Viota

viota

Some Reviews :

Theatre review: Viota, Glasgow Tron

  • by Jay Richardson
 Published on the04April  2013  02:04, The Scotsman

 * * *

As such, it’s very much an actors’ piece. But the playwright has distilled an ebbing and flowing succession of clashes into a simmering triangle between titled outcast and Bloomsbury-survivor Vivien (Frankie MacEachen) and her lodgers – her biographer, the journalist Vicki (Sophia Porter), and trustfund revolutionary Ursula (Erica O’Neill). The Vietnam War, the Moon landing and women’s lib form the backdrop as each struggles to find their identity, their self-imposed inhibitions as formidable as any obstacles imposed by society.

MacEachen capably conveys Vivien’s trepidation and vulnerability, even as she flourishes in the presence of her younger friends, while Porter and O’Neill are equally good as the repressed but ambitious reporter and the protesting-too-much, rebellious little rich girl. There’s solid support from Derek Banner as Vicki’s chauvinist fiancé and Maria MacCormack as batty Aunt Millie, a throwback to Vivien’s former aristocratic life, with the sense of suffocated sexuality palpable.

Although Viota occasionally approaches melodrama, the emotional maelstrom compels throughout.

Viota, Tron Theatre, Glasgow

Neil Cooper
Theatre critic
Thursday 4 April 2013, The Herald 

Feminism may no longer be the dirty word it was, but it’s vital the movement’s foundations are never forgotten.

This new play from the boldly named Theatre Revolution probably isn’t the most radical vehicle for such a notion, though it’s a game enough look at the 1960s counter-culture as seen from the sofa by three very different women.

It’s 1969, Vicki is writing for the women’s page of a London tabloid and lodging with the bohemian Vivien while being courted by Jack. Into their lives breezes Ursula, an Australian actress and Vietnam protester who buys into hippy ideals more than any of them.

Over a series of episodic scenes we see them fall out, argue ideology, share each other’s self-absorption and spout naive platitudes as only children of the 1960s can.

All of which in Iain McAleese’s production of Karen Barclay’s script developed from a devising process looks and sounds like a more flamboyant and politically inclined take on female flat-share dramas such as Take Three Girls and The Pleasure Girls that used to pop un on screens great and small back in the day. In fact, so unremittingly naturalistic is the play that television would be a far better home for it than the stage.

If this seems odd given how the play was created, there are some well-observed studies of how both the class and gender wars could so easily go off the rails, particularly in Frankie MacEachan’s sapphically inclined Vivien.

Too often, however, the lines sound like they’re grafted to an idea that never fully allows them to breathe in a curious look back in languor.

Echoes of Virginia

Watching Viota is an almost exhausting experience for Hazel Robertson as the play examines radical culture changes in the shadow of Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group

Hazel Robertson, 15 April 2013, The F Word http://www.thefword.org.uk/index

Viota is an adventurous piece of theatre by small company Theatre Revolutions that examines culture clashes of the late 1960s. The three main characters are women so different that they seem to have arrived on the stage from distant planets to neatly illustrate radically changing social and political opinions of the era.

The moon landing, second wave feminism, drugs and hippy culture form the backdrop to this turbulent play, which examines a claustrophobic triangular relationship among strong women. However, this is not a simple examination of culture clashes but a pile up of world viewpoints. Class, sexuality and political opinions battle fiercely and openly in this character driven drama.

Aristocratic Vivian lived through both world wars, observed the free expression of the Bloomsbury Group, witnessed the scandalous love affair between Vita Sackville-West and Violet Trefusis and can barely recount how many stately homes she has lived in. Rejected by her blue-blooded friends, forgotten by her ex-husband and neglected by her only son, she rules over her dingy boarding house with a nonchalant and often drunken hand.

Ambitious journalist Vicki is initially in awe of Vivian, with her exotic lifestyle and opulent background. Vivian regales Vicki with her memories of Vita and Violet and the controversy that their relationship caused in late Edwardian society while being accepted and even celebrated within the Bloomsbury Group. Vicki is there to type up Vivian’s autobiography, which she dictates whilst languishing on the beaten-up sofa, glass of neat gin in hand.

In a moving sequence, Vivian painfully recites from the pages of her memoirs and details the loss of her glamorous, night-club singer partner. Their passionate relationship, her acute sense of loss, the class-transcending domestic abuse that she faced at the hands of her husband and her ensuing mental health collapse are tenderly but angrily recounted.

