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Janis Joplin: Full Tilt, Oran Mor, Glasgow – 17th September, 2015

Janis Joplin Full Tilt

You know something is good when you keep going back. I’ve seen the show Janis Joplin: Full Tilt, three times. Every time it’s been amazing, due to the stellar performance by Angie Darcy in the lead role. I can’t imagine anyone else depicting the singer’s triumphs and ultimately tragic end.

Janis’s story is told through a mixture of song and theatre bringing her character to life. We hear how she struggled to fit in in her native Texas where she was born in 1943. How she went to California to make music, where she partied hard, how she returned home but found the lure of music and the pull of California too strong and she returned in 1966. Peppered throughout the show are her famous hits including Piece of My Heart, which hit the number one spot, as well as the yearning Mercedes Benz and Kris Kristofferson’s gorgeous country ballad Me And Bobby Gee (a new and welcome addition for this updated version of the show).

Angie Darcy as Janis Joplin

Angie Darcy as Janis Joplin

Her larger than life character commands the stage where she is backed by an excellent supportive band. But for all the brash confidence, displays of flamboyance, and obvious talent, underneath is a vulnerable woman who harbours a need for love and acceptance.

We see her life sadly unravelling leading to her death, alone in a hotel room in 1970. She was 27.

The play is based on the singer’s own transcripts and as the lights go down, Angie Darcy remains silent, allowing a crackly recording of Janis’s voice to speak to us through the darkness.

The play was originally formed for Oran Mor’s A Play, A Pie and A Pint series, written by Peter Arnott and directed by Cora Bissett in association with Regular Music and supported by the National Theatre of Scotland.  It has since gone on tour to win many deserved awards and critical acclaim.

Janis Joplin

Janis Joplin

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Filed under Glasgow, Live Music Reviews, Music, Theatre reviews

Theatre: Black Watch, SECC, Glasgow April 4, 2013

Black Watch 2013

Picture credit: NTS

It’s seven years since the National Theatre of Scotland’s Black Watch made its debut in Edinburgh, and it’s still one of the best pieces of theatre you will ever see.

NTS - Black Watch

The story, based on writer Gregory Burke’s interviews with former soldiers from the Fife regiment who served in Iraq, is told with a brutal honesty.

The men were lured away from the boredom of Fife with the excitement of guns, the promise of admiration from girls who love a soldier, the prospect of playing footie with your mates on sunny foreign lands, and a steady job and income.

But if they were bored in Fife, they were equally bored in Iraq, but placed in a foreign land where all is unfamiliar, unpredictable and dangerous. With expletive-laden dialogue, there’s no glamour. War isn’t romanticized.

Stuart Martin, Richard Rankin, Alan McNamara - Picture Credit: NTS

Stuart Martin, Richard Rankin, Alan McNamara
Picture Credit: NTS

There’s a lot of hanging around, waiting in the searing dusty heat. They have time and they have questions. Ultimately it’s not the job they signed up for. To pass the boredom there’s in-fighting and chat about food they miss from home, as one soldier relays the mundane minutiae of his local Chinese takeaway menu.

It’s hard to imagine two more differing worlds, than that of Fife and Iraq and the stage continually transitioned seamlessly between the two. Every prop was used to great effect and there’s the most surprising and innovate uses for a pool table you will ever see. The dialogue is brutally funny, brash and vulgar. One of the most entertaining characters is the pompous and blustering Lord Elgin, and an excellent performance by Stephen McCole.

But cut through the swearing, bravado, and in-fighting boredom, and suddenly one scene sneaks up like a stealth bomber to assault your emotions. The soldiers receive letters from home – the dialogue is redundant. The brash words replaced by silence as each soldier conveys their words and emotions by gentle hand and arm movements. The well-placed music of Yann Tiersen heightens this already tender moment, which renders the audience silent and thoughtful.

Music is put to brilliant effect all during the play and also includes The Flowers of the Forest played live on bagpipes and music from Davey Anderson including the Gallant Forty Twa.

Scott Fletcher and Robert Jack Picture Credit: NTS

Scott Fletcher and Robert Jack
Picture Credit: NTS

Directed by John Tiffany, the play has won 22 awards and played to more than 212,000 people. The 12 strong cast of this production features outstanding performances, particularly from Scott Fletcher as Kenzie, Robert Jack as Sergeant and Stuart Martin as Cammy.

The choreography from Steven Hoggett is visually stunning, with a brilliant display of the proud regiment’s roots told through a series of cleverly orchestrated costume changes on stage.

And an interesting contrast was that of seemingly putting battle to ballet.
The subtleties of movement and dance were almost balletic in their approach, and they were used to dramatic effect to show macho aggressiveness and fighting.

By the final scene there was another battle, that of trying desperately to hold on, with a choreographed finale of tenderness, friendship, caring, as well as sheer exhaustion, futility and sadness.

With Davey Anderson’s Parade played to a swelling swirl of bagpipes, the soldiers proudly and resolutely march side by side. Then with increasing fervour, comes the fighting, the falling, the exhaustion, the picking up, the carrying on, the fighting, the falling …

It’s beautiful, balletic, and amazingly powerful. This scene will stay etched in your mind … and heart for a long time after.

The show is now touring at Norfolk and Norwich Festival before moving to Seattle and San Francisco.

For more information see: National Theatre of Scotland website

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Filed under Glasgow, National Theatre of Scotland, Theatre reviews