FringeReview Scotland 2015
Baldy Bane Theatre Company
Venue: Cumnock Academy
Festival: FringeReview Scotland
Two boys and a young girl. Teenage life and the need to be accepted. Tough love and the need to be noticed whilst mortified if anonymous. We follow the story of Steg who wants into the Bushwhackers gang. Rab is already a member. Steg wants in cos he fair fancies Mags and wants her to notice him. Mags is more than interested but facing her mother’s recently diagnosed illness. What stands between him and being in with the in crowd is the initiation; the Kamikaze. The Kamikaze leads to violence and can carry the threat of knives. Despite Rab’s guidance Steg is poised to accept it… or is he?
Theatre in Education is a tough gig. Whilst I read yet another article bemoan the lack of training for young actors trying to make their way in the world through repertory theatre or hear another cry of reproof over how Colleges are disgorging too many actors into the profession I find myself in a secondary school in Cumnock. Around me are over silent and attentive 140 young people who have no choice but to be there. They are no willing crowd ready to fawn at the feet of their idols. The cast have not been given parts that would fall into those categories anyway. The fact is that theatre in education is where most of those kids who trip out of Colleges end up in their first theatre job. They get given the van keys, a simple set – if one at all – a list of schools with a map (optional) and are sent off on tour.
If they are lucky they get decent digs and two shows a day to audiences that will make them work hard enough that they gain admission to that clichéd oft quoted phrase about learning the job by doing the job. If they are the majority of actors out there they will end up putting on a show with pride and not much else in terms of support from the companies who cut the cloth to the bare minimum to get the contract. Be warned our kids are sitting through sub standard fare courtesy of companies trying to earn a crust by cutting that crust off the actor’s subsistence. But be comforted there is still Baldy Bane.
Kamikaze does have faults but I cannot fault Rowen Aird as Mags, Joseph Proctor as Steg or Matthew Mooney as Rab. Aird gives us a confident and yet inwardly critical young woman faced with an uncertain future that is conveyed in her face and subtlety that many older actors take decades to master. Proctor has the shy, yet grasping Steg down to a tea. You get the real sense of a young man struggling with being a young man and his struggle with a masculinity that ought to be part of a long forgotten dinosaur. Mooney as Rab has menace and compassion in equal measure. Conflicted as he is part of a regime he wishes to escape it sets the dilemma up nicely for the audience to workshop.
The script is crisp with the right amount of dodgy vocabulary to make Miss wince now and again, the teenagers giggle and gasp and the dialogue crisp and authentic. There is no set and being able to see the actors work the audio cues does take a wee bit away from the theatricality of it. Set on a floor with everyone on the same level made seeing some of the action difficult when the actors were sitting. It was hardly their fault as the bigger Assembly Hall had been commandeered for them exam things. What I did feel made the actor’s jobs slightly harder were scenes that were over long. In a 30/40 minute piece there were not a great number of them so dialogue and naked acting ability were vital. Shorter and more layered scenes might have been more effective.
The audience got restless at points and one of the issues with TiE is always the school bell. As soon as it goes off the weans all look at teacher to see what happens next. As this venue had clearly been the second call the performance went over the allotted period and when the bell went – six members of staff got up and left! The rest of the audience wondered what was going on but the cast stayed on task and brought their audience back on track. It showed just what training two shows a day and five square meals can deliver.