Tuesday, 4 September 2012

She Plays

The Fringe has barely finished - well, I am still licking my wounds from it and hoping that I don't get ill after a month of sleeping on floors and eating on the run - and the Autumn seasons are starting up. There's even a few themes emerging, to give me a chance to create another idiosyncratic top five...

The strength of women is an oft-recorded part of recent Scottish history, at least as far as the theatre remembers it. The Steamie emphasised the importance of women's work in Glasgow in the 1950s, and two plays in Dundee celebrate the role of women in difficult times.

She-Town pretty much lays it all out in the title. An ambitious project from Dundee Rep, adding a cast of community performers alongside their core actors, it goes back to the depressed 1930s and highlights how women kept the city running. Starring Barbara Rafferty - best known for her TV work in Rab C Nesbit but has been a sparkling Scottish stage presence over the past decade - and a very large cast of women, Sharman MacDonald's new play is supported by a new Creative Scotland fund.

First in a Lifetime is designed to make work that opens up creativity to new people: this time, it has enabled community performers to appear in a professional production. Given that She-Town is all about  community, it's appropriate that this fund is supporting it.

12 - 29 September @ Dundee Rep

It's a bit cheeky to include Stellar Quines in my rundown of "theatre about women" - their remit has always been supportive to female artists. However, they have teamed up with Greyscale to run a tour by one of the world's oldest "new writers": Sylvia Dow is 73, and this is her first play.

A rehearsed reading last year revealed Dow's sensibility echoes the absurdism of Beckett, but with an added compassion and strong sense of contemporary anguish: while the early absurdist theatre entertained through a combination of lurking fear and the pointlessness of life, Dow pitches the horror of a relationship going nowhere, caught in the cycles of repressed hopes and polite reconciliations. It fits into both the Traverse's New Writing remit and the programming of Andy Arnold at the Tron (he loves a nice bit of absurdism), and Dow becomes an interesting take on the entire idea of "the young writer".

5- 8 September @ The Tron
18- 19 September at the Traverse

It's rare that I get out to the Brunton Theatre - although when I do, I get to go for a paddle in the sea and have an ice-cream from the lovely shop just across the road. The Brunton does have a programme that operates independently from the theatres in Edinburgh, featuring plenty of touring companies up from England.

Miriam Margoyles whetted my appetite for Dickens' Women at the Fringe, and the Brunton has followed up with Miss Havisham's Expectations. A one-woman show starring Linda Marlow (she once did Berkoff's Women, so will be familiar with the bloody end of female fictional characters), it takes up the story of Great Expectations and confronts the venerable Victorian author with the truth about the woman he trapped inside a moment.

Using biographical details from Dickens' life alongside the famous novel, Di Sherlock's script takes the writer to task for playing God with characters that he does not understand: and while adaptations can be a lazy way to make theatre, Miss Havisham's Great Expectations ignores the conventional period drama cliches and recontextualises one of fiction's great, lost tragic heroines.

Saturday 15 September @ Brunton Theatre

Next up, The Guid Sisters: I have talked about this already, but it is a bold start to the new season at the Lyceum. The NTS are involved, too, and it is one of the rare times that a piece starts at the Lyceum and doesn't force me to travel to Edinburgh to see it: it is coming to the King's, Glasgow, in October.

21 September - 13 October @ The Lyceum
23 - 27 October @ The King's, Glasgow 

Towards the end of next month, another project led by Cora Bissett (after Whatever Gets You Through the Night and Roadkill, she is becoming a force in Scottish production, even before looking at her acting) reveals a hidden history. The Glasgow Girls were seven young women who stood up for the rights of asylum seekers - a tough, political story that is perfect for a musical adaptation.

A script from David Greig and original songs from Bissett, MC Soom T and John Kielty (who has been perfecting the punk musical during the Fringe), the musical is no schmaltzy song-fest, but a celebration of the Glasgow that longs to find the true meaning of inclusion and multiculturalism. The NTS are involved again - the energy and imagination of the nation's big company is looking undiminished as it heads towards its eighth year - and both Bissett and Greig have reputations as hard-hitters.

31 October - 17 November @ The Citizens 

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