Meanwhile, Vivian is fascinated by newcomer Ursula; an argumentative new-age hippy so gratingly nonconformist that she seems incapable of using any article of furniture the way it was intended. Ursula represents the modern and radical ideas of the late 60s: she’s a Marxist, a vegan and a feminist who never wants to get married and believes in equal pay for women. She’s also an anti-Vietnam war protestor (hiding the fact that her brother has chosen to fight there from her radical friends) and believes in a revolutionary egalitarian new world order. Vivian is enthralled by how easily Ursula shakes off societal constraints that have controlled her own life.

The drama explores the ugly collision of class cultures

The radical differing viewpoints between them are beautifully contrasted early on when they both exhibit their ideas of one woman theatre shows. Ursula screams and rants about babies being napalmed in Vietnam and corporate greed before outlining her plan to be stripped and painted by her fellow actors. Meanwhile, Vivian’s show is of the cosy chat show variety, featuring gardening tips and jolly anecdotes about her upper class friends. Initially clashing in their opinions, Vivian is excited to experiment and happily accompanies Ursula to moon parties and new-age theatre shows. It seems that after been thrown out of her aristocratic set due to her provocative same-sex relationship, she is happy to subscribe to an alternative way of life.

However, the claustrophobic atmosphere of the boarding house is less than harmonious due to the quarrelsome relationship between Vicki and Ursula who clash nastily over their backgrounds and viewpoints. Vicki sullenly characterises Ursula as a fake: a spoilt foreign trust fund brat who can afford unemployment and the luxury of radical, impractical principles. She, meanwhile, must face the classic predicament of professional women: choose a career, which seems to have stalled at inventing the personal problems for the women’s pages of a tabloid, or become a wife to her young executive boyfriend, accompany him to his new post in Bahrain, have children and never return to work.

Her choice is undermined by both Ursula, who doesn’t need to make that choice, and Vivian, who never has. Here the drama explores the ugly collision of class cultures. Vicki, desperate for a meaty story, writes a revealing piece on “stinking” student protestors and their duplicity at both insisting on an equal society whilst failing to credit their own privileged background.

In the end, Vicki’s observations are revealed to be valid with the gradual unravelling of assured and dramatic Ursula. After a clash with a police horse at a protest, she is left with a permanent limp and rages about being “one of them…a cripple”, a figure of pity to be looked down on for the rest of her life. In a fit of bigoted rage she slurs Vivian as a “loony” and a “dyke”. Angry at her predicament she exclaims that she should never have got involved in politics, exposing it as a privileged “choice” of lifestyle and wishes out loud that she had spent her trust fund relaxing on a Greek island.

Viota is an ambitious piece of theatre that examines what we rarely get to see: women’s experiences of profound social and political change

First night nerves seemed to be running high in the small Tron theatre with an unsure stumbling finish and achingly long breaks between scenes. Music from the era was played at ear-splitting volumes as if they were songs on a radio rather than a score to complement the story. Although the set was as grimy and miserable as a late ’60s boarding house should be, this is theatre design with little imagination. The whole production could have been so much slicker, inventive and better co-ordinated. Meanwhile, the performances ranged from the perfectly pitched steely aspiration of Sophia Porter’s Vicki to Frankie MacEachan’s disappointing rendering of Vivian, which lacked the depth, gusto and volume that this complex character deserved.

Viota is an ambitious piece of theatre that examines what we rarely get to see: women’s experiences of profound social and political change. This is a chance to witness second wave feminism and its imagined impact on different characters, which vary from freedom from conformity for Ursula to a dangerous myth for Vicki that leaves her life mostly untouched.

The shadow that the Bloomsbury Group casts over the drama is a cunning move as the audience is able to see the inheritance of new ideas from generation to generation and the swells of feminist waves. More could have been made of Vivian’s experiences and the impact that their ideas had on her but the hint of historical gratitude was well placed.

Despite the ambitions of Karen Barclay’s script, this could be a case of a play taking on more than it can handle. The drama spends a lot of time dwelling on study of complexly-drawn characters and gradually revealing layers of their needlessly complicated backgrounds. Unfortunately, Viota tries to say so much that in effect it ends up saying little and is a missed opportunity to really draw out the tension filled experience of a revolutionary era.

