FringeReview Scotland 2013
A collective coughing fit, a talking horse and a bit of nakedness for good measure, if you expect Bronte you may be disappointed but if you expect theatre, walk right in. As a jumping off or starting point we have a text that is well known in broad brush strokes and the company take these themes and weave on top the contemporary nuances of an age in which gender imbalance is challenged daily. It leads to allegory, intriguing physicality and a fantastic night out.
Presented as part of the Arches’ Annual Live Performance festival, Behaviour 2013, we arrive to be welcomed by four actors onstage welcoming us in to their performance. They are setting up with one of them running round behind us preparing for his master piece as a horse. What follows is a remarkable piece of theatre that has no storyline but a narrative based upon Wuthering Heights. It meanders though with theatre as its construct. Partly physical joy and partly rehearsal piece this has the feeling of something that was fresh and didactic as it was rehearsed and has ended up oddly polished whilst being vibrant and exciting as it tells us things about ourselves on the basis we understand the stories of other people.
When this works well it is awe inspiring – I loved the introduction of each other, the scene between the two women with the crying child, the talking horse, the questioning as a woman asks those things to which us man believe we have no answers, the creation of the horse and carriage and quiet moments when we heard about these actors as people. When it dipped – from the coughing fit until the moment they were still again telling us about themselves- the audience and I began to wane. It felt a little like they had run out of steam. It maybe needed a wee cut in here to retain that vibrancy.
That having been said these are five young performers – Nick Anderson, Chris Hall, Peter McMaster, Thom Scullion and Murray Wason – who should be insulted by the term assured as it insufficient praise for this. Devised theatre that has been created by the performers can lose some of that vitality from rehearsal because of a lack of confidence in the material by the time they get it in front of an audience. Here they seem to be at ease with their own material because it is that good. I have to say though their opening piece – see below – was so good they could have served up rubbish thereafter I would have still felt validated to come along.
Evidence that they know how to construct theatre came in abundance – the questions a woman may ask a man whilst the ghost of another woman came towards the man, unflinching and silent was filled with poignancy. Introducing a quiet period as we met a man after the joy and high tempo of their own introductions was simply sublime.
I do love a lit candle in the theatre and they had 5! Performed in the round McMaster knows his theatre. There was nothing hidden and the whole room was used as part of their world. I just found it magical. I have left my favourite bits out though. They dance to Kate Bush. Surely not I cried! And I cried with unadulterated laughter. This was one of the funniest things I have seen onstage for ages. It was the choreography. It was not slick and that was its greatest asset. Each performer would leer at people in the audience as they danced with glee and such abandon. That eye contact along with the confidence to nod at our most popular connection with the story whilst being simply caught up in a performance they knew was funny whilst making a cep0nnection directly with the people sitting was evidence that this is a company and artists that ought to be seen again, and again, and again. This was worth the entrance fee alone. My next favourite bit was what I thought might have been a Two Little Boys reference right at the end – I am happy to be proven wrong but the horse speaking of two young lads falling and one helping the other after the questioning sequence out of nowhere asked about whether Chris liked Kate Bush or the music of Rolf Harris – it may just have been me but it gripped you like that!
Great theatre allows you to pose questions and have them debated. If I were looking for someone to give me a radical re-mastering of a classic McMaster would be top of my list. It is, though more than one man’s toil and the vision that these five artists have brought to the piece gives me great hope for their futures and for mine – I bag a front row seat for the next performance.