

Sarah Miele as Autumn  Credit: Mihaela Bodlovic

Grain in the Blood – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

Writer: Rob Drummond

Director: Orla O’Loughlin

Reviewer: Eve Miller

Grain In The Blood, inspired by the moral dilemma of ‘The Trolley Problem’ is an unsettling take on the often asked question – how do we decide what is right or wrong? Framed against the backdrop of a rural, pagan community approaching the harvest moon, this spine-tingling performance keeps the audience on the edge of their seats throughout.

Blythe Duff gives a steady performance as the no-nonsense Sophia, a grandmother desperate to save her little girl, and John Michie is credible as the reasonable, down- to-earth Burt, however, it is Andrew Rothney’s eerie portrayal of Issac that really carries this production. Rothney’s performance, delicately conveying the nuances of emotion felt by a prisoner on a visit home faced with a weighty decision is all too convincing, and he deftly contrasts Issac’s unpredictable nature and capacity for violence with the vulnerability of a young man consumed with guilt.

Also impressive was Sarah Miele in her role as the sickly Autumn. The blunt acceptance of a young girl who has been ill for her whole life is elegantly woven into her portrayal, as is the fun and lively attributes of a child who just wants to enjoy her life. Likewise, Frances Thorburn’s performance as the bereaved aunt who hides her grief behind a facade of aggression was faultless.

The often repeated “Verses” help to create the mysterious tone which is maintained throughout, as piece by piece the unnerving pagan rituals of the harvest moon festival are revealed. Contrastingly, this darkness was balanced with just the right amount of comedy, which prevented the production from sinking into a black hole of despair.

The innovative staging includes a sliding portion which reveals a hidden section of the acting space and provides effortless scene transition, however, one too many long silences causes the performance to drag. Up until the end of the production, the plot was a bit predictable, and ever so slightly clichéd, so this may not be the show for you if you are wanting a surprise. Although predictable, the script and characters were well written and developed convincingly.

Despite these flaws, this production was haunting, and the well-crafted script was gracefully brought to life on stage by a fully capable cast, who gave a performance that was thrilling and chilling in equal measure.

3.5 stars

Blythe Duff as Sophia Credit: Mihaela Bodlovic

Blythe Duff as Sophia Credit: Mihaela Bodlovic

Grain in the Blood – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

Reviewer: Zara Grew

Holding my ticket in one hand and the play in the other, I sat unaware of the raw emotions and intensity I was about to witness. The lights sat above me and projected a dim wash of yellow across the stage. The play ran for one hour and thirty minutes, without a break. I believe the lack of an interval was almost symbolic, as to portray that real life cannot be paused.

The play blended a perfect recipe of surrealism and a naturalistic performance style to convey its haunting message, through acting as well as theatre arts. The set was extremely interesting as at first glance it was a realistic cabin living room. However, the back wall of the room came apart revealing young Autumn’s bedroom. Autumn, aged 12 made her first appearance under the dining room table, shocking the audience and continuing to do so throughout the play due to her comical and constant use of curse words. Her gran Sophia was also a shocking character as she was a very hard to read individual, who would do anything to keep her granddaughter alive. The supporting characters Violet and Burt added both comedy and depth to the play, Burt provided comic relief in the performance yet also had a very human dilemma about the morality of the situations he faced. Violet created a humorous reaction from the audience at many points in the play, yet also made us feel deep sadness due to the loss of her sister and her isolation from the family she lives with. However the character I believe created the most tension and audience reaction was Isaac. The father of Autumn and son of Sophia had been let out of prison for a short period of time in order to help Autumn. Although he was a man of few words, I believe he held the play together as his actions forced the other characters to react in extreme measures.

The play was strung together by emotionally packed melodramatic stares between the characters, Autumn’s truthful, heartfelt narration and the frightening rituals of pagan culture. A final monologue by Autumn left the audience in tears and as the lights dimmed on the lives of the broken family and the small dolls house lit up on the stage, we were left affected deeply by that one hour and a half performance.

