FringeReview Scotland 2014
The Forgotten, the Workers, the Dreamers, the Players and the Travellers
Scottish Youth THeatre
Venue: The South Rotunda
Festival: FringeReview Scotland
We have 90 performers from 10 Commonwealth countries including Scotland performing 5 devised pieces that are interlinked by Glasgow but universal in their messages. The Forgotten are the workers who take us to the dancing before the Workers arrive with the din of industrialisation, the Dreamers takes us on flights of fancy as they finish a puzzle, the Players who have their own flight of fancy down to a T have an unexpected twist before the Travellers remind us of our mongrel heritage and cultural richness.
It all begins on a very sunny day at the South Rotunda on the South side of Glasgow on the outside, and the company have been busy performing in 5 other venues as street theatre over the last 2 days. With all 5 groups in front of us and visible throughout the Forgotten take us from being in the factory and getting started to being at the “dancing” in hope of a “lumber”. This is conveyed through movement, interaction with simple props – especially the ladders – and choral speaking. (This is consistent for all of the groups). We move to the Workers who have clearly been creatively taught the use of metal percussion. We hear of their struggles but not strife in creating a city that has grown from the muck and the glaur of heavy industry. The Dreamers have their lab coats and patchwork invention that they are trying to sort. When they find the key to their struggles in come the creative Players who are there to remind us that creative is an industry. Their work based start is transformed like the Boss who becomes a dancing metaphor. Finally the Travellers with their cases roll up and remind us of the struggle to fit in before the suitcases give way to signs that ought to be at every destination with the words of the world saying welcome.
There is much to admire in the simple logistics of this. There were 10 countries represented here. Scottish Youth Theatre’s annual Summer Festival was taken over by this though you can catch one of last year’s gems – Now’s the Hour – at the Fringe in Edinburgh. In terms of direction Fraser MacLeod has managed to provide a provocative piece for the Fringe and an evocative piece for the Commonwealth. This was never going to be politically insensitive but it was tight, entertaining and shows once again that Fraser has a deft hand at new work. At the finale I saw Graham McLaren of the National Theatre of Scotland move to the side to allow Fraser to film the ending. I am forced to wonder if that might happen one day professionally. Large scale work isnae easy though this group mange it effortlessly at times.
Once again I was enthralled by the choreography of Carla Duggan. Each group seemed to have a motif that, when it came together at the end captured the overall feel as it ought to. Again this is another person who has demonstrated that large scale work is well within her comfort zone.
Kenny Miller’s overall design was fantastic though the balloons with all those great words were lost at the back and hardly anyone got to see what they were. At times I just thought the stage management of the event was a little less than was deserved. It was not the look that bothered me but the delivery of that look.
With a firm vision in mind and steady hand on the tiller, this had a common thread. It did mean that there perhaps was less scope for individualism. That having been said, I found the Forgotten was tight and had me in the Barrowland’s Ballroom easily. I had seen this halfway through the day before so was grateful to see the beginning and the transitions from work to dancing. This company seemed to have the best time because the dancing was vigorous and loved. Unfortunately they were let down by a mic malfunction so some of the words were lost. Outdoor work is plagued by the volume of its surroundings and getting people to speak on their own needs to be amplified.
The Workers seemed to carry the hardest burden as it was difficult to see how it was going to be as creative and as exciting as the rest. I would have preferred far more of the percussion and again the amplification of a single voice was let down, though this time by a megaphone. The injection of humour about being sacked was well worked and the response from his fellow workers in giving him their piece pitched perfectly. This was a very accomplished piece, I just wanted more head banging…
The Dreamers had the monopoly on the ending we saw coming. I struggled to work out what it was going to be but the problem became all about what went round it. Again very tight and well worked with some interesting ideas but I needed to know why as well as what.
The Players stormed the stage and had everything from choreographed clipboards to a megaphomaniac boss. The humour they brought by ending with the boss becoming a ballet dancer was inspired. I loved that.
Finally the Travellers brought us back to the point where we entered – reminded of the transition from then to now. It gave us a very evocative feel of arrival and hope. Again I had seen this in situ the day before and was grateful to see it all in one place. It was tight, well driven and with enough to make it stand out.
All stood out in their own way. They were part of a collective but between them they brought their own interpretation. Scottish Youth Theatre are excellent at getting 90 people looking the same way but with unique perspectives.
Outdoor work in the scorching heat may be better than in the wind and rain but acoustics remain problematic. This was a piece that had much to commend it but the work that brought it together is the platform for the art and not the art in itself. On this occasion I was entertained and am ready for the Tin Forest and the International Theatre Festival. No, I am excited by it. This was a great curtain raiser for it as well as a great set of performances to match it.