by Douglas Maxwell

Citizens’ Theatre 119 Gorbals Street GL5 9DS To 9 May 2015.
Tue-Sat 7.30pm Mat 9 May 2.30pm.
Audio-described 7 May.
BSL Signed 8 May.
Post-show Discussion 5 May.
Runs 2hr 25min One interval.

TICKETS: 0141 429 0022.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 1 May.

Inventive but effortful.
It’s the happening place – the being part – of the ‘Smiles Better City. 20th-century estates, the dignified stone buildings of previous centuries. South of the river, culturally and ethnically varied: the beating heart of a city of the world. And in its variety lie the fevered dreams, the newish-coined term for urban paranoia (each generation requires its own).

Playwright Douglas Maxwell, coming in the wake of David Greig and David Harrower (he’s mid-seventies rather than later-sixties born), writes about the same social sector of educated, self-aware young (though now moving into middle-age) educated people. There are plenty of Glasgow Southsiders who live comparatively unfevered lives, without the surrealist images and alarming events these people experience.

It’s an open question how many plays labelled ‘surrealist’ in recent decades the original Surrealists would have recognised. Maxwell, at least, relates his events to dreams, rather than using surrealism merely as a synonym for unlikely happenings or magical realism. Yet the interlocking stories of small groups pull the play towards a different type of story-telling.

Everyone’s so distinctive, it begins to seem no-one south of the Clyde has mere normal problems – mortgages, transport. Instead, it’s troubles with a pterodactyl, or the intricacies of Performing Art. It’s not always clear where, for example, the dangerous friendship with a young Asian property profiteer is taking young Kuldev.

Yet, though the strangeness can clog the story, there is a distinctive imaginative flair, as with the visiting young (again) American evangelists, whose visit to one flat is seen from two points-of-view, first displaying their discomfort, then that of the people they visit. These people, trying to placate a baby as a police helicopter roars throatily in the sky, have the nearest to a normal problem.

And, its wings spread wide and fiery eyes glowing, Terry, the puppet-pterodactyl, is a truly pterrifying guardian to a gated community that might be heaven or hell. Dominic Hill’s production provides the broad sweep without finding a focus to rest on each group of characters, like Neil Warmington’s spacious, galleried design. Local theatregoers may find more; from the outside it’s brilliant, but hardly engaging.

Julia: Charlene Boyd.
Joe 1: Martin Donaghy.
Joe 2: Scott Reid.
Kuldev: Umar Malik.
Peter: Martin McCormick.
Raj: Dharmesh Patel.
Demi: Kirsty Stuart.
Terry: Harry Ward.
Drums/Percussion: Dave Black.

Director: Dominic Hill.
Designer: Neil Warmington.
Lighting: Lizzie Powell.
Sound: Guy Coletta.
Composer/Musical Director: Michael John McCarthy.
Movement: Laura Fisher.
Puppet: Gavin Glover.
Dramaturg: Francis Poet.
Assistant director: Stephen Darcy.

2015-05-05 00:05:58

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