Andrew Rothney Credit: Mihaela Bodlovic

Andrew Rothney as Isaac Credit: Mihaela Bodlovic

Grain in the Blood – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

Reviewer: Ellie Jack

A thrilling tale built on morbid humour and questionable circumstances. Rob Drummond’s new play Grain in the Blood is jam packed with murder, illness, brooding criminals and the occasional dose of horse manure. Set on a remote Scottish farm the play depicts the lengths to which love will take us, which by the looks of it can be bloody far…

Tense from the outset, we are introduced to Sophia (Blythe Duff) a grandmother and tough talker who is desperate for her convict son Isaac (Andrew Rothney) to return home, all in the hope he can save Amber (Sarah Miele) his dying daughter. But as is life, nothing goes smoothly. With the added drama  and dry humour from Aunt Violet (Frances Thorburn) and prison minder (John Michie) the eye never leaves the stage.

From the outset, the audience is given a family and specific relationships to truly invest in and characters they can root for. Though the play centres on the dying child, Burt (John Michie) could be the character who seeks the most redemption, his character progression was one thing to keep the audience engaged, as was the foul mouth of more than one strong minded female character. Violet’s strength and determination, not to mention her sharp wit was entreating throughout.

However, the authenticity was lacking from Andrew Rothney’s performance, not quite convincing the audience of a character in continuous turmoil, more reciting lines they have learned.  Whilst Blythe Duff, Frances Thorburn and John Michie gave powerful, humorous and emotional performances that produced many a laugh and a gasp from the audience.

Orla O’Loughlin’s directing created a frosty environment both on and off stage, with quick movement and little one to one character contact, which helped set the mood. The basic set and sudden bright lighting contributed to the contrast of simple living with extremely complex situations. The sudden rise to hysteria was almost unbelievable and though entertaining, somewhat hard to truly believe.

Rob Drummond’s ending to a manic play was somewhat unsatisfying. Whilst it is completely acceptable to allow the audience to imagine or presume what follows after the curtain draws,  these specific circumstances left one shocked but thirsty for a more concise and clear conclusion.

Grain in the Blood – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

Reviewer: Claire Lamarra

Grain in the Blood, Rob Drummond’s new play at the Tron Theatre is a moving crowd-pleaser. Bleak, with the occasional laugh thrown in to provide light relief from the intense family drama taking place on stage.

The story unfolds in the harsh Scottish countryside. A prisoner is brought to the farm of a dying girl. For the outset, it is clear that the prisoner has been brought to the farm by his mother and sister-in-law to save his daughter from kidney cancer. The play centres around ‘the verses’ (harvest folk tales) which seem a comfort to some and a source of great distress to others.

The story twists and turns throughout with a pleasing one at the end. It is not entirely unpredictable, if you have seen the movie My Sister’s Keeper (2009), but a good twist no less.

The dialogue is tight and effective. The excessive use of swearing by the 12-year-old Autumn is at first shocking and entertaining. However, by the end seems like a writing device to get cheap laughs. The intenseness and volatility of the character Isaac is clearly portrayed by Andrew Rothney. Sarah Miele’s performance settles as the play progresses. As as an audience member, a mental adjustment had to be made as the age gap between actress and character was slightly too big for it to be utterly believable. Autumn’s grandmother Sophia (Blythe Duff) is a clear cut character with strong morals and a clear view of what is right and wrong compared to Isaac’s chaperone Burt (John Michie). Burt takes persuading to come to a decision on morality or the ‘right thing to do’. Finally, Vicky played convincingly by Frances Thorburn is a wild card. She has a clear view of what she wants and is willing to do anything for the people she loves.

The countdown to Autumn’s birthday throughout the play brings a neat end to the performance despite the turmoil that is taking place outside her bedroom door. It is a moving conclusion that satisfies the audience.

Overall, ‘Grain in the blood’ is a good evening out that keeps you guessing. It is visually stimulating and a story that is tense and entertaining even if slightly melodramatic at points.

Grain in the Blood – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

Reviewer: Taylor Goodwin

Rob Drummond’s Grain In The Blood is a gripping play with mystery and humour weaved throughout. The play focuses on a troubled, secretive family facing a moral dilemma.

Little is known about the family situation in the beginning and it is all slowly revealed as the story progresses. This gives an air of mystery and makes the play worth watching. The plot (although dark as it centres around an ill, young girl) has enough humour incorporated in it to provide enough comic relief to prevent the play becoming too dark all the way through.

The most powerful part of the acting is the varied volume. In particular a scene near the end with Isaac, Burt, Sophia and Violet (played by Andrew Rothney, John Michie, Blythe Duff and Frances Thorburn) where in the middle of an argument the characters go between talking calm and quietly to shouting. The changes in volume keep the scene gripping and make the acting stand out. The acting is also very consistent and the characters come to life due to this. Autumn (played by Sarah Miele) in specific has a certain calmness all through the play making it captivating as she also deals with a serious illness. This adds layers to the character, making her interesting to watch.

