Sunday, 23 February 2014

Laptop Guy Day

Having begun life as a compilation of short stories, Laptop Guy is heading for the big leagues. With the grand launch happening as part of the GFF - featuring a rare appearance of Jack Lothian, writer of Laptop Guy and some other stuff that is quite popular on TV (Skins, Ashes to Ashes, Spooks et c) - and the third issue promised in the next few months, Laptop Guy follows Royal Descent as part of Black Hearted Press campaign to demonstrate that Scotland's Got Comics.

Despite his modest origins, Laptop Guy  is an increasingly sophisticated magazine. Lothian's skill as a screenwriter is especially evident in issue two: the cunning use of titles evokes television, and the cliffhanger ending has an elegant ambiguity. While the central narrative concerns the conflict between beleaguered artist and his computer nemesis, the support characters are given space to develop. A comprehensive reality is sketched out around the fantastic plot, evoking the painful comedy of Curb Your Enthusiasm as the artist discovers that Laptop Guy is more than just an idea he had on a bad day.

As with many of the best comics, there is a sense that Laptop Guy could only be told through panels and speech bubbles: the surreal horror of the central episode works because of the lightness of the illustration and the precision of the character's expression. A clear use of colour - the cover's rich blue hints at how the mood within is created through the hues and tones - and a traditional, exact panel scheme ensures that the story-telling is coherent.

The story itself loops around a nice meta-concept, slipping in the gaps but poking at the oppressive presence of technology, the problems of low wages fighting high aspirations and the prejudice faced by a man who just wants to draw. There's enough satire on the comic-biz to amuse the fans, without ever losing sight of a more general audience... Lothian structures the story like a sitcom, moving from drama to comedy and then banging the two together for the darker sequences.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Dundee Rep does Agatha Christie

There seems to be a trend for nostalgia in theatre just now: Noel Coward's Private Lives at the Lyceum, the ghost of 7:84 whispering in Rantin, a few more contemporary revivals and the restaging of West Side Story that cleaves to its original choreography and direction. Up in Dundee, Kenny Miller (who has done plenty of new plays in his time) is directing and designing Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None.

Apart from being originally published with a dodgy title, Christie's tale of a series of revenge killings has stood the test of time: given the plot - ten guests in a remote house, getting knocked off one by one - it is probably the ancestor of those modern torture porn films that I won't watch because I am too scared.

Christie does it all with more taste, of course. It's in the mystery, not the bloodshed. 

Press Release Begins:

View trailerView Meet the Cast 

From the best-selling novelist of all time, and the creator of the much-loved Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, comes a thrilling story of mystery and murder.

"The most baffling mystery Agatha Christie has ever written." The New York Times

Ten strangers arrive at a house on a remote island after receiving an invitation from an unknown host. Soon they realise they are trapped.

One by one they are accused of past crimes; one by one they begin to meet a gruesome end. With only a nursery rhyme to help them predict the next inventive, grisly murder, the diminishing group must try to discover the identity of the murderer.

Who will be the last person standing?

Claudia Lennear will attend the Scottish Premiere of 20 Feet From Stardom

The Glasgow Film Festival is usually good for uncovering parts of cinematic history that have been unfortunately ignored, as well as getting a first look at new films. 20 Feet from Stardom does both, kind of: it looks at the life of  the backing singers to the stars, including Claudia Lennear rumoured to be the muse for both The Rolling Stones’ Brown Sugar (1971) and David Bowie’s Lady Grinning Soul (1973). 

While the lyrics of Brown Sugar probably represent one of rock'n'roll's many low points in its attitudes towards both sex and race (Bowie's number is heavy on the objectification, too), Lennear is one of the many people who have made a mark on popular music without ever being recognised. And the GFF has got her to come along for a Q&A after the film. 

Nominated for Best Documentary at the 2014 Academy Awards, 20 Feet From Stardom shines a spotlight on the untold true story of the backup singers behind some of the greatest musical legends of the 21st century. From award-winning director Morgan Neville, the film includes rare archival footage, a peerless soundtrack and intimate interviews with such musical legends as Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, Sheryl Crow, Mick Jagger and Sting.

