Tag Archives: Tron Theatre

WHAT’S ON DECEMBER: Ali the Magic Elf at the Tron

This Christmas, Tron Theatre Company is presenting a brand-new Tron festive classic, Ali the Magic Elf.

Ideal for little ones aged 3-6 years and their adults, the show is conceived and directed by Tron Theatre’s Artistic Director Andy Arnold (who has recently returned from directing The Selfish Giant for Beijing Children’s Theatre Company) for the studio space. Designer Jenny Booth is set to transform our Changing House into a cosy North Pole workshop where Ali the Magic Elf (played by Ramesh Meyyappan) is busy working away in Santa’s workshop.

It’s Christmas eve but everything is going wrong and the elves are panicking- none of the children’s letters have been answered! What is an elf to do! Suddenly with the jingle of bells and the swoosh of a sleigh- magic is in the air! But Ali and his friends (played by Simon Donaldson & Pride & Prejudice* *sort of’s Christina Gordon) may need a bit of help! 

Featuring costume design by Vicki Brown and with a live score played by actor/musicians Simon and Christina, Ali the Magic Elf uses the wonderful physicality and comic timing of three professional actors to great effect and is an unforgettable visual experience for little ones who might still be too young for the Tron’s main house panto.

Ali the Magic Elf is 50 minutes of charming storytelling which incorporates Meyyappan’s playful magic tricks, engaging basic BSL audience interaction and live music throughout in a perfect Christmas treat for little ones.

ALI THE MAGIC ELF

FRI 29 NOVEMBER – TUE 31 DECEMBER 2019  

WHAT’S ON DECEMBER: Cinderfella at the Tron

It’s almost panto time at the Tron Theatre and they have announced that the 2019 pantomime CINDERFELLA (27th Nov 2019 – 5th Jan 2020) is set to defy convention once again by featuring an all-women cast of Tron panto legends, just one year after progressive panto Mammy Goose portrayed a heartwarming tale of same-sex love between two heroes. Penned once again by the inimitable Johnny McKnight, this year’s pantomime Christmas show will be directed and designed by Kenny Miller.

Imagine having to do everything in your house… Well, that’s the life Cinderella (Sally Reid) leads. It’s a pure nightmare – and her family? Well, they make the Kardashians look positively normal. She’s got two idiotic step-brothers – Harry and Larry (Hannah Jarrett-Scott and Daisy Ann Fletcher) – who are incapable of doing anything for themselves; a Stepmother (Lauren Ellis-Steele) so wicked she makes Ann Widdecombe look warm and cuddly; AND she has to work morning, noon and night in the family dressmaking business. Her only pal is a gallus wee sheep named Muttons (Jo Freer).

But there’s hope when she hears that winner of Entrepreneur of the Year, Princess Charmaine is having a party for all the commoners in the pantosphere. Will Cinderella get to the ball and save her family business? Who will Princess Charmaine pick as her husband? And who on earth would leave a pair of glass trainers at the bottom of the royal palace stairs?

With stunningly festive lighting from Grant Anderson, and the usual toe-tapping tunes by Ross Brown, CINDERFELLA is set to be yet another unmissable all-singing, all-dancing, irreverent, gallus, festive extravaganza.

Tron Theatre, 63 Trongate, Glasgow G1 5HB
Dates: Wed 27 Nov 2019 – Sun 5 Jan 2020, times vary
Tickets: £9 – £23 (prices vary)
Box Office: 0141 552 4267 or http://www.tron.co.uk

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.

FEATURE: Tron Ambassadors 2018

Since 2003 the Tron Theatre has enabled young people to experience a range of the career opportunities available within a modern fully-operational theatre via the one-year Tron Ambassadors scheme. Through the scheme the intention is to foster deeper connections with the Tron Theatre, 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.

The 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.

This year, as well as the excellent opportunities and insight offered on the programme, the Tron Ambassadors will also be eligible to gain an Arts Award qualification from their full participation in the programme.

This year, I was again delighted to deliver the Theatre Criticism/Theatre Blogging workshop. As well as learning about the technical aspects of running a theatre website, we looked at the opportunities/transferrable skills that can help you pursue a career in different aspects of the arts, the pros and cons of running a theatre website and how to approach writing reviews.

As ever, the breadth of talent is truly inspiring and I am delighted to feature some of the Ambassadors’ reviews of National Theatre of Scotland and Theatre Gu Leòr’s play Scotties.

Head to the reviews section or click the link HERE to read.

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/

 

 

REVIEW: South Bend – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

The problem with actor/playwright Martin McCormick’s autobiographical (or so he claims) South Bend, is that the minute he asks the audience to “trust me”, it has the opposite effect. You desperately want to believe this tall tale, but the nagging seed of doubt is sown in those two words. That said, there’s no doubt that this is precisely what McCormick wants to achieve in his theatrical road movie.

Obsessed since childhood with the US, he dreams of the world of Saved by the Bell, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Blossom and Seinfeld. When he eventually arrives for a semester at college in California, his every childhood dream is fulfilled. There he falls in love. Unfortunately, his time there is limited, and he has to return home. With promises from his love to visit him in Scotland ringing in his ear, he heads home.

When time passes, and the phone doesn’t ring, he heads to South Bend, Indiana to find his girl. Unsurprisingly, things don’t go to plan. On the receiving end of hostilities from his girlfriend’s step-mother, McCormick finds himself in a domestic version of Dante’s nine circles of hell.

How much of these antics are actually reflective of McCormick’s real experiences is questionable but the quality of the storytelling is just enough to entertain. McCormick is a better playwright than actor and his delivery does detract at times, it plays like someone playing the part of McCormick, rather than the person who is supposed to have experienced this madness.

