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Mark Fisher
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Follow me on Twitter at MarkFFisher, WriteAboutTheat and LimelightXTC I am a freelance journalist and critic specialising in theatre and the arts. Publications I write for include the Guardian and the Scotsman. I am the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: how to make your show a success and How to Write About Theatre: A Manual for Critics, Students and Bloggers. I am also editor of The XTC Bumper Book of Fun for Boys and Girls: A Limelight Anthology. From 2000-2003, I was the editor of The List magazine, Glasgow and Edinburgh's arts and events guide.
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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Anna Karenina, theatre review

Published in the Guardian

Anna Karenina
Dundee Rep
3 stars
When Anna Karenina takes up with her lover Vronsky, someone says she has "gained a shadow". She is not the only one. The characters in Jemima Levick's production are forever being cast as towering silhouettes on the flat wall of Alex Lowde's set. That's when there's no smoky video footage of billowing clouds wafting over it. With the dry ice that accompanies the fateful steam engines that top and tail the show, the mood is as much Brief Encounter as Tolstoy.

Jo Clifford's adaptation strips the novel down to its two tales of social defiance. There is Anna, rejecting her husband's respectability in favour of a lusty young army officer who complains that "no one listens to their heart". And there is Levin, turning against urban materialism in favour of the ethics of the countryside.

It is classily done in a fluid and spacious staging. Kevin Lennon makes a loveable Levin, his arms flailing like a man possessed of a singular idea, and John Buick grows ever more austere – and frightening – as Anna's cuckolded husband. But where Emily Winter made a credible Nora in A Doll's House last year, she fails to find the gravitas to make the full journey as Anna. As the put-upon wife, she seems mildly peeved; as the run-away adulterer she is moderately passionate – much like Tony McGeever's crop-headed Vronsky. With so weak an erotic charge between them, there is too little at stake for us to care about the consequences of their actions, leaving an emotional deficit at the heart of a polished production.

© Mark Fisher 2011
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Monday, May 23, 2011

King of Scotland, theatre review 2

Published in the Guardian

King of Scotland

3 stars

Tommy McMillan is "as thick as shite, an ugly wee bastard and as common as muck". He is also 28 years unemployed, which makes him an ideal candidate for a job with the department of social inclusion. What better poster boy for a progressive government ministry than a man plucked from the ranks of the long-term unemployed?

Thus in Iain Heggie's free reworking of Gogol's Diary of a Madman, McMillan becomes a satirical thorn in the side of an establishment that likes the platitudinous headlines about social cohesion rather more than the reality of mixing with the lower orders. Told entirely from McMillan's perspective, the monologue is the scabrous view of an outsider looking in. He is convinced he has been welcomed into mainstream life, but the evidence suggests otherwise.

His case is not strengthened by his behaviour. What start off like surreal digressions – such as his whimsical belief in talking dogs – become the warped fantasies of a deranged mind. He is delusional enough to misinterpret a politically motivated greeting from an MSP as an invitation to become king, a misunderstanding that emphasises the gap between the haves and have-nots.
Despite actor Jonathan Watson's credentials as a comic performer and his feel for the Glasgow patter, he shows particular sensitivity to the portrayal of mental illness. He has a slightly-too-big suit and walks as if the hanger's still in it – a man in need of our sympathy.

It is a touching interpretation, but it means the production – directed by the playwright – is muted as comedy and too ribald for serious drama.


© Mark Fisher 2011
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King of Scotland, theatre review

Published in Northings

King of Scotland

AT the box office, the assistant asks a couple buying tickets how they heard about the show. They say it was the poster of Jonathan Watson outside. No doubt they won’t be the only people lured into Iain Heggie’s play by the big picture of the  star of Only an Excuse pasted at the front of the theatre. And no doubt they arrive ready for a good night out.

What they get is something a little bit different. Loosely based on Gogol’s Diary of a Madman, King of Scotland is the modern-day tale of Tommy McMillan whose 28 years of unemployment (“a lifetime achievement”) have left him with nothing but a mould-stricken council flat and an increasingly unhinged sense of reality.

His life would have continued in underclass obscurity had he not been singled out by the department of social inclusion as a prime candidate for a job in a call centre. Signing up for the “training for work” scheme, he becomes a mascot for a government eager to demonstrate the inroads it is making in reaching out to all sectors of society.

