CHOICE OF THE WEEK AHEAD:
1 NUTCRACKER! THEATRE ROYAL, GLASGOW, FROM TUESDAY, 7.30PM; MATINEE THURSDAY, 2.30PM
If you believe that the Nutcracker is a Christmas treat, add the name of Matthew Bourne – the man who made the lake’s swans all-male – to the title and you’ll find it can be a sweet treat for all seasons.
Bourne is a master of clear, vivid storytelling, so there’s no need to keep flicking from stage to programme page to keep up with the action here. From the moment the curtain rises on a grim Dickensian orphanage, where even a broken toy is a welcome surprise for the resident waifs, you’re hooked into a narrative that takes the familiar ballet plot-line (such as it is) in a thrillingly fresh direction. There’s more than a whiff of old Hollywood movies in Bourne’s treatment: poor girl meets dream boy; boy is snaffled by conniving rich bitch, leaving poor girl close to heartbreak; surprise happyending twist sends everyone home on a cloud of pink candyfloss.
Tchaikovsky’s score delivers candy kisses to the ears. The costumes of the characters in Sweetieland are a mouthwatering feast of witty invention, and the choreography itself dances merrily from a swishy skaters’ waltz to a spectacular wedding-cake number that pays an affectionate tribute to that master-confectioner of Hollywood musical extravaganza, Busby Berkeley. This isn’t just any Nutcracker, it’s Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker! Buy a ticket and taste the difference.
2 GEORGE WYLLIE MACLAURIN GALLERIES, ROZELLE PARK, AYR, FROM TODAY, 10AM TO 5PM
He’s the nation’s finest visual lateral thinker – and still under-appreciated for that. Gourock’s self-styled “scul?tor” is a man who takes complex ideas and translates them into easy-to-appreciate, popular art. Put him in any context – a boat on the Clyde, the Milan triennale, CRM’s Hill House in Helensburgh, the corporate collections of Scotland’s top companies – and George Wyllie’s work has something to say. A man who came to making art later in life, it is nonetheless now 40 years since he had his first exhibition at the Harbour Arts Centre in Irvine. This new show, in the same neck of the woods and at a venue that has played host to the Wyllie oeuvre before, presents a selection of works from his own collection, including some of his popular spire sculptures and those ever-present birds of different shapes and sizes.
That’s not all: the inspirations for the show also include the fictional figure of Para Handy, the Clyde puffer skipper, and Tom Mix, the much-married cowboy actor of the silver screen whose seminal persona influenced the young John Wayne and future president of the United States Ronald Reagan. That is close, interestingly, to the theme being explored by a younger generation at a new show at Edinburgh’s Fruitmarket (see Sarah Urwin Jones on Page 6). Closer at hand, Wyllie also acknowledges the influence of Robert Burns, whose cottage is just down the road. “I am not a Burns scholar,” he says, “but the simple eloquence of his work has permeated and coincides with my own attitudes.”
3 A SCOTS HELICON MITCHELL LIBRARY, GLASGOW,DURING AYE WRITE! UNTIL MARCH 22
The title refers to the mountain home of the nine muses of ancient Greek mythology, but this nonet are Scots writers, captured in drawing and paint in an exhibition by artist Anna Caro. Dilys Rose, the poet of the party, has contributed an introduction to the pocket-sized catalogue for the show in which she observes: “In these portraits there’s as much commitment to convey the inner life of the subjects as to capture any external likeness. Has she stolen our souls? I don’t think so. I’m more inclined to think, in capturing our likenesses, she has given us some part of herself.”
In addition to Rose, the literary mountain dwellers are crime writers Louise Welsh, Val McDermid and Denise Mina; children’s authors Joan Lingard and Helen Dunwoodie; and grown-up writers AL Kennedy, Kate Atkinson and Margaret Elphinstone. Caro, who trained at Edinburgh College of Art and has exhibited in England and the US as well as locally, was moved to undertake the project when she noticed how few women writers were in the collection of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery – although it might be pointed out that the current crop of women writers is certainly without
precedent in Scotland’s literary history. Good to see Aye Write! having a visual element, however, when the Mitchell has recently taken on a new role as a gallery space.
4 JUDITH BOWERS ON THE BRITANNIA PANOPTICON AYE WRITE! MITCHELL LIBRARY, GLASGOW, THURSDAY 7.30PM
When people first began to talk about Glasgow’s old music hall, preserved if dilapidated above an amusement arcade and a clothing warehouse on Argyle Street, it was usually through the proselytising of a young woman called Judith. At that time a readily identifiable member of the tribe known as goths, and black of clothing, hair and heavy eye make-up, her unconventional appearance (at least in civic heritage and arts history circles), as well as her huge enthusiasm for the venue were equally crucial in making people take its future seriously. There was something entirely appropriate about the fact that the restoration of a venue that once boasted freak shows, burlesque and waxworks was being championed by someone who had grown up a member of the most theatrically inspired of teen clans.
Ms Bowers has now shaken off that look, even if it is still an integral part of the venue, which has seen performances by the High Tease burlesque troupe and Minty Donald’s pianola-driven Glimmers in Limbo installation (phase two of which is now going down another compelling track altogether at Tramway). She is no less theatrical, though, and her session here promises to include her own versions of classic tunes last seen when Leonard Sachs extravagantly introduced The Good Old Days on television. The excuse for her appearance at a book festival, however, is the excellent work she has written as a result of her researches into the history of the theatre she loves: Stan Laurel and Other Stars of the Panopticon.
5 THE UNCONQUERED THE CAVES, EDINBURGH, WEDNESDAY TO FRIDAY, 7.30PM
Not the 1954 movie about Helen Keller, but the 2007 Critics’ Award for Theatre in Scotland’s Best New Play winner, out on the road for a month-long tour in a revival production with an entirely new cast. When he first saw it at the Byre in St Andrews more than a year ago, our theatre critic Neil Cooper praised Muriel Romanes’s “neo-expressionist production, heightened even further by Keith McIntyre’s comic-book design”, adding that Torben Betts’s script was “a play not only in love with its own artifice, but which remains audacious enough to state the obvious in an at-times startling fashion”.
With Kevin McMonagle waiting for Godot at the Citz, Neil McKinven comes into a completely fresh cast that also includes Nicola Harrison, Alexandra Mathie and Neal Barry. The tour is kicking off in one of those Edinburgh Old Town venues that is usually only pressed into service during the Fringe (when it is part of the Underbelly empire) and comes into Glasgow’s Tron from April 8.
Last year the Guardian opined that The Unconquered was “exactly the kind of demanding, theatrical and adventurous show you’d want to see on a UK tour” but it is actually going further than that as one of the Brits Off Broadway season in Manhattan in May.
Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker! is a unique take on the classic tale;The Unconquered is performedwithinEdinburgh’sCaves;Judith Bowers speaks about the history of the Britannia Panopticon at the Aye Write! festival; George Wyllie’s exhibit opens at the Maclaurin Galleries
PICTURES: ROSS MCDAIRMANT/CENTRE PRESS AGENCY; CHRIS JAMES