JOYCE MCMILLAN on INNER CIRCLE and SUB OPERA at the Subway Festival, Glasgow, for The Scotsman 26.5.09
Inner Circle 4 stars ****
Sub Opera 4 stars ****
THERE WERE STREET THEATRE ARTISTS cartwheeling at Partick, Claire Cunningham and Sharmanka rolling out their new show Sputnik in the yard, and – courtesy of Rhymes With Purple Theatre Company – a man encountering Death in the rear carriage of the train that took me back to Queen Street.
Yup, it was Glasgow’s Subway Festival on the underground, back for a bigger, better and more theatrical second edition after last year’s success. The most ambitious theatre offering, this year, was Martin O’Connor’s Inner Circle, an intense an edgy 24-minute piece – adapted from Renato Gabrielli’s Italian original, designed to fit one circuit of the underground, and performed in the rear carriage of a train with the help of a mike and amplifier – about a man, an ordinary subway commuter, who knows he’s going nowhere; until a lost and distressed two-year-old boy on the underground catches his eye, and forces him – just briefly – to confront his dangerous need for more life. There’s something about the loud artificial sound that doesn’t quite work; audience earphones might give a stronger sense of internal monologue. But O’Connor performs the piece beautifully, in a surprisingly disturbing event for such a light-hearted festival.
There was even more dramatic energy, though, in new company proudExposure’s Sub Opera, in which a girl called Emily – brilliantly played by Sita Pieraccini – discovers on a circular subway ride that all her friends have been lying to her in various ways. Working without the microphones they had been planning to use, proudExposure were forced back on the sheer power of gesture, lip-reading and the odd electrifying audible exchange, moving thrillingly along the borderline between ordinary behaviour on the underground, and outright melodrama. “Oh no”, said one woman, as she reached her stop. “Now I’ll never find our how it ends!”