McMillan, however, fails to realise he is a figure of political convenience and genuinely believes he has been taken on for his talents and for the rapport he has struck up with Sir Alec, his high-flying boss. What starts off as a naïve misunderstanding develops over the course of the play into seriously delusional behaviour. Even as he is being restrained in a straitjacket, he believes he has been made the King of Scotland.

There are three things going on in the play. One is the straight-ahead comedy of a man being transferred from one social world into another. This is made funnier by Heggie’s scabrous language. The next is the political satire about the gap between the powerful and the dispossessed and about how, behind the campaign slogans and photo opportunities, the establishment will always look after its own. Finally, there is the portrayal of a man’s decline into madness, an affliction that seems to be directly related to the stresses of a disenfranchised life.

What’s likely to surprise people about Watson’s performance is that it is this last aspect he is most drawn to. He has the right comic timing and feel for the west-coast rhythms of Heggie’s script and scores many a laugh but, in the playwright’s own production, he declines to go down the route of sketch-show caricature. Instead, he gives a subdued performance that is poignant in its portrayal of an ordinary man losing his sanity. McMillan’s superiority complex – whether he is lording it over the “riffraff” he lives with or imagining himself as king – comes across not as arrogance but as severe psychological damage.

It is an interesting and sensitive approach, but it deprives the play of some of its raw comedic energy which, I imagine, will leave many of Watson’s fans feeling a little puzzled.


© Mark Fisher 2011
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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Dunsinane, theatre review

Published in the Guardian

Dunsinane

Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh
Four stars

The battle appears to be won. Some kind of peace is taking hold. But the war has thrown up unforeseen problems. The word goes out: "Tell the men we'll be in Scotland a little longer than expected."

And suddenly we are not only in 11th-century Perthshire, where the English army is seeking to impose order after the death of Macbeth, but also in a modern-day Iraq or Afghanistan. In David Greig's brilliant Shakespeare sequel – funny one minute, knotty the next – we find a peace-keeping force making a chaotic situation worse thanks to the well-meaning zeal of a Tony Blair-style commander.

Soldiers get killed, women commit suicide, captives refuse to speak. This occupation will indeed take longer than expected. The more the English try to get to grips with this alien land – its awkward geography, its hostile climate, its complex clans and affiliations – the more clumsy their efforts to tame it look. The greater their level of misunderstanding, the more an audience in Scotland finds itself empathising with the occupied nations of the Middle East.

Roxana Silbert's gripping RSC production, revived by the National Theatre of Scotland, shows the English army practicing an extreme form of passive aggression. "Your peace is just another word for you winning," says one character, exposing the value judgments behind even the most enlightened attempt by one nation to control another.

Despite this, Greig's vision is not one-sided. Jonny Phillips's English General Siward may be out of his depth, but Siobhan Redmond's Gruach (AKA Lady Macbeth) is frighteningly obstinate in her clan loyalty, while Brian Ferguson's King Malcolm is fiendishly slippery in his mastery of Scotland's internal politics. The result is an irresolvable drama about an irresolvable conflict – a work of compelling intelligence, provocation and wit.

© Mark Fisher 2011

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Theatre review: A Salute to the Great Lafayette

Published in The Scotsman

A SALUTE TO THE GREAT LAFAYETTE
FESTIVAL THEATRE, EDINBURGH ***

WHEN you're in a theatre with a notebook, people commonly ask if you are a critic. Saturday was the first time anyone's asked if I were a magician. It seemed an unlikely idea until headline act Paul Daniels got the magicians in the audience to stand up. There were loads of them.
They were there not only to see Daniels pay tribute to the Great Lafayette, the illusionist who died when a fire consumed this very stage on 9 May, 1911, but also for a whole weekend of magic-related activities.

So, yes, it's not inconceivable I could have been making notes to figure out how Daniels got the ball beneath the cup and how the ball turned into a lemon. A scholar of magic would also have been studying the illusions he dusted down to evoke the era of the Great Lafayette.
Crediting the magician Fred Culpitt, he made an assistant appear in the middle of an empty doll's house. Name-checking Harry Houdini, he added a Scottish flourish to the substitution trick, ending up in a different part of the theatre to the sound of Scotland the Brave. In a grim memorial to the events of a century ago, he lay in a burning coffin and ended up as a charred skeleton.

