Shin­ing a light on laws that are used to de­monise ‘ oth­ers’

The Scotsman - - REVIEWS - JOYCE MCMILLAN

Toy Plas­tic Chicken

Oran Mor, Glas­gow

THE scene is one of Scot­land’s largest air­ports, dur­ing a rout i ne f l i ght s ecu­rit y check. Rachel is head­ing to Is­tan­bul for a much- needed tourist break; but when her hand lug­gage comes alive, thanks to a bat­tery- op­er­ated egg- lay­ing toy chicken she bought on an im­pulse as a gift, se­cu­rity man Ross starts to over­re­act in ways that rapidly be­come very fright­en­ing in­deed.

What’s i nter­est­ing about Uma Nada- Ra­jah’s new Play, Pie And Pint lunchtime drama, though, is that rather than stereo­typ­ing Ross and his col­league Emma as a pair of bul­ly­ing and pos­si­bly racist con­trol- freaks, it in­stead probes deeply and dispir­it­ingly into the ways in which leg­is­la­tion like Bri­tain’s cur­rent dra­co­nian anti- ter­ror­ism law, par­tic­u­larly when com­bined with poor and in­se­cure work­ing con­di­tions, can turn per­fectly nor­mal, kindly peo­ple into will­ing proto- fas­cists. Ross is des­per­ate both to keep his job and to move up a grade, and sees in Rachel’s chicken an op­por­tu­nity to win some anti- ter­ror­ist brownie points; Emma re­luc­tantly goes along with his plan, al­though she has other things on her mind.

So Rachel soon finds her­self be­ing grilled un­der the terms of leg­is­la­tion and guide­lines that are essen­tially de­signed to frame any­one the au­thor­i­ties see as sus­pi­cious; any­one who has e ver pub­lic - ly dis­agreed with a gov­ern­ment pol­icy, prac­tised any form of re­li­gion, fallen out with their fam­ily, or un­der­gone dozens of other or­di­nary life ex­pe­ri­ences. Even­tu­ally, Ross – sharply played by David James Kirk­wood – de­cides that Emma must sub­ject Rachel to a full body search; and in that mo­ment, in Paul Brother­ston’s ra­zor­sharp pro­duc­tion, Neshla Ca­plan as Rachel, and Anna Rus­sell Martin as Emma, de­liver a truly stun­ning image of two women forced into a sit­u­a­tion where one is com­pelled

Ca­plan as Rachel and David James Kirk­wood as Ross

to hu­mil­i­ate the other, to her own pal­pa­ble mis­ery. NadaRa­jah’s play is based on a re­al­life in­ci­dent; and if ever you wanted an in­sight into how pro­foundly il­lib­eral law it­self helps to cre­ate and le­git­imise fascis­tic at­ti­tudes, then this hard- edged and beau­ti­ful­ly­ob­served short play de­liv­ers it, in a pro­duc­tion to re­mem­ber.

The Worst Witch – play­ing its only Scot­tish dates at the King’s Theatre this week – is also a show that knows where it stands po­lit­i­cally, as ac­ci­den­tal trainee witch Mil­dred finds her­self at Miss Cackle’s Witch­ing Acad­emy, up against as­sorted forces of snob­bery, in­her­ited priv­i­lege, and – af­ter Miss Cackle’s wicked twin Agatha ap­pears on the scene – the ugly might- is- right at­ti­tudes of a truly evil au­thor­i­tar­ian per­son­al­ity.

Nowa­days, the mere men­tion of a school story about witch­ing or wiz­ard­ing con­jures up im­ages of Harry Pot­ter. Worst Witch au­thor Jill Mur­phy, though, pub­lished her first book 20 years be­fore JK Rowl­ing first put pen to pa­per; and Emma Reeeves’s bliss­fully witty stage ver­sion – with half a

Lis­ter is both kindly Miss Cackle and her ghastly twin

dozen ex­cel­lent songs by Luke Pot­ter, fine ensem­ble chore­og­ra­phy by Beverely Nor­risEd­munds, and a gor­geous allpur­pose set by Si­mon Daw – is beau­ti­fully di­rected by Theresa He­skins, and per­formed by a ter­rific, life- en­hanc­ing allfe­male cast of ten, led by Danielle Bird as Mil­dred, and Polly Lis­ter as both kindly Miss Cackle, and her ghastly dop­pel­gänger of a twin.

Also aimed at younger au­di­ences – and specif­i­cally at chil­dren with pro­found autism – is In­de­pen­dent Arts Project’s Sound Sym­phony, pro­duced in as­so­ci­a­tion with Ed­in­burgh’s Cap­i­tal The­atres, and now on tour across Scot­land. The fi­nal judg­ment on this show must lie with the chil­dren who see it, and their fam­i­lies; but to me, El­lie Grif­fiths’s show seemed like a joy­ful and ex­quis­ite piece of work, beau­ti­fully de­signed by Katy Wil­son and lit by Colin Gren­fell, and com­posed and per­formed with ter­rific sen­si­tiv­ity and ex­u­ber­ance by three mu­si­cian- the­atremak­ers, Greg Sin­clair, So­nia Al­lori and Shiori Usui.

The i dea i s t o cre­ate t he most re­laxed pos­si­ble jour­ney through sound, from for­mal or­ches­tral play­ing on cello, clar­inet and marimba, to sounds gen­er­ated by pa­per, or bub­ble- wrap, or hun­dreds of tiny plas­tic spoons. And to judge by the de­light on the faces of some of the chil­dren, as they joined in to try out the in­stru­ments or ex­am­ine the wind- ma­chine blow­ing red petals across the stage, Sound Sym­phony i s a s how t hat strikes the right note, in open­ing up new ex­pe­ri­ences for chil­dren who may strug­gle to cope with theatre in its more con­ven­tional forms.

0 Neshla

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