Glasgow Gospel Choir will be singing songs from the documentary, as well as a selection of other hit musical numbers, before the film commences on Saturday 22 February at 15.20, in Glasgow Film Theatre’s Cinema 1. 20 Feet From Stardom will be released in the UK & Ireland on 28 March.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Happy Birthday Dear Black Heart...

Although they have been sitting behind me in the CCA for mere months, Black Hearted Press are firm Vile Favourites, and are celebrating their fourth birthday. Coinciding with the official launch of Laptop Guy (issue one comes out in February, swiftly followed by issue two and three is slated for an April release, allow fans of dystopian comedy to get a monthly fix of computer-headed doppelganger fun), BHP have arranged an exhibition in Cocktails and Burgers (opposite their office on Sauchiehall Street...).

Apart from being a rare chance to see Sha Nazir and Jack Lothian in the same room (artist and writer of Laptop Guy, respectively, and sometime rumoured to be a single person, a bit like the Bi-Beast out of Hulk), BHP have arranged a plethora of artists, whom I shall now google for further details.

Dave Alexander
David Braysher
Chris Connelly
Thomas Crielly 
James Devlin
Paul Hempstead
John Howard
Morag Kewell
Jason Mathis
Sha Nazir
Will Pickering
Brian Rankin
Alex Ronald & Neil Slorance

In a more innocent time (1973), the Bi-Beast was acceptable as a name for a villain. He fought the Hulk and was designed by Herbe Trimpe (not quite Jack Kirby, but he has that muscular dynamism that made Kirby so distinctive).

However, he is not the creator of Laptop Guy

Jack Lothian is a film and television writer. His television credits range from Ashes to Ashes, Doc Martin and Outcasts to the new E4 ‘Beaver Falls' and Teachers, which earned him nominations for Best Writer at the BAFTAs and Best Young Writer at the Broadcast Awards.

He is currently the lead writer on Sky1 HD's upcoming drama Sinbad. This is his first year on Skins. Jack was nominated for a Best Newcomer BAFTA for his first feature film, Late Night Shopping, which won the CICAE Prize at the Berlin Film Festival.

Sha Nazir has worked in the arts and creative industry for over 15 years, running his own graphic and web design company, his clients have included the BBC, STV, Virgin and ESPN. 

A practising freelance artist and educator, Sha has created diverse range a works from Theatre set design to animation and design projects. He recently wrote and designed ‘The Amazing Mr Mackintosh’ and is working on new titles for Black Hearted Press and co producing the Glasgow Comic Con.

Other Black Hearted Press operatives are available...

Mark Boyle - Operations & Marketing Director

Mark has been a comic lover since an early age and a true follower of fantasy fiction. A passionate music lover Mark is sometimes known as DJ Muppet - a stalwart in the Glasgow and Scottish rock scene he has been part of many major music events up and down the UK and is currently using his creative digital talents in a number of projects including The Man Card Army application for Android and iOS and other application through Anubis Labs.

John Farman 
- Writer, Editor & Publisher

John has worked across a diverse range of media, including events for the SECC and Theatre productions.
He’s sold plays to BAFTA nominated ‘Mandragora Productions’, and had School of the Damned optioned to be made into a motion picture.

He is currently working on adapting scripts for comics as well as developing and building upon the School of the Damned and is the co producer of the Glasgow Comic Con. He also upset the Daily Mail with his Royal Descent mini-series.

BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra: Fred Frith / George Lewis / Roscoe Mitchell

Sat 22 February, 8pm
City Halls, Grand Hall

Press release begins...

Fred Frith The Right Angel
Roscoe Mitchell Nonaah
Frith, Mitchell, Lewis Improvisation
George Lewis New Work (World Premiere)
Fred Frith Guitar
George Lewis Trombone and electronics
Roscoe Mitchell Saxophones/reeds
Ilan Volkov Conductor
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra

Roscoe Mitchell, Fred Frith, and George Lewis have long been at the forefront of new musical expression: saxophonist Mitchell, an original member of the AACM, with his groundbreaking performances with the Art Ensemble of Chicago; guitarist Frith, a founding member of the important English avant-rock group Henry Cow; and trombonist Lewis, a pioneer in interactive computer music. 