The lovely Debbie McGee hammed it up ?and the audience shouted out Daniels's catchphrase for him. It was cheesy, old-school stuff, in an amiable kind of way – with the best saved till last. In the middle of a card trick, Daniels's two audience volunteers were suddenly propelled from their seats, then just as mysteriously stuck to them. That was no illusion. That was actual voodoo.

© Mark Fisher 2011

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Imaginate and Starcatchers preview

Published in The Scotsman
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Only a few years ago, if you'd have picked up your Scotsman and read an article like this, you might have detected a tone of incredulity on behalf of the journalist. On the one hand, he would be enthusing about the new Bank of Scotland Imaginate Festival programme and saying how great it was that children could see such high quality theatre from all over the world; on the other, he would be unable to suppress his scepticism about a line-up that included theatre aimed at babies.

Surely, he might have suggested, it is fanciful to think you can entertain an audience still to master the art of sitting upright? Surely it is too much for someone in nappies to concentrate on a show for half an hour? And if such a thing were even possible, it would not be necessary

Today, however, such doubts have been dispelled. The landscape has changed and the evidence is there. Liam Sinclair, artistic director of the MacRobert in Stirling, says babycentric performance has become one of the fastest-selling strands in his whole programme. Early years theatre has arrived.

As recently as 2006, despite a booming children's theatre scene, there was virtually nobody in Scotland thinking about playing to toddlers. When a two-year pilot scheme called Starcatchers launched in Edinburgh, it seemed like a big experiment. Even the actors were unsure if it would amount to anything. But look at the programme for this year's Bank of Scotland Imaginate Festival, kicking off in Edinburgh on Monday, and you'll see exactly what it has amounted to. The line-up includes three Starcatchers shows that have no lower age limit at all. As long as you've dried yourself off from the birthing pool, you are welcome to buy a ticket for First Light (about the moon and the dawn meeting at sunrise), Oops a Daisy (a piece of dance theatre set in an upside-down world) and Icepole (a multi-sensory hybrid of art installation, pop concert and theatre).

And that's before we graduate to The Attic, a Starcatchers show about a girl sharing her grandmother's memories, pitched at the ripe old ages of three to five. Throw in White, the sublime Scotsman Fringe First winner created by Andy Manley with Catherine Wheels, and Potato Needs a Bath, a puppet show about dirty vegetables by Shona Reppe, and your children have a wealth of theatrical riches to see before they get anywhere near primary one.

"This year we've got all of the Starcatchers work, which is fantastic, but alongside that you've got those pieces like Potato Needs a Bath and White by people who have been involved in Starcatchers," says Rhona Matheson, project manager of Starcatchers.

"It's interesting to see how the connections are there and that people are drawing their inspiration from each other."

Something fascinating happens when artists turn their attention to entertaining this age group. Even more than older children, babies and toddlers have no preconceptions of what theatre should be. Neither do they have a preference for any of their five senses. It means the Starcatchers artists have found themselves creating shows that are more fluid, interactive and holistic than average.

"This audience provides an opportunity for artists to explore, try things out and do things they might not normally do," says Matheson. "The potential for what artists can create for that audience is vast and that's really exciting."

She gives the example of Icepole, created by Katy Wilson with the instinctively visual approach of a trained designer. Collaborating with actors, a director and a musician, Wilson has made something that, she says, is "a sort of gig, a sort of response, a sort of journey and a sort of daydream". In adult terms, this might sound avant garde, but young audiences are very receptive to it - especially the bit when they can do their own colouring-in.

"Icepole is an installation with performative elements to it," says Matheson. "It could be quite challenging, but actually, the audience really go with it. The children go into a dark space and yet they aren't scared by it - it's an interesting space and there's a journey they're going on. It's not a traditional theatre experience."

All this means that once parents and carers discover early years theatre, they can't get enough of it. Matheson says: "Because there is a level of quality behind the work, people can see the difference between what we're doing and what a clown at a children's birthday party might do.

"There's a different process and ethos behind the work. You can see in White, for example, the children are getting something on one level, but the adults are getting lots of other levels. It's not just people regurgitating nursery rhymes, they're really exploring an artform."

Elsewhere in the Imaginate programme, there is plenty for older children to enjoy. At the top end of the scale, The Dark by Rob Evans requires a teenage audience to venture between different locations in Leith Academy for a spooky adventure about the fear of the unknown.

