JOYCE MCMILLAN on ON THE VERGE at the Arches Theatre, Glasgow, for The Scotsman, 29.6.13.
3 stars ***
THERE WAS a time when engineering apprentices would first prove their skill by making the entire box of tools they would use in their future careers. And there was something of that atmosphere about the four On The Verge shows I saw at the Arches this weekend; it’s as if the MA students of the Royal Conservatoire’s Classical And Contemporary Text programme are not so much making theatre, as demonstrating the vast range of skills they will use to make theatre in future.
Within that framework, though, there’s some formidable talent on display, ranging from the fierce and powerful new writing of Matte O’Brien’s five monologues for contemporary American women, to a rich and vivid new 45- minute take on Tennessee Williams’s Streetcar Named Desire, featuring eloquent movement sequences, and three stunning performances from Holly McFarlane, Lauren Hurwood and Ben Clifford.
And more by accident than design, I also found myself watching two clown shows, in the Arches’ Practice Room. Timothy N Evers’s Boofnitz is a conventional clown show about a shy romance between male and female clowns, stronger on technique than content; but it’s delivered with terrific charm and simplicity by Evers and Anna McKiernan. There was a more powerful emotional punch, though, in Kristin Rose’s 15-minute solo piece Get Happy, about a clown-figure who encounters the human drama of Judy Garland’s life story. It’s a tiny piece: yet in its short span it has plenty to say about how clowning can be an evasion of adult reality – but can also, used right, offer a terrific insight into it.