Henry Cow were a rare example of a British psychedelic band who genuinely engaged with exploring improvisation and the like: various members have turned up in other bands (Frith was in John Zorn's Naked City project, Tim Hodgkinson was in GOD, my favourite noise free jazz collective).

AACM have provided hours of difficult listening pleasure, especially when they put down the proper instruments and used toys instead.

For many years all three have been engaged with composition and in this special concert, for BBC Radio 3’s Hear and Now, their works for orchestra are featured, with an arrangement of the title track of Mitchell’s 1976 album Nonaah; Frith’s 2003 work The Right Angel, with the composer performing on guitar; and the World Premiere of a new work by Lewis. In addition, Mitchell, Lewis, and Frith, who have known each other for decades, will perform together for the very first time. Join conductor Ilan Volkov, members of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, and three icons of experimental music from both sides of the Atlantic for a genre-busting evening.

The SSO have been trying to mix it up over the past few years: making connections beyond the predictable and putting together events that bridge the gap between the orchestral and the world beyond classical music. After last year's evening of John Zorn, and the Tectonics festivals, they seem to be making an argument that the boundaries are dissolving...

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Performance Nights 2

One of the most distinctive trend in Glasgow's art scenes is the cross-fertilisation between different genres: Social Sculpture looked at the way the art and music scenes combined to drive a generation of artists (some of whom did pretty well in the Turner Prize stakes), while the various festivals of Live Art and Performance reveal an enthusiasm for work that doesn't just owe its existence to theatre.

Performance Nights is another healthy outlet for those artists' repressed energy: the intention is to create a space for 'work in progress' without putting it under the pressure of an audience expecting a completed process. And there's time planned into the evening to make sure that discussion can happen.

The next edition is on Tuesday 21 February and stars the following artists...

James Stephen Wright
His CV includes work with 85A, which is a sign of quality.
Peter MacRae
He has been known to play with sound, national iconography and collage.
Stephen O'Toole
This is the writer, not the one who runs a karate school (thank you, Google), and has an intriguingly diffuse twitter feed.
Morgan Cahn
She made a soup out of nails once, and was involved in Yuck'n'Yum magazine.
Struan Kennedy
There is plenty of Struan's writing knocking about the web: he seems to be able to knock out a fairly good critical response to visual art.
Fabrizio Potedad
A quote about the nature of time introduces his vimeo page, and it takes off from there.
Adam Scarborough
I thought he had gone to the USA. He was in Arches Live: interview available on the Radio Hour.
Kathryn Clayton
She beat me - can't google her at all.

It's at the Pipe Factory, starts at 6pm.


At the very moment, they are announced, The VileArts is proud to report on the short film festival winners. I am the fastest. Press release follows - I barely have time to make sardonic comments.

The 2014 Glasgow Short Film Festival is delighted to announce the four award winners in the 2014 international and Scottish competitions, and the winner of GSFF’s Euroshort nomination.

GSFF has enjoyed a record year, with a wide-reaching programme themed around the relationship between music and film. The Festival opened with the world premiere of PULSE, a collaboration between Grammy-winning classical composer Dobrinka Tabakova and Scottish filmmaker Ruth Paxton, a Royal Philharmonic Society commission. This was followed by a series of memorable performances from Alex Neilson (Trembling Bells), Michelle Hannah, Zoviet France and audio-visual artist Kon-Om-Pax. A public discussion on the potential impact of independence on the Scottish film & TV industry... and I was trying to get into The CCA, and can tell you, it was packed.

The Bill Douglas Award for International Short Film 2014
Named in honour of the great Scottish filmmaker Bill Douglas, the international short film award was created with the intention that the winning film reflect the values and qualities found in Douglas’ work: honesty, innovation and the supremacy of image and sound in cinematic storytelling. This year 35 films competed for a prize of £1000.

