Reviewing some Glasgow theatre offerings, poetry and music from this week
Alasdair Gray gave an interesting interview in The Observer at the weekend, talking of his feeling of running out of time to do all the things he has wanted. He seems more productive than ever at present with his decoration of the Oran Mor interior, a new collection of his short stories released this week and his tiled wall at Hillhead subway station unveiled recently. He is often described as a polymath; playwright, author, artist and activist. He grew up in an environment in Glasgow where artists could meet up, share ideas and try them out. One place you see young artists mixing with old hands and getting to try stuff out is at Oran Mor's A Play, a Pie and a Pint.
One person who I've seen giving a reading alongside Alasdair Gray recently is Alan Bissett, a man with many strings to his bow. He is an author, performer, has written plays for Oran Mor's A Play, a Pie and a Pint and is active in the 'Yes' campaign for independence. He has admitted light-heartedly on Twitter to being exhausted by his role in the independence campaign but he brought plenty of energy to his one man show "The Red Hourglass", which reached The Arches last week. Originally performed at the Edinburgh Fringe last summer he played the parts of several spiders being observed in a St Andrews research facility. The parts were individually well written and performed, but the pieces struggled to hang together to make a coherent point, despite the final summing up by the research scientist. He has often collaborated with others through Oran Mor and seems not to be lacking in confidence or ambition. The artistic community of Scotland isn't enormous though, and contributes so much to defining us, entertaining us, making us think. Like your corner shop, unless you use it you will wake up one day and find that it has gone and all you have left is that huge, bland multinational brand you've got to drive to. I guess that is the point I'm trying to make in blogging all these events, trying to help people see what things are going on.
This week a A Play, a Pie and a Pint has a class act in town with Bill Paterson as writer and performer in Astonishing Archie. I think I'm right in saying it is based on the bones of a 30 minute piece he wrote as a radio play a few years ago to perform with Stanley Baxter. Sadly Richard Wilson had to withdraw from this performance for health reasons. He is ably replaced by Kenny Ireland, who recently directed The Cone Gatherers which I saw in September at the Theatre Royal. Sharon Small of Inspector Lynley Mysteries fame and the voice of Alex Norton also feature. The star qualities of Bill Paterson has drawn a larger than usual gaggle of Kelvinside ladies and gentlemen to Oran Mor and the place was packed when I went there on Tuesday, and I can confidently say that I was about 30 years younger than most of the other spectators. Two brothers born either side of the war view the world (and music) differently and fight it out over their pal Archie's farewell funeral music - Sinatra or Elvis. Bill Paterson's Allan and the script are warm and witty. A tale of sibling rivalry fought out through the medium of musical tastes, it is brought together nicely by Sharon Small's Church of Scotland minister. It's good, gentle fun and I could see it working well on BBC Scotland as a 60 minute play, early evening on Hogmanay before Only an Excuse.
|Tam Dean Burn|
Graeme Ronald, in solo Remember Remember guise did his ephemeral, wistful stuff in a beautiful 30 minute set (I could happily have had the same again). He's a multi-instrumentalist who started off doing his stuff as a soloist, looping and repeating sounds as diverse as guitar chords and bubble wrap pops to make atmospheric, melodic tunes. Playing electric guitar with interference from an iPod tonight was a new one for me. If you haven't picked up their album (as a band) The Quickening, go get it now.
Next up was the ever entertaining Liz Lochhead, who changed her readings to follow the vibe of the evening, reading "Ira and George" (Gershwin). It was also nice to hear her powerful poem "Listen" again, the voice of a kid at a Children's Panel. She is a great advert for poetry as an aural rather than a written form and a great reader. Her corbie (crow) says 100 times what Ted Hughes's manages in its opening speech from her play Mary Queen Of Scots Got Her Head Chopped Off.