Between the thinks bubble and the speech balloon

Between the thinks bubble and the speech balloon

Oran Mor, Glasgow

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Mary Brennan

Between the munching of pies and the downing of pints, the Oran Mor audience continues to lend an ear to new writing by old hands and newcomers alike, and this piece, devised and directed by Liz Lochhead, offers them a slice of both.

The thread that links the established talents of Lochhead and Tom Leonard with three emerging voices - Henry Bell, Grace Cleary, William Letford - is the whole, gnarly process of being a writer.

For a paying public this isn't necessarily the most sympathetic or interesting topic, but this breezy, often mischievously funny, collage of monologues and poetry manages to jouk round the pitfalls of being self-referential by throwing down a two-fingered gauntlet to creative writing courses where rules regulate not just ideas, but language and with that, identity - the vernacular being sniffed at, like a sweaty armpit.

For Mark, wrestling with his HND "monologue module", Tom Leonard's pungent, playful explorations of words and sounds are pure dead heroic.

So it's an inspirational treat when the cracking cast of five give voice to some of Leonard's evocative Glasgow poems.

But there are other voices in Mark's head and these come courtesy of Bell, Cleary and Letford - the latter's text for the garrulous, ebullient Thomas is the one that really rings true-to-life with its hint of learning difficulties woven into the naive phrases, repetitions and couthy sayings garnered from long-gone grandparents.

The nippy skites at how the education system is trying to codify creativity, self-expression and language are no doubt Lochhead's own, and perhaps a reflection of how commercial success is held up as the real goal for a writer whatever stage they're at in their career.

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