PREVIEW SHORT PLAY CYCLE AUTOBAHN Tron Theatre, Glasgow, Tue 10–Sat 14 Nov

‘Savagery, sympathy, pathos and power’ a distillation, perhaps, of the forces at work in all human relationships. But also Kenny Miller’s summary of the content of Autobahn, the Neil LaBute-penned cycle of plays of which he is currently sharing the direction. Both he and Mary McLuskey direct three one-act episodes in this UK premiere at the Tron Theatre. For all six pieces, the immediate setting is the front seat of a car, the wider context contemporary Middle America. Locked safely within their four-wheeled cells, the cast of parents, lovers, teenagers, friends and families are forced to fill the miles of tarmac with conversation. The fascination of the car for LaBute was in its forced confinement: ‘Sitting in an automobile was where I first remember understanding how drama works . . . I quickly realised how deep the chasm or intense the claustrophobia could be inside your average family car.’

Like the minimal set, which Miller also designed, the action itself is ‘pared down to practically nothing’, bringing into sharp focus the acute discomfort of those

awkward silences between nearests and dearests who are suddenly confronted with the gulf between them. Using the dynamic of the cycle to repeatedly push home one point, the plays all depict people who find themselves suddenly being taken by surprise by a relationship. The lack of distracting action or sets forces the audience to concentrate intensely on the dialogue and the faces of the actors which Miller describes as ‘almost televisual’. If that all sounds rather heavy, Miller is quick to point

out that, while Autobahn includes some harrowing episodes, it’s also full of ‘brilliantly observed’ comic moments, those moments when, as he puts it ‘things just come rattling out like a steam train’, and the seriously meant becomes impossible not to laugh at.

Miller is full of praise for LaBute’s writing, adding that, for the first production from Theatre Jezebel, ‘We were adamant that we wanted to do a Neil LaBute.’ Jezebel was formed earlier this year by Miller and McLuskey, who have a long history of working together, in order to showcase ‘really extraordinary pieces by brilliant contemporary writers that have never been seen in Scotland before’. Their aim for the future? ‘Keep on doing firsts.’ (Laura Ennor)


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PREVIEW DANCE/MUSIC COLLABORATION PLAN B: A WEE HOME FROM HOME Tron Theatre, Glasgow, Tue 17 & Wed 18 Nov; Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Wed 25 Nov

The more things change the more they stay the same. Twenty-one years ago, when A Wee Home From Home was first staged, it was an astute reflection on the social and political landscape in Scotland. Dancer Frank McConnell, musician Michael Marra, set designer Karen Tennent and director Gerry Mulgrew teamed up to create the vibrant and humorous tale of one man’s return to Glasgow after years away. Now, in the Year of Homecoming, the show is back. With the passing of time, did it need an overhaul? ‘Just wee bits and pieces,’ says McConnell. ‘As soon as we tried to tamper with it, we realised how much blood, sweat and tears had gone into it in the first place. And also, not that much has changed.’

McConnell plays Frankie, whose

return to the family home brings up a groundswell of memories. Is the fact the two men share a first name purely coincidental? ‘It’s not autobiographical but we all drew on our childhoods and notions of what we thought it meant to be Scottish,’ he says. ‘At first we had the notion of somebody trying to leave Glasgow, but we realised it was much more interesting if they were returning what they might have missed and what they definitely didn’t miss. And although we used Glasgow, in some respects it could have been any city, because the show is just as much about being force-fed Scottishness during the 1960s and 70s.’ (Kelly Apter)


It’s not often that Richard Alston embraces a narrative, but when he does, you know you’re in for something special as witnessed by his excellent Carmen with Scottish Ballet earlier this year. Now, to celebrate the centenary of Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, Alston has taken on Petrushka.

‘From time to time I’ve taken images very clearly from music,’ says Alston. ‘And that’s what

I’ve done with Petrushka. I would call it semi-narrative there’s certainly something going on.’ Rather than stage the whole tragic tale, Alston has taken piano pieces from Stravinsky’s original score and created a poignant three-part mini drama. He’s also fused the character of Petrushka with the dancer who created the role, the equally tragic Vaslav Nijinsky. ‘The central piece has Petrushka alone in his cell, as a contemporary figure, not a puppet,’

explains Alston. ‘He’s Nijinsky using the movement he remembers from Petrushka and fraught with anguish. And the outer movements are very joyful and positive, with carnival people in Russian tunics but Petrushka can’t relate to them and in the end he pushes him away.’

Joining Movements From Petrushka on this crowd-pleasing bill are Martin Lawrance’s fast- paced To Dance and Skylark, and a revival of Alston’s exhilarating Overdrive. What does Alston hope to give people when he programmes an evening of dance? ‘The simple answer would be pleasure,’ he says. ‘Dance gives me pleasure, I find it very uplifting. And that’s a very important and basic thing for me to share with an audience.’ (Kelly Apter)

84 THE LIST 5–19 Nov 2009