JOYCE MCMILLAN on CHORALE – A SAM SHEPARD ROADSHOW at Oran Mor, Glasgow, for The Scotsman 31.5.14.
3 stars ***
WHATEVER ELSE it is, this rough-edged compilation piece by Presence Theatre – together with ATC and the Belgrade, Coventry – is not one of those neat, tidy and manageable theatre shows that slide past without touching the sides of the memory. The long-form version I saw in Glasgow this week lasted a formidable three-and-a-quarter hours, including long, rambling pauses for technical set-ups; it’s all a bit like a late-1960’s “happening”, and not always in a good way.
Those who make their way to the two shorter programmes playing at the Traverse this weekend, though, will find the show worth the effort, particularly if they are lucky enough to encounter the double-bill of Sam Shepard and Joseph Chaikin’s short 1981 fillm Savage/Love, followed by a new 70-minute words-and-music piece The Animal (You), co-created by actor Jack Tarlton and director Shaun Usher from fragments of Shepard’s writing, backed by film and live music.
The other half of the programme features two short plays, the early Shepard piece The Holy Ghostly and The War In Heaven, co-written with Chaikin; and all four pieces seem mainly to reflect on and question the fractured father-son relationship at the heart of Shepard’s writing. There’s nothing conclusive here, in other words. Yet there is some memorably intense performance, not least from Tarlton himself; and a fine, sustained reflection on the forces that drive Shepard’s male characters out onto the road, on the legendary landscape through which they pass, and on the truth that however deep they travel into America’s wild places, they can never escape from themselves.