JOYCE MCMILLAN on ANGELS at Oran Mor, Glasgow, for The Scotsman, 14.9.11
4 stars ****
OUT OF THE BLUE comes a show to shout about, as the autumn Play, Pie and Pint lunchtime season hits its stride in spectacular style. The scene is a squalid police interview room in north Edinburgh, and the lone character is a youngish-but-no-longer-young 21st century man adrift on a sea of nightmares, memories, and half-broken dreams, as he tries to account to a brutish police inspector, and a bored duty solicitor, for the strange death of a man called Gary Glover. Glover is a serial shoplifter, who has plunged to his death from the top floor of the car-park at the shopping mall where our hero, Nick, works as a security guard; and although Nick did not push him – Gary definitely jumped backwards, laughing as he went – he feels a strange complicity in his death.
The point about Ronan O’Donnell’s Angels, though – brilliantly directed at Oran Mor by Graeme Maley, with music by Benedikt Hermannssson – is that it unfolds this story only gradually, through the fog of strange human poetry that thunders through Nick’s head, often foul, sometimes heartbreakingly beautiful, and always edged with an almost hallucinatory sharpness of vision, touch, smell. It takes some skill, and a touch of poetic genius, to sustain this kind of surreal monologue with such a sense of inner logic that it utterly grips the audience’s attention, from start to finish. And Iain Robertson, as Nick, gives the performance of a lifetime, as a man alone, slipping through the thin fabric of 21st century Edinburgh life into an underworld full of demons, and betrayed by his own rich erotic fantasy-life, discovered by the police in a grubby jotter at his flat; but with the soul of a poet all the same, soaring out of these cramped spaces into a rich world of sensual joy, light and ecstasy – the kind of dream that keeps us all alive, until the Leith police finally dismiss us, for good.