FringeReview Scotland 2015
Douglas Maxwell takes us on a mini tour of the hotchpotch of the Southside of Glasgow where two ordinary Joes appear to be one American evangelist with a Pterodactyl for company, a clichéd conceptual artist who thinks she’s missing and then dead, a family of three hovering between the smallest one and insanity with an edge of violence for good measure alongside an Asian Oligarch who has a side kick on work experience. We spend some time with each singly before they clash and we are treated to a call to arms by the cast to rise up and… keep rising I suppose
Douglas Maxwell has given us a very challenging evening. We begin with an open set and the neon sign above it declaring, “Christ died for our sins”. For those who don’t know, this is a sign in the south side of Glasgow that is very much an iconic landmark. We also have mention of the Govanhill Baths – another iconic landmark. We begin though with a hilarious discussion between Joe the evangelist and Joe 2 about how hard it is being an evangelist in Glasgow. It set us up quite nicely until the rest arrived and we get oh so slightly muddled between the Oligarch who wants to buy the property owned by the couple whose husband has done the soundscape for the conceptual artist playing the gig in the venue owned by the Oligarch… The wife then ends up getting way over the value for her house whilst her husband is in hospital after collapsing next to the gates to the park in the company of the artists who now thinks she is dead.
It started oh so well and I was settled in my seat expecting plenty more of the first exchange to follow. My problem was that it began confusing, became confusing and left me a little, well, confused. No bad thing, I could see a bit of Shining Souls, Wonderful World of Dissocia and even a touch of Suspect Culture. But maybe that was the problem – I saw a lot of a bit of things.
The writing was crisp though and the genuine laughter that came from the crowd told me it was being enjoyed. The structure of the piece is perhaps where it left itself exposed and it just needed a more coherent direction for the words.
As for the direction on the stage, Dominic Hill has delivered a fast paced piece with some great performances from a cast of 8 that kept the material buzzing and us all engaged. There were some very good set pieces within it which allowed that pace to be maintained. All 8 cast members gave great performances.
They were helped by a set that was both functional and gave the right Deus ex Machina moments with gates that are not really that pearly, puppetry revelation from behind a once locked door and how to have stalls upstairs on a raked stage my favourites. I also loved the music. It provided the right form of discordant noise and rather than be intrusive was really supportive of each set piece.
At the end I took my conflict out into the car park for a severe talking to and managed to resolve most of it. The end piece – a strange call to Glasgow – reminded me a little of the Commonwealth Games and the spirit left behind once the athletes had gone; or after the Garden Festival when we wondered why we had taken so many weans to see flowers on school trips; or the aftermath of the City of Culture… And suddenly things began to fall into place.
This was an eclectic piece of theatre that gave us a snapshot of why the Southside of Glasgow can seem to make little sense because it has flavours and influences from throughout the world. They are gathered in one place for no other reason than to grow and survive. Here we had 8 characters – a variety of well rounded and half hearted fellows that fit right in. By trying to make Fever Dream fit in to anything, perhaps we are likely to miss the point…