Wednesday, 1 August 2012


As much as I'd love to start off this article with a grand statement that "the 1960s was a watershed moment," I realised that just about any decade from 1890 is a watershed moment of some sort. Having undermined my reason for writing this top five, I shamble onwards, hoping that you'll buy something about how the 1960s were the moment when popular culture met political protest, and social change was not engineered by architects or politicians, but stinky guy and girls with long hair who liked rolling in the mud and guzzling drugs.

First up, there's Not My Cup of Tea. It's a new play by Polly Goss, has had a run at the Tristan Bates Theatre down in London, which supports new ways of linking actors and those with a story to tell. And it's set in 1970. So that's the theme broken already.

Forgive me. The press release talks about Bob Dylan, flares and a belief in changing the world, and it is set in a rural commune. It's multi-media, has a cool retro soundtrack and looks at the cost of fighting the system. Since it seems that the bloody system has won - mostly thanks to the sort of characters who inhabit this play selling out in around 1973 - it's an apposite tale for the Olympic Britain, or whatever desperate brand the government is calling itself this week. 

Not My Cup of Tea  at 3pm at The Radisson Hotel -The Space on the Mile (V39) from 3rd- 25th August 

Chances are that I am going to be going on about this company in a later post (there are a bunch of French-style physical theatre companies hitting the Fringe, and I am not missing the chance to have an article called "Respect Lecoq"), but Letslip are taking a different route to re-examining the 1960s... one that contradicts my earlier definition of what made them a watershed moment.

Machines For Living comes out of the Jacques Lecoq Theatre School in Paris and stars a pair of architects who delude themselves that they can design a tower block into a perfect lifestyle enhancer. Yes, those whacky 1960s Brutalists, with their concrete flats and dreams of a utopia based on shoving people into tiny boxes a mile up in the sky are back.

Of course, it's a black comedy: here in Glasgow, we've been watching the results of that smart social engineering get blown up over the past year, and this is another chance to mock the idiocy of a movement that ignored the concept of beauty in design. My only worry is that the Morning Star called it an unexpected gem - and I am still not convinced that Marxism and aesthetics are comfortable together. 

Machines for Living @ ZOO (Venue 124) 3 to 27 August (not 14th or 21st) @ 3.30pm

Not that I am getting desperate to keep the theme together, but Forever Young does take its title from a Bob Dylan track, and has a soundtrack of tunes from the 1960s (and 1950s). Red Cloak Productions use the poetry of Blake (he is a bit like the 1960s' spirit given romantic form, isn't he?), Wordsworth and Coleridge (he liked drugs, like hippies did) to examine what it means to be a youngster and what it costs to leave youth behind.

In many ways, this is an allegory of the 1960s, as the decade started with the rise of the teenager, but the grim meat-hook reality of Vietnam, Tricky Dicky Nixon forced the generation to grow up.  I am sure that the company didn't mention this in their press release because it is so obvious. 

This is another show with live music and a touch of physical theatre, and looks as if it fits nicely in the fashion for devised work coming from younger companies. 

Forever Young @theSpace@Symposium Hall (V43)
13th - 24th August 2012 @ 11.15am

I don't want to be accused of being partisan, but I am enthusiastic about Summerhall's programme throughout the Fringe - and if the rumours are true, it is set to become a year round haven for Edinburgh's avant-garde. And even their films are exciting: they've got a selection from KinoKlub (the surreal film collective) of a 1960s' classic, Les Yeux Sans Visage.

It might have inspired a song by Billy Idol, but Les Yeux has the appropriate awkward credentials to get on any self-respect psychedelic warrior's wish list. It was made at the start of the Love decade, has plenty of body horror (the plot stars a plastic surgeon's attempt to fix up his disfigured daughter) - and this showing comes with a bonus short about animal slaughter.

There's a great deal of sentimentality about the 1960s - an innocent time, and the hippies just wanted a nicer world, maan. Nothing better than a spot of vicious surreal nastiness to put this in context.

Summerhall, 24 August

Finally on the old school top, there's Black Comedy. Written by Peter Shaffer (the Amadeus guy), Edward's Theatre Company get busy with a tale of artistic ambition and financial possibilities. Shaffer was inspired by a performance of the Peking Opera, and emphasises the dark part of the comedy: it all ends in mayhem.

Black Comedy is a nice ending to my 1960s' special, as Shaffer is one of the few playwrights of that era who has both a popular and experimental following. I remember him most from the TV version of Equus, which is just dark with no comedy

The Quaker Meeting House  Monday 6 - Saturday 11 August 



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