WINNER: The Questioning by Zhu Rikun
This short documentary traces the filmmaker’s own experience of an encounter with police while visiting human rights activist friends in China. He turned on the camera when the police knocked on the door of his hotel room.
 Jury Citation: ‘In limited space we witness a dense confrontation building to an almost unbearable point. In observing a specific event, this work questions the universal power of authorities.’
SPECIAL MENTION: How to Abandon Ship by Robin McKay
 Jury Citation: ‘Telling the story of a relationship using an unique animation technique, the filmmaker creates a compelling and entertaining balance between absurdly funny and real-life experiences.’
International Audience Award WINNER: Yak Butter Lamp, by Hu Wei
A young photographer and his assistant photograph a group of Tibetan nomads. As families appear to the photographer, he weaves unique links with each of the villagers. Voted for by the audience attending the festival.

Euroshort Nomination WINNER: Pandas by Matus Vizar
Glasgow Film Festival is delighted to be participating in the Euroshort network of film festivals. The work of a European filmmaker under 29 years old has been selected by the international jury for promotion by the international jury for promotion by the network. The five participating festivals will create a DVD compilation of selected films for circulation at international festivals and
The Scottish Short Film Award winners over.

GSFF Director Matt Lloyd said: 
“At a time when Scottish film producers are forecasting an extremely bleak future for indigenous production, we can at least demonstrate that there is no shortage of emerging talent. We couldn't contain our selection within the usual four programmes - this year a mighty thirty two films screened across five programmes of new Scottish work.”

WINNER, Scottish Short Film Award 2014: Getting On by Ewan Stewart
Another day unfolds in an anonymous woman’s life, as she cooks and cleans for her uncommunicative husband and sullen grown-up children.
Jury citation: ‘Getting On blends the mundane and the unexpected with humour, sensitivity and a sophisticated, minimalist visual style. The filmmaker creates a balanced piece where the real and the implausible effortlessly and convincingly come together to recount a day in the life of a woman whose routines are gently interrupted by a rather extraordinary visitor.’

SPECIAL MENTION: No Hope For Men Below by Adam Stafford
A stark, minimalist retelling of the Redding Pit Disaster which claimed the lives of 40 men near Falkirk in 1923. Filmmaker and musician Stafford collaborated with Falkirk writer Janet Paisley on the film.
Jury citation: ‘No Hope For Men Below uses extraordinary sound design, stark imagery, and poetry to create a unique cinematic experience. This lyrical, expressionist retelling of the Redding Pit disaster of 1923 not only captures the poignancy of the literal event, but explores a multitude of wounds deep within the national psyche

He used to be in the first band I ever reviewed live for The Skinny. I play his music quite a bit on the Radio Hour, too.

The jury also agreed that in a year when Glasgow Short Film Festival is celebrating the importance of music in film, they would like to applaud Fraya Thomsen for her sublime score to Sam Firth’s film Stay the Same.

Scottish Audience Award WINNER: Exchange & Mart by Cara Connolly & Martin Clark
Starring Ewan Bremner, and fresh from its world premiere at Sundance Film Festival, Exchange & Mart follows Reg, a lonely schoolgirl at a remote Scottish boarding school, who discovers she must fight, in the local woods. Voted for by the audience attending the festival.


Glasgow Film Festival... regular fixture... distinctive identity... year on year growth... strands of cinema... ah! There we are. Here's the bit I want to talk about...

Crossing the Line is the art film section of the Glasgow Film Festival - the stuff that won't really be shown in any other place around Scotland (unless Edinburgh's Cameo and Filmhouse pick them up...). It is a mixture of visual artists making film, experiments in cinematography and other good, alternative action. Let's see what the press release says...
In 2014 these unique artists take a radical look at who we are and how we live now as they reimagine the past to give it new meaning.

The innovative programme features world premieres of new commissions for GFF by Glasgow-based artist Rachel Maclean and cult author and filmmaker Chris Petit; the UK premiere of artist Ed Atkins’ surreal and disturbing programme Man of Steel; a celebration of the legacy of Margaret Tait; an examination of Scottish identity in the year of the referendum; and screenings of the latest works by visionaries Lav DiazBen Rivers & Ben Russell,Mati DiopYervant Gianikian & Angela Ricci-Lucchi and Basma Alsharif.

Rachael Maclean has, rightly, been the darling of Glasgow's art scene for a few years now: her short films hide a profound disquiet beneath a glowing kitsch surface. Her entry in CTL  is this year's Margaret Tait Award. In the past, she has grappled with national identity, the corporate take-over of the subconscious and the mythic resonance of celebrity trivia. 