Live foley artist David A. Pollock effectively provides the on-stage sound effects and a very Glaswegian voice of reason and Jess Chanlieu is chameleon-like playing all other characters.

South Bend is ultimately an undemanding, entertaining hour of theatre, but there’s a nagging feeling that it could have been so much more.

Image: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

REVIEW: Pride and Prejudice* (*Sort Of) – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

Sometimes a production comes along that sends you to the street with a smile on your face, The Tron Theatre Company and Blood of the Young’s Pride and Prejudice* (*Sort Of) is one (sort of).

Promising to deliver a re-worked version of the Jane Austen classic for a 21st Century audience, it certainly delivers on that front: the five-strong, all-female cast doubling and tripling up on roles male and female; a script choc-full of clever lines; a host of visual jokes; characters clad in Regency garb belting out classic pop tunes through a karaoke machine and scoffing cereal straight from the box; social parallels (unfortunately) travelling down the 200 years since the work was written, it may well strike a chord with a youthful audience, however, the production is not without its faults.

While promoted as entertaining for those unfamiliar with the work, it could be argued that much of the humour only really hits home with a knowledge of the original text, otherwise it’s rendered surface and slapstick and while, to its credit, little of the original plot is sacrificed in this re-telling, that itself is a problem, at over two hours 45 minutes, for all its ability to entertain and amuse, it is a physical marathon.

Its greatest asset is its universally excellent cast. Meghan Tyler is a particularly appealing Lizzie and the sheer joy with which the cast tackle the lengthy script, singing and slapstick can’t fail to impress.

A brave choice for adaptation, and a largely effective and highly entertaining evening’s theatre from a top-notch cast, but far from perfect.

Runs until 14 July 2018 | Image: John Johnston

This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub

REVIEW: Ma, Pa and the Little Mouths – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

It’s into the insular world of the reclusive Ma and Pa that we eavesdrop in award-winning actor and playwright Martin McCormick’s Ma Pa and the Little Mouths. The play, presented as a rehearsed reading as part of last year’s Mayfesto, now returns fully-formed to The Tron.

Ma and Pa are isolated in their high rise flat. Literally blocked-off from the outside world. Pa’s weekly shopping trips the only contact with whatever’s out there. Their days spent passing the time telling each other ever-more absurd tales. Into this world falls Neil, a woman Pa finds hiding under a car in the street outside. They give her refuge, but in the act of opening that door, their lives and hers are changed inexorably.

In turn absurdist and surrealist, but always captivating, McCormick’s piece wears its influences on its sleeve, there are undoubted nods to Harold Pinter in pace and tone, and to a lesser extent to the output of Philip Ridley, though much more palatable, of wider appeal and a whole lot less in-your-face and absolutely of Eugène Iionesco, the master of portraying the insignificance of human existence. The non-linear narrative may prove challenging to some but there’s plenty of humour to delight, the language rich and the dialogue has a hypnotic rhythm of its own. The petty resentments of a long-term relationship, deftly written by McCormick, are delivered as pithy one-liners, and thrown at each other like perfectly formed weapons.

The much-loved comedy actor Karen Dunbar (Ma) is a local favourite and having already shown her acting chops playing Winnie in Beckett’s Happy Days, at this very venue, the character of Ma, seems like a perfect fit. While she delivers the lion’s share of the laughs, there’s an air of barely hidden menace under the razor-sharp retorts. Dunbar is maturing into an actress of great depth. Veteran Scottish actor Gerry Mulgrew delivers a beautifully measured performance as Pa.

As the piece progresses, hints emerge as to the deeper tragedy that underlies this existence. At a compact 180 minutes, while challenging, McCormick’s work is always creative and utterly captivating.

Runs until 12 May 2018 at the Tron Theatre, Glasgow then at the Traverse, Edinburgh from 16-19 May 2018 | Image: John Johnston

This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub

REVIEW: The Brothers Karamazov – Tron Theatre, Glasgow

Four central performances of considerable strength mark Richard Crane and Faynia Williams’ revived production of Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov as the highlight of the Tron Theatre’s 35th anniversary season.

Notoriously difficult to translate, thought to be un-stageable and widely regarded as one of the greatest achievements in world literature, it is a daunting task indeed to take Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s 900 page masterpiece and turn it into a play. To distil its grand themes onto a 100 minute running time, would seem like utter madness, but that is exactly what Crane and Williams have managed to do.

While impossible to reproduce the detail of the novel, or tackle all of its philosophical questions, in sticking to its most major ethical debates: faith, free will and, of fundamental importance to the work, familial relationships, this ground-breaking adaptation manages to leave its mark and provoke discourse.

The performances are quite literally grounded in the earth on the functional, compact, multi-layered circular set which is beautifully lit by Sergey Jakovsky’s lighting design.

The quartet of actors alternate roles within the play, while also delivering fundamental characterisations of the four brothers. Sean Biggerstaff (Ivan), Tom England (Alyosha), Thierry Mabonga (Dmitry) and Mark Brailsford (Smerdyakov) gel perfectly together and the differences between the four are clearly marked and beautifully realised. Biggerstaff (Ivan) particularly shines in his though-provoking speech as the Grand Inquisitor to Alyosha as Christ as does the mercurial Mabonga in his portrayal of Dmitri’s self-destruction.

This striking adaptation perfectly mixes the classic with the contemporary and lingers in the memory long after the lights go down.

Runs until 28 October 2017 | Image: Contributed

This review was originally written for The Reviews Hub at: http://www.thereviewshub.com/the-brothers-karamazov-tron-theatre-glasgow/

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