Sunday, 28 October 2012

Demons, Birds, Sisters and Passion

Demons at Oran Mor, Ugo Rondinone at The Common Guild, Guid Sisters at the Kings and Arvo Part's Passio at Kelvingrove

I'm a big fan of Dave McLellan's Play, a Pie and a Pint at Oran Mor and do try to get along whenever I'm at a lunchtime loose end. The £10 is on the steep side, but you do get a pint or a glass of wine, a steak pie and as much gravy as your plate can take, plus I suppose you save another 50p if you pick up a free Evening Times there, as they are one of the sponsors. The main attraction however is seeing a complete variety of performances, plays, styles, actors and writing from old pros to new young writers. This week was a companion piece to the 250th play, Jean-Jaque Rousseau Show, which was written by a group of writers, a piece of musical/ comedy/ cabaret. The team involved felt they had more that they wanted to say which lead to "Demons", again 5 actors singing, rotating through various musical instruments and sketches in a political cabaret. The peg it is hung upon is the quote from Owen Jones's book, Chavs,  "Demonization is the ideological backbone of an unequal society." In a variety of sketches they illustrate the point that the poor are being made the scapegoat for the bourgeoisie, as explained by Marx and Engels as the (Groucho) Marx brothers. It finishes with John McGrath's song from the Wildcat days ‘Get them out, make them work, They don’t own us, whatever they say." It all needs saying, but it is hard not to be a wee bit saddened by the fact that political theatre has had to dust off the old songs a quarter of a century after they were written. At least there seems a group of young actors and writers looking to do this stuff.
Ugo Rondinone, 'primitive'
On Friday evening we  swung by The Common Guild up on Park Circus to see their current exhibition, an installation of little bronze sculptures of birds, scattered throughout the building by Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone.
They are all individuals, but simply made and quite comical. As you carefully step through them it's hard not to think of the malevolence in Hitchcock's film, The Birds, rather than the benign wee innocent faces of Anthony Gormley's terracotta figures in 'Field'. It is a lot of fun, and our three kids loved it. 

Saturday night was meant to be me watching rubbish on TV and getting an early night as my children don't get the concept of clocks go back an hour (as I expected Sunday breakfast started at 5am). Meanwhile my wife and her mum went to the Kings Theatre to see The Guid Sisters starring Karen Dunbar, a Scots version of the French Québécois play, Les Belles-soeurs by Michael Tremblay. They'd been looking forward to it for a while and it had great reviews (Herald****, Scotsman****, Guardian*****, The Observer****) so I was surprised when they came home at the back of 9pm. My initial fear was that they'd been driven home by all the people roaming the streets of Glasgow that night dressed as zombies or schoolgirls,. However the truth of the matter was that they'd walked out at the interval. Sadly they did not enjoy it at all, finding it almost impossible to hear what was being said in a jumble of mixed up accents by the numerous characters talking and shouting over each other. What they could make out they found couthie and stilted. In the past year they've seen and enjoyed plays in similar Scottish scenarios (Men Should Weep and The Steamie for example) but this must have been a trial for them to have actually left. You have been warned!

Sunday night I went to the second half of the Arvo Pärt weekend, a further episode in the ongoing series of concerts in Glasgow under the "Minimal" banner. Whereas some of the others in the series are more commonly labelled as minimalists (Steve Reich, Philip Glass) Pärt's piece tonight is minimalist in the way that Gregorian chants are stark and minimalist. It is a choral telling by the Estonian composer of St John's Passion, sung in the Latin, accompanied by an oboe, cello, violin, bassoon and tonight by the organ in Kelvingrove Art Galleries. Maybe not everyone's idea of a great night out, but in the beautiful setting of the main hall of Kelvingrove Art Gallery with its echoey acoustics and grand surroundings it was fantastic. The choir was great and a joy every time they had a piece to sing, the baritone of Jesus and Pilate's higher tones were sung from up on the balcony alongside the organist, adding to the drama, the organ only really coming in as accompaniment to their voices. Really enjoyed this, brilliant performance, brilliant setting.

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