The design of the play also adds to the atmosphere with few, quick set changes. All of the changes are done by the cast while music plays, which adds to the atmosphere. A scene near the end is really effective when the mist and wind surround Autumn and adds more to the dark feel of the play.

The production is thought-provoking and attention-grabbing with a mixture of comedic and serious moments. Entertaining from the beginning to the end, this play contains wonderful acting and an interesting plot making it a production that could definitely be watched again.

John Michie and Frances Thorburn Credit: Mihaela Bodlovic

John Michie and Frances Thorburn Credit: Mihaela Bodlovic

Grain in the Blood – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

Reviewer: Eilidh Sweenie

Following an isolated family in a rural community, Grain in the Blood by Rob Drummond is captivating, unnerving and hilarious from the get go. The play itself is well written, giving the audience little snippets of information to build up a mysterious past event while maintaining a sense of intrigue and keeping you guessing throughout. With tense scenes peppered by genuinely funny moments and a small but strong cast Grain in the Blood is very enjoyable and interesting to watch.

All the Actors gave strong performances but Sarah Miele playing Autumn stole the show. The play’s central conflict revolves around Autumn – a little girl who is inquisitive, funny but secretly wise beyond her years. There was the possibility that Autumn could have come across as annoying or even boring without Miele, who played the character with honesty and depth resulting in a captivating performance that made you feel a lot of empathy for the little girl.

Andrew Rothney playing Issac also has to be mentioned. You find yourself liking Issac even though the reason he is in jail is slowly revealed to you and your opinion on him changes. The way Rothney portrays Issac lets you see things from his point of view, and therefore come to realise that he may not be completely evil but not completely good either, which is one of the main themes of the play.

Designed by Fred Meller, the set consists of one wooden room and various pieces of furniture that have a rustic feeling which reflects the rural community in which the play is set. The use of sliding doors adds a new dynamic to a relatively small performance space and allows a change of locations in a stylistic inventive way without the stage ever feeling cramped. However, the way the set was structured meant that the audience could see the actors entering and exiting the stage which was not very good as it distracted from the other actor’s performances.

While the scene transitions were seamless and very cool, sometimes they finished very abruptly as the scenes ended as soon as the characters had finished speaking and therefore the play felt rushed at some points. The lighting was used very effectively, with the lights changing to mimic the characters emotions and adding an extra layer to the whole performance.

On the whole Grain in the Blood at the Tron Theatre is an excellent show, which I would highly recommend if you enjoy stories with family drama, moral dilemmas and an air of mystery brought to you by some seriously talented actors.

Grain in the Blood – Tron Theatre, Glasgow.

Reviewer: Shona Russell

On the evening of the 25th of October, I had the pleasure to view Ross Drummond’s gripping thriller Grain in the Blood.

He lays the scene in a rural Scots village, where the pagan religion and old wives’ tales are widely believed by its inhabitants, creating an eerie and unsettling atmosphere within this backwards-thinking village. The dusky mellow lighting and spotlights, courtesy of Simon Wilkinson, aid the interchangeable farmhouse background created by Fred Meller, in creating a perplexing sense of uncertainty for what is to follow.

The story follows a released prisoner Isaac (Andrew Rothney) returning to his home village in an attempt to reconcile with his family after his treacherous actions sent him behind bars. Sophia (Blythe Duff) tries desperately to reconnect the family in order to save her granddaughter Autumn’s (Sarah Miele) life, which faces great danger without the help of Issac. Closely watched by appointed guardian Bert (John Mitchie), Issac is faced with his past and now the present, which forces him to make a life-altering decision for the greater good of the family, but not without the burden of his actions placed upon him by Violet (Frances Thorburn), who was greatly affected by Issac’s past criminal behavior.

Although the atmosphere is heavy with tension and an unsettling supernatural vibe, the script is bursting with wit, hilarity, and profanities, releasing a good deal of stress from the dark, noirish façade. It’s ill-mannered language and jokes provides lots of laughs amidst the confusion of the twisting, hard hitting plotline.

