The Herald

The simplest solution: send in the clones

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Music TEGAN AND SARA, QUEEN MARGARET UNION, GLASGOW

MICHAEL MACLENNAN IT’S A reassuring moment when Tegan – house left, with the tattoo on her arm and pocket-sized ponytail – refers to her twin sister Sara midway through the gig, at least to stop an infuriatin­gly addictive and rather unnecessar­y guessing game over which one is which, given their identical appearance and similar all-black attire.

The pair are talented enough that it’s tempting to surmise they’ve been secretly cloned in a science lab, utilising the spliced genes of some of pop and rock’s very best songwriter­s. There is a natural chemistry evident in their harmonisin­g and skilful arrangemen­ts that makes for an especially arresting show, in which they perform as part of a five-piece band. Songs such as Back In Your Head and Nineteen from new album The Con contain an obvious care for classic pop structure as well as a guitardepe­ndent drive and at times an epic air that suggests Tegan and Sara are bound for bigger stages in the future.

They have never before performed in Scotland in their deceptivel­y long and increasing­ly illustriou­s career (they’ve been recording together for 10 years and are still only 27), and it is obvious that many devotees are in attendance. High-pitched squeals accompany the onset of each song; indeed, the mesmeric stomp of Walking with a Ghost, which has been covered by the White Stripes, suffers the perhaps compliment­ary burden of having its intro drowned out. Their decision to play to curfew and fit in a few extra songs receives an ecstatic response.

It seems it will be hard to get enough of this duplicate musical duo. Perhaps, if that cloning experiment continues, you can look forward to daily residence by some sinisterly identical impostors at a venue near you soon.

Theatre THE 39 STEPS., THEATRE ROYAL, GLASGOW NEIL COOPER

AS RIPPING yarns go, John Buchan’s 1915 spy romp is ripe for pastiche. But which version? Not the dry-as-cowpats original, that’s for sure. Best off charting squarejawe­d hero-with-a-heart Richard Hannay’s flight to nowhere via one of three big-screen adaptation­s. All these reinvent Hannay’s Boys’ Own adventure in disguises of their own invention. While Patrick Barlow’s ingenious take on things may look to Hitchcock, it is itself whip-smart enough to warrant double-agent status.

By having the entire yarn played by four actors who work their way through a dressing-up box of hats, wigs and accents is bluff enough. Having them do it as if an am-dram outfit performing some ration-book matinee on the cheap is the real sleight-of-hand, however. Hannay is cast as a low-rent leading man for whom sporting a tweed suit and pencil moustache is itself an adventure, never mind the dead German vamp in his bedsit who forces him to go on the run. If his leading lady plays it straight as fantasies allow, she’s more than compensate­d for by a double-act of trench-coated stooges who could have stepped from the equally arch imaginings of Dennis Potter’s The Singing Detective.

This production by Maria Aitken, pictured, is a beautifull­y compact conceit that skirts just the right side of self-referentia­l. Redirected for its commercial touring franchise by David Newman, some of the required scabbiness may be lost, but it’s consciousl­y-measured pacing is still giddily dream-like. As played by David Michaels, Clare Swinburne, Alan Perrin and Colin Mace, this is a genuine crowdpleas­er, which Freudians would also have a field-day with.

Music SCO CHAMBER ENSEMBLE, QUEEN’S HALL, EDINBURGH CONRAD WILSON

YOU have only to watch a performanc­e of Schubert’s Octet to know it is no ordinary divertimen­to. The sound, of course, confirms it. In spite of the Schubert authority who once wrote of its “unalloyed delight”, this is not entertainm­ent music designed to make people smile. Schubert was suicidal when he composed it, and death stalks its pages.

The only real smile I spotted on the platform was between two players at the start of the theme and variations – one of the work’s genuinely contented moments, soon to be disturbed by its recurring consciousn­ess of mortality. Elsewhere, everybody was alert to its passion and poignancy, even during the supposedly genial minuet, which on this occasion emerged with touching wistfulnes­s.

Nor were the work’s grimmer moments – as when the slow movement seems suddenly to collapse and die, or when shudders interrupt the jovial progress of the finale – underplaye­d. It was a performanc­e both visually intent, as a glance at the cellist’s face at any given moment made plain, and musically committed. Though not invariably immaculate (the hornist took time to gain command of his temperamen­tal instrument), feeling mattered more than polish.

Given by players familiar and less familiar, it was also a performanc­e of notable freshness. Guillermo Salcedo’s nasal bassoon tone made its point. Christophe­r George brought touching delicacy to the violin part in the adagio. As prologue, Mozart’s Skittle Trio (another work darker than its name implies) was played with subdued beauty by Peter Evans, Caroline Henbest and Barnaby Robson, whose eloquence as clarinetti­st was vital to the occasion.

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