For other ages, there are shows from Belgium, Canada, Ireland, Germany, the Netherlands, England and Scotland, ranging from clowning to opera to puppetry. While the big ones enjoy those shows, their younger siblings will be immersed in Starcatchers' work and quietly turning into the audiences of tomorrow.

• The Bank of Scotland Imaginate Festival is at various venues, Edinburgh, 9-15 May. First Light is also at Eastwood Park Theatre, Giffnock, on 9 May and Rothes Hall, Glenrothes, on 11 May.

© Mark Fisher 2011
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Man of mystery: The Great Lafayette returns

Published in Scotland on Sunday
DIG deep into the archives of the New York Times and, in the edition of 8 December 1902, you will find a three-paragraph story with the headline: "Fined for Cruelty to Lion". It relates how officers of the Humane Society had inspected the stage at the Duquesne Theatre in Pittsburgh where the famous illusionist the Great Lafayette was performing. They were not happy with what they found.

The centrepiece of the magician's act was a 25-minute routine called the Lion's Bride in which an assistant playing a princess was forced to enter the cage of a real lion. To convince the audience of the danger involved, the Great Lafayette needed the beast to roar on cue. This he achieved by feeding an electric current through large copper plates on the floor of the cage. The lion, reported the paper, "dashed about in a way that led the audience to believe that its fury was natural".

It also meant the poor creature had good reason to leave the cage into a secret compartment when the Great Lafayette needed it to "magically" disappear.

On this occasion, he was fined $20 and costs, a sum he regarded as an occupational hazard. He received similar penalties in other cities and carried on regardless.

And why wouldn't he? The man born Sigmund Neuberger in 1871 had transformed himself into the greatest entertainment star of his day. He had an act that worked and had made him rich. "He was a very good illusionist," says magician and admirer Paul Daniels. "The actual 'how', the method of why a trick works, is really not all that important. It's all down to the presenter and this guy was obviously a very good presenter: he was flamboyant, the whole show was colourful and it had the biggest scenery of the time..."

Daniels is the headline act in a weekend dedicated to the Great Lafayette at the Edinburgh Festival Theatre where, exactly 100 years ago, the self-styled "man of mystery" made his most spectacular - and fatal - last exit. Telling the story of the Munich-born star, Daniels will be mixing new tricks with old to salute one of the most astonishing, not to mention eccentric, names of his profession. "I'm putting in a couple of illusions from the time, but performed in a modern manner," he says.

"People keep saying 'are you going to bring in the horse and the lion', but for a one-night stand, I'm already not making any money on this one."

Having moved as a child with his Jewish family to the USA in the time of the gold rush, Neuberger went into vaudeville, developing an archery routine in which he billed himself as the "crackshot with the bow". Influenced by the Chinese magic of Ching Ling Foo and the spectacle of his friend Harry Houdini, he branched out into magic. "It was a big spectacle, paralleled in the late-20th century by Siegfried and Roy, who again ran a very big, colourful, flamboyant show," says Daniels.

He was known especially as a quick-change artist; in one favourite routine, he conducted the theatre's orchestra while instantaneously changing costumes to reflect the various band leaders he was imitating. Moving to London, he became the world's highest paid entertainer, earning over £40,000 a year, taking bookings ten years in advance and employing a team of over 40 assistants, technicians and animal handlers. Rumour has it he made his staff salute him as a mark of respect, but he paid them well for their efforts.

As Siegfried and Roy will tell you, there is a downside to doing magic with big cats. When Roy Horn was bitten by a tiger during a show at the Mirage in Las Vegas in 2003, he was lucky to survive. The incident halted a career that, in its sense of scale and audacity, owed a huge debt to the turn-of-the-century star. Like Horn, the Great Lafayette survived several scrapes with his performing lion and was once badly injured when struck by a heavy cage.

And like the Las Vegas acts of today, the Great Lafayette delighted audiences with his visual panache. He was the Liberace of his day, right down to the chauffeur-driven limousines and the taste for diamond rings. To open his act, after taking the stage to a trumpet fanfare while dressed in a satin outfit, he would shake a sequined cloth to release a small flock of birds and then, from the folds of the same piece of material, he would produce a bejewelled goat.

You can imagine the excitement, therefore, when the Great Lafayette called into Edinburgh for a two-week engagement at what was then the Empire Palace Theatre. He had arrived by train in his own private Pullman coach and checked into the Caledonian Hotel. There was one suite for him and one suite for Beauty, the cross-breed dog given him as a present by Houdini.