Autumn, a girl with an impressively colourful vocabulary despite her tender age, adopts a nonchalant attitude to the knowledge of her fast approaching death. She instead focuses on the countdown to her birthday, which seems oddly juxtaposed with the countdown to her inevitable death, evoking even more confusion and confliction. Her recurring plea for the pain to stop reminds us of her youth and how near her death she is, despite the jokes and profanities she often cracks. The audience is captivated by her story.

In 90 minutes, Drummond successfully creates an alternate community of isolated country folk, completely behind today’s idea of society. The audience is encapsulated by this tiny world and all its rituals and beliefs, however strange they may be. Bonds are formed between those who are essentially strangers, creating a sense of unity between five individuals who were once incredibly awkward and silent with each other.

In conclusion, Grain in the Blood requires attentive listening or else one would find themselves relatively clueless. That being said, the rewarding experience of witnessing the twist and turns of the story outweighs any negatives one could have. Although hard to get into at first, the big reveals, exquisite lighting and sets, and encapsulating performances make it a treat for the eyes, and I would highly recommend to anyone up for a thrilling experience and who are impartial to strong profanities, even from 12-year-old girls.

Grain in the Blood – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

Reviewer: Ciara O’Brien

I cannot begin to describe my sheer admiration for Rob Drummond’s Grain in the Blood.

From the first moment of stepping into the theatre I was drawn to the unusual set, very dim and monotone I was keen to find out what was going to happen and the show did not disappoint. The strong accents the characters portrayed their heritage and Scottish highland roots well. Although the character of Autumn, a 12-year-old girl was played by a much older actress, she conveyed the character well with a nonchalant attitude as she knew she was dying, not caring about the opinions of others. She walked with a hunched posture to show she was ill and talked in a slow breathy pace showing how young she is. Sophia and Violet were both similar in stylisation and mindset, showing that the both would give everything up for Autumn to survive, they demonstrated a good balance of pathos and humour which kept the audience entertained. Isaac I felt, was a hard character to believably pull off as his constant changes in mood and emotion would be challenging, however, the actor demonstrated this absolutely outstandingly, delivering a chilling performance bringing me to goosebumps. The comic relief style character, Burt, also delivered an exceedingly good performance and pulled off the “be funny without knowing your funny” with an unbelievable level of talent.

The set was carried on by the cast which I felt linked well with the theme of the family living off their own land and doing everything for themselves. The placement of Autumn under the table in scene one really added to the play as it was unexpected and really drew the attention and immersed the audience in her story. Her constant countdown to her birthday until her death really unnerved the audience. The show had a great balance of light-hearted satire and dark humour. The lights were very aesthetically pleasing, focusing in on centre stage and being naturalistic for the complete play. The sound effects played a key role in bringing the show together, the loud screeching of the violin music rising to a crescendo in the darkest moments of the play really kept the audience on their toes. The noises of the horse growing significantly sicker were quite disturbing and really played on the line “we are all animals” as the horse and Autumn we’re both dying simultaneously showing no matter what you are, we are all dust to dust. The verses were also quite unsettling due to how very dark and urban

The verses were also quite unsettling due to how very dark and urban legend-like they were. The relationships between the characters such as the love Sophia has for Isaac and Isaac has for Autumn, which is shown when he shuns himself to pursue her final wish. The strong language used could be deemed unnecessary by many however I feel that it was necessary to show how nonchalant Autumn was and also to convey anger in Isaac, Violet, and Sophia.

Finally, the most moving part of the play, in my opinion, was Autumn’s final monologue in which she reveals that she wanted the pain to end and her father to live on, and she was ready to sleep and never wake up brought me to tears. The subtle light shining on in the toy house after the stage faded to blackout was very effective in finishing the play and was a good way to convey a happy ending even though the storyline was dark. The hardest part for me was figuring out a negative comment as I could not spot any for the play was thought-provoking and entertaining from start to finish. It could be argued that the character of Violet blocked other characters on stage at a few points however, I felt as though this was a theatrical staging choice and not accidental and this comment is me really struggling to find any negatives in the play whatsoever. Overall the play was moving bringing many audience members to tears, and I recommend the show to everyone as it is universally acceptable with comedy,

Overall the play was moving bringing many audience members to tears, and I recommend the show to everyone as it is universally relatable with comedy, thrills, and drama. Although the strong themes and language would be unsuitable for younger children, the play really spoke to me, and I would happily go and see it again.

Grain in the Blood will be at The Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh from 1st to 12th November 2016

Tickets: https://www.traverse.co.uk/whats-on/event-detail/926/grain-in-the-blood.aspx