JOYCE MCMILLAN on THE LEGACY and WE ARE SPARTAKI! at the Leith Festival, for The Scotsman 21.6.10
The Legacy 3 stars ***
We Are Spartiki! 2 stars **
THERE’S SOMETHING life-affirming about the buzz of small-scale theatre that runs through the programme of the annual Leith Festival; not because the shows are brilliant in themselves, but because they clearly encourage the kind of grass-roots creativity that every community needs, if it’s to survive.
Devised by Gavin Crichton’s Active Inquiry Company at Out Of The Blue, The Legacy – for example – was a brisk, vivid one-hour show in which both actors and audience sat around the tables in Arthur’s Cafe, an imaginary Leith Walk diner facing a crisis following the death of its owner. In the play, Arthur’s three grown children squabble over their inheritance. The people who meet there to campaign, complain, or run shoestring internet companies, continue to take the place for granted, even as the waters rise, literally and metaphorically. And Rose the waitress looks on, wondering whether the place has any future, and whether she will have any part in it. And it’s not great drama; but it has a real sense of life and topicality, particularly around the survival of small community-based businesses in a corporate age.
We Are Spartaki! at the pub boat Cruz, by contrast, was a more conventional show of nine short sketches, all written by Dalkeith-based playwright Cecilia Grainger. It was crude, it was rough, it reinforced the most depressing of stereotypes about writing in Scots – i.e. that’s it a language best suited to expressing aggression and insult. But just here and there – in a serious piece about an abused woman who finally turns on her abuser, or a deft four-minute comedy set in a Leith brothel that offers “erotic scenarios” to men with very strange preferences – a richer and more subtle voice made itself felt; and in that, there’s a definite gleam of promise.