Review – Platform 18

May 2, 2013 | By More

Platform 18:  New Work Award  ✭✭✭✭✩/✭✭✩✩✩

Traverse Theatre: Wed 1 – Fri 3 April
Review by Irene Brown

The Arches Platform 18 Award aims to support Scotland’s most exciting theatre makers and offer them the opportunity to stage a funded production at the Arches and Traverse.

Two productions are chosen by a selection panel and this year the winners were Wuthering Heights by Peter McMaster and Poke by Amanda Monfrooe.

Publicity photo for Wuthering Heights

Publicity photo for Wuthering Heights

Wuthering Heights

★★★★☆   Five go mad on the moors

The sight of a bare footed and suited young man (Nick Anderson) whinnying and galloping round and through the auditorium as an utterly believable equine before the play begins is so instantly compelling that it gives youo a warm feeling as you settle down to revel in more delight.

Based on being part of a Glasgow men’s group (no longer an oxymoron) Peter McMaster and his four fellow members (Anderson with Chris Hall, Thom Scullion and Murray Wason) wanted to work together on this radical take on Emily Brontë’s classic tale of love, passion and loss on the Yorkshire Moors.

Through the media of mime, signing, singing, narration and direct speech to audience, the production picks out basic themes from the story and takes a new perspective on each. It looks at father-son relationships and non-sexual male love, as well as hopes and dreams of being sensitive and supportive as men – like the tender warming of a child’s feet after being in cold water. It is all very male and not at all camp.

The positive working ethos between the young men is clear in their interaction. Dresses are donned but there is no element of drag. The robes hang symbolically on the male frames; just part of the multiple roles played self-referentially by the cast, including a highly convincing baby by Thom Scullion.

It could be seen as almost sacrilegious not to include the famous Kate Bush song in such a modern take of Wuthering Heights and this band of brothers do not disappoint. With a kind of clumsy grace but slick choreography, they acted out the lyrics with sparkling eyes all round. Result? Glorious fun!

At times the experience feels like an experimental acting class in its rawness, and long dresses flowing near flickering candles in a small space is a bit nerve wracking but the overall sense is that of fresh and exciting theatre.

It may be bewildering but is thoroughly engaging and never boring. A great début.

Poke

★★☆☆☆ Not the best of yin and yang

After this hour of delight from an all-male cast, it is more than disappointing that the all-female production is in such stark contrast.

Amanda Monfrooe’s Poke tells an apocalyptic tale of the last two women alive. The set has a rough cairn of urban stones in its centre, sets of lights and two microphones. Actors Clare Willoughby and Lesley Asare use some puppetry including a weird wee doll with its bum creepily on show. They don bizarre head-dresses at times and the narration is equally bizarrely done with their backs to the audience.

It is a negative sci-fi tale full of misandry but empty of humour with harsh lights and harsh jump-out-your-seat music, in keeping with its harsh subject matter. It is obsessed with both the phallus and with cotton wool – not a great combination. It feels didactic, with too much telling and not enough showing, and is neither entertaining nor instructive.

Some unnecessary silences could easily have been cut to make a shorter, more bearable piece. At one point Asare speaks from behind a gas mask. Even in an intimate space like the Traverse this is not a good idea as all the audience gets is a mumble.

A poor vehicle for two such able actors who deliver their lines with professionalism, commitment and, apart from the gas mask incident, clarity. A sense of co-operation over conflict would do the characters more good and the irony of Lesley Asare wearing a Tee Shirt showing Mickey and Minnie in a cartoon hug was not lost.

Running time 2 hours 15 mins
Wed 1 – Fri 3 May, 2013, 7pm
Traverse Theatre, 10 Cambridge Street, Edinburgh, EH1 2ED
Full details on Traverse website: www.traverse.co.uk

ENDS

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