If he was guilty of cruelty to the lion, the same was not true of his treatment of Beauty. Visitors to his London mansion were met by a bronze plaque that read: "You may drink my wine. You may eat my food. You may command my servants. But you must respect my dog." His idea of respect was to give the pooch its own rooms, velvet cushions to sleep on, dog-sized furniture, a diamond-studded collar and five-course meals.

He even put a likeness of Beauty on the radiator of his silver-grey Mercedes.

There is only so much indulgence a dog can take, however, and on 5 May 1911, soon after their arrival in Edinburgh, Beauty died from apoplexy, a condition caused by over eating. The Great Lafayette was inconsolable and was determined to give the animal a formal burial. After much negotiation, the Piershill Cemetery in Edinburgh agreed to take the embalmed dog on condition its owner would be buried in the same plot. Little did the Great Lafayette know how soon that would happen.

For the time being, the show had to go on. Four days after Beauty's death, the 3,000-capacity audience at the Empire Palace Theatre was in raptures over the Great Lafayette's headline act. It was approaching 11pm and the air was awash with fashionable Orientalism. The Lion's Bride was much more than just a trick with a princess in a cage with a wild animal. It was an elaborate spectacle involving a stallion, fire eaters, jugglers and contortionists, all building up to the finale in which, just as the woman was in greatest peril, the pelt dropped off the lion to reveal - the Great Lafayette!

It would have been the most memorable part of the evening - but a fire had broken out on stage caused by a faulty lantern. So spectacular had the performance been that the audience assumed the inferno was all part of the show and applauded. Only a hasty round of God Save the King from the orchestra got them onto their feet and ready to make a fast exit as flames reached into the auditorium. "The fire leaped towards those of us in the front stalls and the friend who was with me had his eyebrows and the side of his head scorched," an eye-witness told the Daily Record.

Down came the fire curtain - the first example of such a precaution saving lives in a theatre - and the audience got out largely unscathed. Eye-witnesses said the Great Lafayette himself escaped but then returned to rescue his animals, in particular his horse. It was then the backstage area collapsed around him. He died at the age of 40 along with ten others, including performers, a musician and backstage crew, not to mention sundry animals.

That, however, was not the end of the Great Lafayette's disappearing act. It took three days for the authorities to realise the body they had assumed to be his was actually that of an identically dressed assistant, Bandsman Richards. Lafayette's body was found by a workman clearing debris and identified by the rings on his fingers.

The crowds who turned out for his funeral on 14 May, 1911 were phenomenal. After cremation in Glasgow, his ashes were brought back to Edinburgh where a brass band led the procession behind a horse-drawn hearse. The chief mourner was Mabel, his pet Dalmatian, riding alone in his Mercedes.

To mark the centenary of his death, the theatre has programmed a long weekend of magic-related events.

On Saturday 7 May, before Daniels' show, which also stars Scott Penrose, vice-president of the Magic Circle, is a day of close-up magic and backstage tours. Then on Monday 9 May, the actual centenary, Edinburgh Secret Society is holding a seance to be broadcast on the internet.

"I'm constantly saying to young magicians, don't buy the latest stuff," says Daniels, who will return to the city for the Edinburgh International Magic Festival in July and again for a four-week Fringe run at Assembly in August. "Read all the old books because in there are amazing effects and what you've got to do is try and find a modern way to present them."

The Great Lafayette Festival, Edinburgh Festival Theatre, 7-9 May.




Five Scottish magicians ... just like that

1. Janet Horne: not a stage act, but in her time considered the genuine article. Horne was the last woman to be legally executed in Britain for witchcraft. In 1727, she was accused of casting a spell to turn her daughter's hands and feet into horse shoes so that she could ride her like a pony. Beat that David Blaine.

2. John Henry Anderson: born in the Mearns in 1814, the man they called the Great Wizard of the North is said to be the first conjurer to pull a white rabbit out of a top hat. He also popularised the bullet-catch illusion.

3. 'Dr' Walford Bodie: the highlight of the act by the Banffshire man they called the British Edison, born in 1869, came when he placed a potato in a volunteer's mouth and cooked it by passing electricity through their head.

