FringeReview Scotland 2014
The National Theatre of Scotland have been on a journey round Glasgow inspired by the children’s book by Helen Ward and Wayne Anderson – The Tin Forest – with communities producing their own versions and responses to the ideas contained therein. The culmination of this journey is the book retold through puppetry, audio transmissions and quirky guides who take us through 5 installations before we emerge into the large room in the South Rotunda to music and aerial artists.
We start in darkness, awaiting a smug and creepy guide who beckons us to listen to the telephones ringing in individual booths. From listening to the beginning we are then welcomed to a shed with puppets and an iron bird that refuses to fly. From such discordant notes we arrive at a German guide dressed in her Burlesque best who shows us windows onto the models of the story. We then reach the shed where life is trying to invade it and enthuse the old man, the focus of our story with life. From there we ascend a staircase to find a band and a couple of aerial artists.
There is no doubting the quality of thought and effort that runs through this. It is certainly quirky but at half an hour there is only so much quirky you can squeeze in. As a thought this was a tremendous one to have and run alongside. After all the allegory of an environment that is the junkyard of industrialisation being reborn in beauty fits the story of this host city. The problem that I found was firstly that I struggled to see where the communities of Glasgow who took this project on with gusto fitted in. It was as if the Theatre had given them a platform until that platform was to be the main stage and the community were to be hidden. It was perhaps in the little girl’s voice in installation one that there was a nod to them.
Having said that the story is a good one and well told. There is little to fault by way of how the words have been moulded for the actors. The narrative drives things well and we are able to absorb all of the drama. The costumes and set are spot on and even the bellboy and burlesque artiste are not out of place. In fact they add measurably to the overall feel and tempo of the piece. The stars though remain the puppets. From the expertise manipulation of them to their look and effect they are the ones with whom I felt interaction.
By the time I was coming out though I was not really in a reflective mood. I had hoped that I would be more in tune with the regeneration of it all. As I sat at marvelled at the Rotunda and the use of the back wall where the projection of one of Scotland’s lost Island communities was projected I struck another off key note as I struggled to connect this with what I had seen. I perhaps was out at the wrong time as the aerial artists did little and it all appeared a little improvised. With the invitation to stay as long as I wished perhaps my leaving was premature after 20 minutes. Had I waited longer I might have marvelled at more but I just felt that we needed more, we wanted more Glasgow and it all ended in an unexciting way.