A Whole New World explores themes related to British imperial history and national identity in the anniversary year of the Battle of Bannockburn and the First World War and is “an elaborate combination of prosthetic make-up, historical costume and Union Jack-encrusted tourist tat”.

Chris Petit, best known for his classic road movie Radio On and cult novel Robinson, for a
fascinating evening of screenings and discussion around his current project the Museum of Loneliness. Founded in 2010 on the observation that modern life’s primary relationship is now with the screen, the Museum is an anti-pantheon driven by the idea of post-cinema, embracing everything from “dead TV and the vast electro-magnetic slums of audio and visual junk, to calls waiting, elevator announcements, Muzak and obsolete weather and traffic reports.” During the event Chris will premiere his new film Reverse Archeology (2014, 12m), specially  commissioned by GFF to explore the concepts behind the Museum.

Petit is one of those artists who seem to sit on the outside of the mainstream, yet get their work into well respected places. He harks back to the more anarchic artists of the 1960s and 1970s, fascinated by awkward juxtaposition and working in the margins of form and functionality. 

Since graduating from the Slade School of Fine Art in 2009 artist Ed Atkins’ rise has been stratospheric, with solo shows at Tate Britain, Chisenhale and PS1 and commissions for the Venice and Lyon Biennales. Atkins’ mastery of CGI animation, surround-sound and poetic narrative is expanding the parameters of moving image. The artist brings his Man of Steel curated programme to GFF for its UK premiere, fresh from its world premiere at the prestigious Performa biennale in New York. Exploring the use of the alter ego in artists’ films, Atkins has put together a blackly funny and unsettling selection of work by other artists punctuated by new videos in which he sings through a variety of computer-generated, motion-captured avatars. A chimpanzee, Mrs Peanut and Betty Boop will all feature.

The first collaboration between two of the most exciting artist-filmmakers currently working – Ben Rivers (Two Years at Sea) and Ben Russell (Let Each One Go Where He May) – has resulted in the mesmerising ethnographic film A Spell to Ward off the Darkness, which eschews capitalist culture to offer three extreme alternative ways of living.

A little more on this film, taken from their website.

In depth film synopsis can be read as follows (via MUBI):

“A SPELL follows an unnamed character through three seemingly disparate moments in his life. With
little explanation, we join him in the midst of a 15-person collective on a small Estonian island; in isolation in the majestic wilderness of Northern Finland; and during a concert as the singer and guitarist of a black metal band in Norway.
Marked by loneliness, ecstatic beauty and an optimism of the darkest sort, A SPELL is a radical proposition for the existence of utopia in the present.

Starring artist / musician Robert AA Lowe (best known for his intense live performances under the name LICHENS) in the lead role, A SPELL lies somewhere between fiction and non-fiction – it is at once a document of experience and an experience itself, an inquiry into transcendence that sees the cinema as a site for transformation.”.
Cinema as a place where magical change can happen? There is always a danger that this will be two big shots talking the arse off reality, but it is a risk I am usually willing to take. I am not quite sure what the 'darkest optimism might be, though. 

In Place of Work – Margaret Tait Revisited, the pioneering Orcadian filmmaker’s legacy and influence on experimental filmmaking will be celebrated. Two Scottish-based artists Stina Wirfelt and Oliver Mezger have sensitively reinterpreted Tait’s work, underlining its continuing relevance to contemporary Scotland. Their new short films will screen alongside Tait’s own ‘film-poem’ Place of Work (1976, 31m) and will be followed by a discussion led by Tait expert Dr Sarah Neely.

Since she has a name in her honour, it is good to get a relatively rare chance to see some of Tait's work on the big screen.

Known to audiences for her stunning performance in Claire Denis’ 35 Shots of Rum, Mati Diop’s own formally adventurous films are a revelation. In A Thousand SunsDiop merges fantasy and reality as she imagines the fate of the two lead characters from Touki Bouki, the classic Senegalese film made by her late uncle Djibril Diop Mambéty in 1973. Her beguiling film will be followed by a screening of Touki Bouki – this double bill offers a compelling insight into personal, national and cinematic histories.


