JOYCE MCMILLAN on THEATRE UNCUT at the Arches, Glasgow, for The Scotsman 22.3.11
4 stars ****
IN LONDON, it all happened at Southwark Playhouse. In Bristol it was the Old Vic. In Edinburgh, the student-led Bedlam Theatre staged an all-day event featuring plays, music and debates; and wherever you were in the UK, on Saturday, someone was celebrating the event known as Theatre Uncut, the first of what I guess will be many theatrical protests against the current economic regime. The brainchild of London-based director Hannah Price, Theatre Uncut invited eight leading UK playwrights to contribute ten-minute plays on the theme of “the cuts”; and although the event I attended – at the Arches in Glasgow – covered only five of them, the intensity of the drama signalled an arts community already gearing up for protest on a scale not seen since the 1980’s.
So Dennis Kelly’s three-hander Things That Don’t Make Sense, is an only-slightly-surreal reflection on the growing disconnection between high-profile policing and actual justice. Anders Lustgarten’s Fat Man is an entertaining many-voiced rant against capitalism, in its 21st century incarnation. Jack Thorne’s duologue Whiff Whaff is a chilling riff on the theory of self-sufficiency and not encouraging “dependency”. Clara Brennan’s Hi Vis is a frighteningly desperate account of the life of a mother whose daughter has special needs. And David Greig’s Fragile – the most powerful of the lot – uses Greig’s technique of making the audience play one of the parts to lead us through a thundering ten-minute drama in which impotent sadness over the closure of a vital support centre for people with mental problems becomes suicidal rage, and then a roaring call for political action.
In Glasgow, director Emma Callander assembled a superb scratch cast, drawing brilliant performances from actors including Anne Lacey, Garry Collins, Louise Ludgate and Kieran Hurley, heart-stoppingly briliant in Fragile. Now it’s time for these plays to be taken up by one of the major Scottish theatres, and presented again, in front of a much larger audience; and again and again until the message gets through – that nothing justifies wanton damage to the lives of vulnerable people, in a society as wealthy as ours.