Viota was on at Tron Theatre, Glasgow from 3-6 April. 

The Retreat

As part of the Tron 100 Festival 2017, I had the pleasure of directing the very funny The Retreat by Daisy Jo Lucas, starring Daisy Jo Lucas, Alfie Wellcoat, Euan Cuthbertson, Renee Williams, Natalie Clarke and Hazel Ann Crawford.

 

Why I Hate Your Novel

writers-block-vintage

  1. Italics. I know you’re going to flashback or flash-forward  or go inside a character’s head and I’m not interested. It takes me out of the story and gives me back nothing but boredom.
  2. Letters and diary entries – unless you’re a truly great writer (for whom none of these hates apply) – it’s boring. In fact it’s beyond boring – I suspect you’re doing it as an easy way of padding out your dwindling plot.
  3. Present tense. I know I’m not there. Unless you’re a genius – you will not convince me I am there. You’re ruining your own magic.
  4. First Person Present Tense – ditto – double, quadruple, infinite times.
  5. Pure filth – some people like it, I don’t.
  6. Using the voice of a child… esp. if it’s about grief. What is this, the Victorian Age? Do not lisp your sentiment at me, I’ll want you to die.
  7. ISSUES esp. aimed at teens. This isn’t Biker Grove. You’re not subsidized by a charity – sod off with that miserable, soul-crushing sanctimony.

Other than that – it’s fabulous, darling!

SAST – April 2017

SAST poster 2017

Tickets: http://www.seetickets.com/tour/short-attention-span-theatre

I’m producing, along with Tom Brogan, & directing, along with Tom Brogan and Jamie Lee McPherson, Short Attention Span Theatre again… This time we have…

Six new short plays:

Flensburg by Cormac Quinn

Working Title by Hannah Morton

North to Muira by Jane Sunderland

Horses With Horns by Richy Walsh

Red Label by Derek Banner

Of Sound Mind by Helen Bang

Starring:

John Love, Derek Banner, Scott Canevy, Hannah Morton, Karen Bartke, Johanna Harper, Megan Green and Calum Beaton.

Glasgow International Comedy Festival 2017 – Love or Money

 

love or money quote poster 2

A double bill of romantic comedies about love and other circumstances.

Vote For Love by Karen Barclay

Suzie Love, stands against her careerist sister, Pamela, in a by-election in order to save a community garden from a high-speed railway, but risks it all by falling in love with her hapless brother-in-law, Archie Harris.

 

Some People by Tom Brogan

www.tombrogan.co.uk

Single parents David and Ruth find themselves at loggerheads when their children are involved in a fight and their ‘punishment’ is to serve on the school board… gradually they realise they have more in common than they first thought.

Cast 

Suzie/Ruth             Natalie Clarke

Archie/David         Paul Kozinski

 

Yellow

vintage queen for a day

On the day of the execution the deposed King refused to leave his bed, holding the thick sheets over his head, as his mother described the yellow embroidered bedspread that used to cover Princess Louise’s bed in the Oval Room (before Lou-Lou was shot) to the bewitched Revolutionaries.

Dentist

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Live – almost – at the Richmond Ballroom, Sharon, watched the filming of Celebrity Dental work… She picked her way past small dogs and plates of food down near the stage heading back up the seating bank from the bar, hoping the next draw would fix her crown.

She refused to look at Reality Star, Emelda Stone, who lay grinning in a complex cage of wires and tubes… although the sound of the drilling and the smell of the burning was harder to ignore.

Tourists

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Susan and Anne posed as tourists, following ‘the mark’ in as crass a way as they could, luring more and more of his security team into the small chapel… while their co-conspirator spent the evening underneath the politician’s car.

My Granny’s Flat

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For some reason I’ve been missing my Gran & Grandpa’s flat in Knightswood, Glasgow, recently.

I miss the mix of 1970s/80s tat and heavy Victorian-ish wooden furniture. And the way it smelt of fags & a coal fire. And the way it was always Sunday, and I played 2nd World War spies in the garden and Cleopatra or Jane Eyre or The Little Princess was on the television.

I miss the hay-wain, the flamenco dancer and the green lady.

I miss the dolly toilet roll cover, the shire horse ornament & the Nessie

I miss the Island of Adventure (not so much – it’s in my room), the reader’s digest, and the bible.

& I miss James Last, Mantovani and Glen Miller.