4. Roy Walton: the (English)man behind the counter at Tam Shepherd's Trick Shop in Glasgow is not only a great card magician, but a key inspiration to a generation of magicians from Jerry Sadowitz down.

5. Harry Potter: all it takes is a wand and a bit of cod Latin and the boy wizard can deal with everything from Muggles to horcruxes. It's a valuable skill.

© Mark Fisher 2011

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Thursday, May 12, 2011

Imaginate, theatre review

Published in The Guardian

Imaginate

You can't fault the Imaginate children's theatre festival for variety. On Monday alone, you could see tutus for two-year-olds, postmodern Irish storytelling for the over-sevens and a through-composed Philip Pullman adaptation.

Best of the bunch is The Girl Who Forgot to Sing Badly, a tremendously entertaining one-man show by the Ark and Theatre Lovett from Dublin. Finegan Kruckemeyer's surreal tale is about young Peggy O'Hegarty who wakes one morning to find her city deserted. She relishes the chance to cycle through the shopping mall and climb the tallest building, but things get sinister when she finds that even her parents have disappeared. Aided by a mouse called Hildegard, she has only hours to rescue the population from the brink of death.

As well as the vividness of the script, Lynne Parker's production has two great strengths. First is actor Louis Lovett, who combines playfulness, agility and the wide-eyed innocence of Ardal O'Hanlon. His self-referential stops and starts make him no less a compelling storyteller. Second is Paul O'Mahony's set, a crate that unfolds to reveal boxes within boxes, allowing Lovett to switch from domestic interior to city silhouette, while mirroring the girl's family business in packing. It's inspired.

Sacha Kyle's Oops a Daisy is one of four early-years shows by Scotland's Starcatchers. Amiable and crisply choreographed, it's a dance piece about daisies and the natural world. It's also the most slight of their works I've seen.

Slight is not an accusation you could make against Clockwork, a collaboration between Scottish Opera and Visible Fictions, combining the complexity of Pullman's novel with a musical score, large-scale puppetry and live animation. That it does so with such clarity is impressive, even if its heart lies with the two most passive characters, making it narratively strong, but emotionally cool.


© Mark Fisher 2011

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Clockwork, theatre review

Published in Northings

Clockwork

ON paper it just shouldn’t work. The starting point of this collaboration between Scottish Opera and the children’s theatre company Visible Fictions is Philip Pullman’s Clockwork (or All Wound Up). It’s a novel that tells three stories – and not all in the right order.

There’s the one about Fritz, a storyteller who has a cracking tale to tell but hasn’t got round to finishing it. There’s the one about Karl, a clockmaker’s apprentice, who is unable to think of a design for a mechanical figure to appear on the village clock. And there is the story within a story about a prince who keeps his son alive with a clockwork heart.

You’d think that would be complicated enough, especially with Pullman’s deeper themes about the need for narrative and the ethics of mechanisation. But for director Douglas Irvine, it’s just the start of it.

For one thing, the 75-minute show is through-composed. There is the odd snatch of dialogue, but for the most part David Trouton’s musical setting for Irvine’s adaptation tells the whole story in song. As if that wasn’t enough, the three performers – Paul Boyd, Denise Hoey and Neil Thomas – not only act out the story themselves, but create live animation by projecting cut-out two-dimensional figures onto a screen. Kenny Miller’s design also includes a couple of scary large-scale puppets.

Yet somehow Clockwork never seems overloaded. The libretto is very clear, even as it keeps the different stories spinning, and the DIY cartoon presentation is slick enough to be clever without drawing attention to itself. Fans of the book will be delighted and intrigued to see such an unexpected interpretation.

At the same time, for all the company’s efforts, it is hard to warm to the production. It is partly that the singing has a distancing effect, preventing the performers from making a direct connection with the audience in the way they would do as conventional storytellers.

More than that, however, it is the nature of the material itself. With so many interlocking narrative strands, there isn’t a character we can root for nor a single dilemma we can concentrate on resolving. The boy with the clockwork heart comes closest to fulfilling that role, but for the most part he is a peripheral figure, much like the woman who risks losing him as his mechanism starts to fail and can bring him life only by giving (and keeping) her own heart. By the time we’re asked to care about these previously passive characters, it’s too late.

Ironically for a show that uses the heart as its central image, Clockwork is short of a heart of its own, making it a cerebral pleasure but not an emotional one.

© Mark Fisher 2011

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