FringeReview Scotland 2015
Peter McMaster and his collaborator, Nick Anderson begin in skeleton suits before marking out their territory and then becoming very playful within it. They start by dispensing with the suits and getting naked. From there we are taken through a collection of observations, imagined conversations and challenging perceptions of two lives bound through friendship, addiction (of one) and abuse (of the other). Using members of the audience to read out parts of their tale gives us an insight from within and as the ash settles we are left with the feeling that we have witnessed something unique.
Coming of age for anyone is a time for reflection. 27 may be an odd time to gather your thoughts but the death of people like Amy Winehouse, Janis Joplin, Jimmi Hendrix and Jim Morrison at that precise age gives both Peter and Nick the opportunity, as artists, to pause and give thought. Neither would, perhaps claim to have had the same cultural effect as any of these dead artists but as excuses go it’s a fair one. It leads them into an eclectic mix of set pieces and theatrical investigations that are thankfully both full and uneven. The dance at the beginning – reminiscent of Wuthering Heights and the opening where Nick became an exceptional horse – looked sore, their writhing through the audience uncomfortable and falling against each other whilst naked a mixture of both. The use of Airbourne Ash to give the stage an “other worldly” feel fitted with the skeletal costumes and worked rather marvellously. It was another layer in giving us theatre.
Getting audience members to read out sections of the more telling autobiographical parts cleverly removed tone and inference to give us the bald and bold retelling of tales that cause pain, hurt and anguish. It left us with the tales and insight rather than merely compassion and pity. It gives us an opportunity to hear and see their collective horror.
McMaster may not have the global reach of the superstars who died at 27 but he has certainly got the ability to make you think deeper. As a theatrical artist both he and Anderson push you, prod you and ask you to touch their naked armpits – Anderson got my son to do so next to me #awkward. I did wonder, however in this world of sexual sensitivity how two naked men writhing round the audience would go down; it went down awkwardly well… The approach does lead to patchy performances where some things work better than others but the worst are better than some of the best I have seen. The confrontation with your family at the end of the world and the – what I think was – the imagined confrontation with your abuser delivered through audience members coming onstage and taking parts were highlights. Some of the choral speaking less so and the electrical tape at the beginning was a bit laboured. Having said that it contributed to giving us time to consider and contemplate so the overall effect was less than dissatisfying.
As a medium this style and hotchpotch of set pieces is one that I absolutely love. It gives us much more to ponder in terms of its theatricality. The use of lights, props, music and the thrust stage demonstrated just how in tune McMaster is with his craft. There is nothing wasted and nothing left out. Overall you leave knowing this could only be told in a theatre and it is told by a Scottish master. McMaster sold out the night I was there and it is clear that having a reputation for being at the top of his game is working. He deserves to be there and I look forward to the next chapter.