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Review: Theatre

Cain's Book

Cain's Book

Arches, Glasgow

Mary Brennan

In February 2013, Alan McKendrick edged us into an encounter with the late Alexander Trocchi through (some of the) pages of his last novel, Cain's Book. That first two-hours of live performance was like a masterclass on how to make provocative, entertaining and illuminating theatre on less than half-a-shoestring - the said shoe-string being incorporated into Colin O'Hara's resourceful designs. I doubt if the budget has expanded much since then. But McKendrick's obstinate, visionary commitment to the project is undaunted: this further instalment, again flying the flag of Stewart Laing's Untitled Projects, saw two hours stretch into three, with the pungent addition of a blasting-thrashing live set from avant-rock group Smack Wizards, and a cunningly-crafted, black and white film of children as the drug-taking adult characters voiced (on tape) by Stephanie Viola - having a little lad, in the same houndstooth sweater worn by the on-stage narrators who are all Joe, was just one of those details that murmur of McKendrick's flair and thoroughness.

The footage itself, like the re-iterated 'I'm gonna kick it' sequence where the escalating amount of unpaid rent begs to differ with that statement, had the perfect pitch of Trocchi's own junkie episodes. Awareness heightened - needle-sharp, evocative - yet zoned out, as deadpan as the girly dancers who boogaloo with unblinking gaze or as gently shifting as Joe's scow moored in New York's docklands. Recast - Ian Hanmore replaces Graham F Valentine, but with Lou Prendergast and Ross Mann still on-side - the initial work-in-progress has some tweaks, as well as new sections, but the inherent dynamic continues to be revelatory, celebratory, graphic and inspirational. Even so - four hours? A durational installation? There has to be more chapters.

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