PPP: One Thinks of It All as a Dream

October 25, 2016 | By | Reply More

★★★☆☆    Mixed bag

Traverse Theatre: Tue 25 – Sat 29 Oct 2016
Review by Hugh Simpson

There is an odd combination of the poetic and the straightforward to One Thinks of It All as a Dream, the latest Play, Pie and a Pint lunchtime theatre at the Traverse.

Alan Bissett’s play – a co-production with Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film festival – is about Syd Barrett. He was the original front man of Pink Floyd, whose fragile state – whether induced by LSD, mental illness or a combination of both – saw him elbowed out of the band. He then spent much of the remainder of his life as a recluse.

Euan Cuthbertson. Photo: Leslie Black

Euan Cuthbertson. Photo: Leslie Black

Bissett’s treatment of the story is necessarily incomplete and episodic, wanting to burst beyond the length Play, Pie and a Pint imposes, and spans a variety of approaches from almost documentary retelling through more poetic ruminations to comedy.

The effectiveness of the staging is similarly mixed. An overly broad portrayal of an American record executive who is literally a cowboy falls flat, while some of the use of masks and miming could be seen either as interestingly stylised or cheap and half-hearted depending on how charitable you are feeling.

Some of the expository dialogue goes beyond awkward, and the desire to include as much of the story as possible gives it a lopsided feel. For a band and singer who were devoted to exploring outer and inner space, this is resolutely earthbound.

Altered state

However, there are trippier moments. A description of The 14 Hour Technicolor Dream, for example, accompanied by imitations of Mark Boyle’s original liquid light show, has a definite ‘altered state’ feeling.

Euan Cuthbertson as Syd Barrett and the cast of One Thinks of it All As A Dream. Photo Leslie Black

Euan Cuthbertson as Syd Barrett and the cast of One Thinks of it All As A Dream. Photo Leslie Black

Euan Cuthbertson’s Syd captures much of his edgy, troubled charisma. It is a subtle, layered portrayal, hinting at first at an obstinate narcissism and a playful perversity, as well as the deeper problems. The whimsical, very English take on psychedelia that characterised Floyd in his era is also well evoked.

Andrew John Tait plays Syd’s old friend and bassist Roger Waters as a hard-nosed, careerist professional who is the main driving force behind the shiny corporate stadium-rock juggernaut the band became after Syd.

Ewan Petrie and David James Kirkwood play the other members of the group, but their roles lack development. Kirkwood also has a cameo as the counterculture’s favourite analyst R.D. Laing – another direction that cries out for further exploration.

Director Sacha Kyle holds together what could have been a baggy affair, while Andy Cowan’s sound design makes good use of the original music.

Even if the production never really takes flight, there is much here to appeal to die-hard fans, while newcomers will learn a great deal.

Running time 55 minutes (no interval)
Traverse Theatre, 10 Cambridge Street, EH1 2ED
Tuesday 25 – Saturday 29 October 2016
Lunchtimes: 1pm, Evening performance Friday 28, 7pm.
Tickets and details: http://www.traverse.co.uk/

Full details of the 2016 festival are available on the SMHAFF website: www.mhfestival.com.

SMHAFF on facebook: SMHAFF.

ENDS

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