There are some tasks I mentally file away under the classification of "Glass Mountain without crampons".
But Alan McKendrick is a singularly determined sort, bonded to the late Alexander Trocchi's last novel, Cain's Book, ever since he read it as a schoolboy and subsequently hankered to open it up to wider audiences. This work-in-progress – put together in three weeks, under the auspices of Stewart Laing's Untitled Projects and The Arches – is the first step in that ambitious direction, and a thoroughly engrossing one at that.
Cain's Book, published in 1960, has no plot as such. Its mosaic-fragments of Glasgow memories, family frictions, captaining a scow on New York's Hudson River and – most provocatively at the time – evocatively graphic episodes of drug-taking, sex and addiction are tinged with autobiographical recall alongside cogently analytical (and crusading) reflections on being a junkie.
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It's too dense, complex and experimental in its own structure to come to heel in a couple of hours, so McKendrick has adapted and directed about a quarter of it into a mix of live performance, film, deliciously nihilistic little ditties and even an interval interlude of deadpan dance. Taken together, this catches at the poetic bleakness that grips the prose, the sense of alienation that percolates through main character Joe Necchi's observations on the past and present, which themselves jumble together in flashbacks and flourishes of immediate, drug-heightened awareness.
A cast of three – Ross Mann, Lou Prendergast and Graham F Valentine – deliver a composite Necchi plus others, with Valentine especially in his element as the boomingly garrulous Swede who so irritates Necchi even as he amuses us. You're left wanting more, of course. This whole project could get seriously addictive...