A DRUNK WOMAN LOOKS AT THE THISTLE Scotland in a Mina key 0000
If Liz Lochhead had continued the
opening speech of Mary Queen of Scots Got Her Head Chopped Off for another hour, it could have sounded a lot like A Drunk Woman Looks at the Thistle. Written by crime novelist Denise Mina as a response to Hugh MacDiarmid's 1926 poem A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle. it's a funny. brainy. argumentative dissection of the very idea of national identity. performed with bright-eyed elan by the excellent Karen Dunbar.
The central argument of Mina's rhyming monologue is that the talismans of Scottish identity are too diverse. indeed too contradictory. to mean anything at all. It is a nation of country-dwelling townies who love to laugh despite their dourness. As with any generalisation. the notion of a national identity falls apart the more you pick away at the detail. When Dunbar — whose drunkenness releases a fantastic eloquence — calls for the cultural slate to be wiped clean and the nation to go forward without the legacy of its self-definitions. it feels like a liberation.
The irony is that the very act of analysing the country in this way is a particularly Scottish characteristic and. in its wit. irony and free-ranging allusions. A Drunk Woman Looks at the Thistle is nothing if not a Scottish play. An entertaining one at that.
I Assembly Rooms, 623 3030, until 25 (not 72, 79), 70.10pm. 87 7—272 (5370—27 7).
THE GREAT AMERICAN TRAILER PARK MUSICAL Snappy, sassy and show stoppin’ COO
A feisty, sun worshrpin'. gum chewin'. all singin'. all dancin' trio of girlfriends (who can‘t help poking their noses into other people's business) gradually
divulge the scandal going on in the bosom of their beloved Florida trailer park. Nicely written and energetically performed songs delve into the desires. memories and neuroses of the park's colourful community. with
- agoraphobia, adultery and kidnapping
all jostling for attention in the script.
While comic. it ain't pretty. Pippi the stripper. for instance. thieves the toll- collector from his trailer-bound wife who‘s been terrified of the world since the kidnapping of her baby bOy. How could she?
Despite their dirty deeds and habits. the characters manage to elicit a great deal of warmth from the audience. Even the brilliantly caricatured. solvent sniffing. gun totin'. bad boyfriend of the runaway stripper. provokes sympathy by the end. So, while the show pokes fun at American let-it-all- hang-out culture. we are persuaded to empathise with the characters mishaps. misgivings and breakthroughs. As grotesque as life in the park is. it is a rich ground for drama and comedy. Do I hear you say ‘yeah"? (Katherine Adam)
I C Chambers Street, 0845 260 1272, until 25 Aug. 10pm. £9. 50—27 7.50 (£8. 50—53 10. 50).
THE ALUMINUM SHOW The secret life of metal 000.
Mesmerising monologues create
filmic theatricality 0000
There are those who think Mark O'Rowe's style of writing does not constitute theatre at all. Certainly. his preference for interlinking monologues over conversational exchanges has more in common with storytelling than drama. Yet. the more his passages of urban poetry go on. the more his Dublin tales overlap and enrich each other and the more a vivid theatrical experience unfolds in our imaginations.
As we move from character to character in Terminus. it is as if the whole of Dublin — from suburban car
Wonderfully inventive and gripping throughout, The Aluminum Show is a mixture of puppetry, dance, magic and general mucking about with silver stuff that has the audience gleefully cheering the newly discovered
potential of lightweight metal tubing. You thought a flexible aluminium tube as used in air conditioning was just
that. Well no, I’m pleased to tell you it’s a costume or an air gun or a giant living worm capable of wriggling, dancing flying and otherwise spontaneously taking life and looming over you while you cower, helpless,
in your cramped auditorium seat.
The best parts of the show involve making aluminium come alive in various unsettling ways, always to a pumping dance soundtrack. The rest of it comprises a futurescape vision of a world devoted to aluminium, in which models wear head—to-toe tubing at pretentious fashion shows and dancing workers slave away over sparkling conveyer belts to a constant Euro-beat. A staggering level of preparation and an exhaustive process of experimentation must have been needed in order to get this project off the ground. Genuinely original and consummater performed, this is one of the most weirdly innovative shows you could hope to see at the Fringe in any
year. (Jonny Ensall)
I Pleasance Courtyard, 556 6550. until 25 Aug, 6pm, 27450437550
76 THE LIST FESTIVAL MAGAZINE /- 14 Aug 2008
park to down-at-heel pub to city centre street - is taking shape before us. The effect is almost filmic as O'Rowe‘s rhyming prose. delivered with consummate control by Andrea Irvine. Karl Shiels and Eileen Walsh in the playwright's own Abbey Theatre production. tells a metaphysical story of murder. suicide and accidental death — not to mention angels and demons — in a manner less distressing than it sounds.
To say such a gruesome play ends with an epiphany might sound unlikely. yet the unrepentant psychopath, the insensitive Samaritans volunteer and the young woman falling to her death from a crane manage to find resolution in their grizzly fate. adding a heartening sliver of hope to a mesmerising tale. (Mark Fisher)
I Traverse, 228 7404, until 24 Aug (not 77, 78), times vary, E 76—8 78 (£7 7—27 2).
NEW ELECTRIC BALLROOM
Ladies night or Groundhog Day? .00.
From the secret teenage worlds of Disco Pigs to last year's The Wa/worth Farce. Enda Walsh's work has been preoccupied with the private codes and languages of insular groups. Here he focuses on three sisters who have effectively locked themselves away from their tiny fishing village and from any sort of progress. and now exist in gaudy. festering stasis. Ada cycles to her office every morning to ‘turn fish into numbers'. Breda and Clara spend their lives in perpetual. grotesque reenactment of a night when. as teenagers. they gave up on love.
There's not much dialogue in this piece. but there's lots of talking. It's essentially a monologue for four voices. each of the characters trapped within a repetitive cycle of the stories they tell and retell themselves about themselves. The play is shot through with broad comedy: in fact there are moments when the whole thing seems poised on the edge of undermining itself with farce. Glitzy diversions aside. what Walsh and his skilled. note- perfect cast are leading up to is subtle. bitter and heartbreaking tragedy.
The titular ballroom is at once escape: a Technicolor pleasure dome. completely removed from the grey stone of the village. and the neon Symbol of their self-inflicted imprisonment. (Kirstin lnnes)
I Traverse Theatre. 228 7404, until 24 Aug. times vary. $76—$78 (Cl 7—E72).