A Spell to Ward off the Darkness

Glasgow Film Theatre, Sunday 23 (15.45) & Monday 24 February (12.45)

Directors: Ben Rivers, Ben Russell / France/Germany/Estonia 2013, 1h35m, N/C 15+

Margaret Tait Award: A Whole New World

Glasgow Film Theatre, Monday 24 February (21.30)

Director: Rachel Maclean Cast: Rachel Maclean / United Kingdom 2014, 32min, English/French/Arabic/Hindi/Cantonese/Zulu with subtitles.

Barbaric Land plus Farther than the Eye Can See
Glasgow Film Theatre, Tuesday 25 (18.45) & Wednesday 26 February (16.00)

Barbaric Land: Directors: Yervant Gianikian, Angela Ricci-Lucchi / France 2013, 1h5m, French and Italian with subtitles, N/C 18+
Farther than the Eye Can See: 
Director: Basma Alsharif / Jordan/United Arab Emirates 2012, 13m, N/C 18+

Man of Steel
Glasgow Film Theatre (21.00)
Event 1h30m approx, N/C 18+, Man of Steel first premiered as part of the Performa 13 biennial, organised by Performa Curator Mark Beasley.

Norte, the End of History
Cineworld Renfrew Street, 26 (18.30) &y (13.45)
Director: Lav Diaz, Cast: Sid Lucero, Angeli Bayani, Archie Alemania / Philippines 2013, 4h10m, Tagalog with subtitles, N/C 18+

Tae Think Again: Rethinking Identity in Contemporary Scotland 
Centre for Contemporary ArtsWednesday 26 February (18.30)
Event 1h45m approx, N/C 12+, Tae Think Again was originally developed as a symposium co-commissioned by Edinburgh Art Festival and Edinburgh Printmakers.

Museum of Loneliness with Chris Petit
Glasgow Film Theatre, 
Event running time 1h45m approx, N/C 15+

Place of Work – Margaret Tait Revisited
Centre for Contemporary Arts, Friday 28 February (20.15)
Event 1h50m approx, N/C 8+

Touki Bouki plus A Thousand Suns
Glasgow Film TheatreSunday 2 March (13.30)
Touki Bouki: Director: Djibril Diop Mambéty, Cast: Magaye NiangMareme NiangAminata Fall / Senegal 1973, 1h25m, Wolof/Arabic/French with subtitles, N/C 12+
A Thousand Suns: Director: Mati Diop, Cast: Magaye Niang / France 2013, 45m, Wolof with subtitles, N/C 12+

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Miss Julie @ The Citizens

 Although Strindberg's Miss Julie is recognised as an important moment in the development of 'naturalism' in theatre, Dominic Hill's direction of Zinnie Harris' updating owes as much to Brecht and classical models of tragedy. The sparse, neutral set and the broad characterisations of the central couple, servant John and the daughter of the master Julie firmly define the story as the tragic destruction of a woman, drawing out both the proto-feminism of Strindberg's source script and the oppressive society that defines individuals less by potential or personality than by their status.

The heart of the plot lies in the seduction of Miss Julie by the servant, John: although Louise Brearley plays Julie with an initial haughtiness, Harris' John is clearly in command, his changes of mood less capricious than the calculated attacks of a bully intent on getting his way. There is a palpable lack of sexual frisson between this John and Julie: Keith Fleming performs John with a consistent brutality, rarely swaggering, never sensual. That Julie can be seduced by a braggart and a bully  - his confession of love for her is unconvincing but calculated to appeal to her romantic dreams - is alienating and uncomfortable.

It is here that Hill's Brechtian influence is most evident.  In his attempt to make theatre that has a socialist
message, and can promote political change, Brecht developed the idea of an audience that is more intellectual than emotionally engaged. By encouraging a distance between the performance and the audience, Brecht hoped to exposed the structures beneath the action, and allow the audience to observe how the events could have played out differently. With Fleming's brutish performance, it becomes difficult to understand why Miss Julie would be erotically fascinated by the servant: his kisses are rough, not in any animalistic sexual manner, but like an attack. When he suddenly drops her, after having had her, it is clear that he is interested in her as a means to satisfy his own ends.

Without the sexual chemistry that has made Miss Julie a morally ambiguous study of sexual and social power-plays, it is clear that Brearley's Miss Julie is not seeing the same John as the audience. Her clumsy flirtations in the early scenes suggest less maturity than she claims: the scripts descriptions of her father's savagery and Julie's treatment of her fiance imply that she is familiar with violence and is attracted by her seducer's thuggishness. From his scenes with his fiancee Christine (Jessica Hardwick), John is revealed immediately as arrogant and chauvinistic. Even before John confesses his love of Miss Julie - which he describes as a virus in a bluff, antagonistic complaint - it is clear that he is a bully.

Hill's production exposes Miss Julie's mistake: and it is here that the plot takes on a tragic tone. Miss Julie does follow some of Aristotle's 'guidelines' for tragedy: there is a unity of location, time and plot, and there are three actors, just as in the golden age of Athenian drama. Miss Julie's story  - like a tragic heroine, she is high-born - follows the predictable path towards her doom. Her failure to recognise John for what he is become her 'tragic flaw' (hamartia).

By presenting Julie as naive, and John as vicious, Hill's production both highlights the tragic line of the plot and alienates the audience from an easy emotional engagement with either character. It's a remarkable trick: Brecht regarded his approach as an antidote to the aristocratic bias of Aristotelian tragic theory. Naturalism - a theatrical movement led by Ibsen and Strindberg (which concidently overlapped with their mutual interest in the role of women in society) - is less of a bridge between the two modes than a specific response to the rise of science in the nineteenth century, rejecting supernatural interventions (like the gods of Greek tragedy of Hamlet's father's ghost) and following Darwin's ideas about evolution (exposing human personality as a product of natural selection).

This naturalism is a far cry from the 'gritty realism' of contemporary drama, and Harris' adaptation builds on the psychological depth of Strindberg's characterisation to explore the specific dilemma of a woman, like Miss Julie, who has been encouraged to act like a man (by her mother) and beaten (by her father). By delineating this characterisation so precisely, Harris reveals Strindberg's talent for expressing the motivations of his characters and allows the production to create the emotional distance between audience and performers without forcing the actors to slip into caricatures.

By updating the play into 1920s Scotland, during a strike, and recasting the Lord as a mill-owner determined to break a strike, Harris doesn't so much lend a contemporary relevance as locate the sexual battle within a wider set of social changes. John, like many bullies, is cowed by the master's presence - suggesting that his attitude towards women is based in insecurity - and Christine voices a conservative and religious faith in the rightness of hierarchy. Off-stage, the striking mill-workers celebrate (and are defeated): a reminder that the upsetting of the sexual hierarchy expressing in the tryst reflects wider conflicts.

It also adds to the claustrophobia of the final scenes, when Miss Julie realises that she cannot escape. Strikes
are preventing travel, and the father's guards are poised to prevent her leaving the estate. Both the old and new social orders are restraining Miss Julie: that John talks proudly of the workers' resistance (while failing to actively support them) is a reminder that supposedly radical political change may not address the oppression of women.

True to the tragic influences, the unfolding of the plot is pessimistic: only through death can Miss Julie escape. But Fleming's John provokes her suicide, turning back into the lowly servant on the return of his Lordship and using the threat of his wrath to terrify Julie. The lack of compassion from both Christine and John isolates Julie - Christine's sudden aggression is an explosion of emotion from beneath the placid acceptance she displays in the early scenes. It is only in the final moments that the mesh of Brecht, naturalism and tragedy is betrayed: the suicide is presented as a sudden black-out, Brearley holding the knife to her throat in a melodramatic pose.

The final is an act of bad faith in Hill's sophisticated direction: the subtle interaction between the subtext of the seduction and the performances is undermined by crass emotionalism. Fleming's John is reduced to a melodramatic villain, and Julie is stripped of her dignity as a tragic heroine. Throughout the play, there are shocks - the rough kisses, the sudden reversal of John's enthusiasm when he realised that he can't use Julie to fulfil his fantasy of being a businessman. Yet the last image is contrived to surprise, to present horror rather than fear and pity (as in Aristotle's strictures) or intellectual analysis (per Brecht).