The Ladykillers

The Ladykillers

Pitlochry Festival Theatre

Neil Cooper

The dramatic and musical cacophony that dovetails the two acts of Graham Linehan's audacious adaptation of William Rose's classic Ealing comedy speaks volumes about the post-Second World War little Britain occupied by the disparate gang of get-rich-quick villains at the play's heart.

By posing as a string quartet, the charming Professor Marcus and his coterie of crooks made up of a cross-dressing major, a pill-popping teddy-boy, a muscle-headed sidekick and a European psychopath may appear respectable in the eyes of Marcus's new landlady, Mrs Wilberforce. Yet, as with the revolving set that allows the audience in to Mrs Wilberforce's crumbling pile in Richard Baron's slickly realised revival, it's easy to see beyond the polite facade towards something messier and more complex.

While Mrs Wilberforce is spotting Nazi spies in the newsagent, the dog-eat-dog aspirations of Marcus and co points to a crueller future beyond the never-had-it-so-good years to come. Other than Marcus's declaration to Mrs Wilberforce when she becomes an accidental accomplice to the crime that "We're all in this together," this is never overplayed in Baron's exquisitely realised affair.

As the last gasps of old orders seem to triumph even as they're falling apart, Linehan's version doesn't put a bomb under Rose's original screenplay, exactly, but you know there's one lurking undiscovered in the long grass.

Granville Sexton mines an ambivalent vein of malevolence and ridiculousness as Marcus, with Sally Grace's Mrs Wilberforce the trusting face of old-school decency who gets lucky despite herself. If these two are two sides of the same coin, the end result is a moral victory that these days looks like the most whimsical of wishful thinking.

Colquhoun and Macbryde

Tron Theatre, Glasgow

Neil Cooper

Long before anyone invented the make-believe Glasgow miracle, Robert Colquhoun and Robert Macbryde were creating a set of artistic mythologies that set the tone for much that followed.

Kilmarnock-born and Glasgow School of Art trained, as painters and lovers the two Roberts blazed a drink-sodden trail through bohemian London that saw them hailed as boy wonders before being spoilt by bad behaviour and sidelined by the more voguish face of abstract expressionism.

Few have identified the talents of Glasgow's original artistic double act more than John Byrne, whose original 1992 romp through their messy lives has here been condensed into a suitably wild two-man version in Andy Arnold's production for the Tron in association with the Glasgay! festival.

The bare backside of a sprawled-out Macbryde being painted by his partner-in-crime at the top of the show sets the tone for the tempestuous and emotionally naked roller-coaster ride that follows.

As they move from Hope Street to Soho, and from poverty to flavour of the month and back again, it's as if each are racing to their own downfall.

Andy Clark and Stephen Clyde throw themselves into Arnold's production with suitable abandon as they roar their way across a set of chaise longues, easels and other artistic apparel, giving full vent to Byrne's baroque vernacular and deadly one-liners.

The show is worth seeing too for the accuracy of Byrne's facsimiles of his subjects' canvasses, as well as a large-scale Jackson Pollock forgery that may or may not be just "wallpaper."

With a major retrospective of Colquhoun and Macbryde set to open shortly at the National Gallery of Scotland, it seems the two Roberts have finally made it, no miracles required.


Arches, Glasgow

Mary Brennan

It was 2005 when Al Seed first held audiences in thrall with The Factory.

His character then was an embodiment of power in various shades of aggro, corruption, brinkmanship and equivocation.

Seed was demonic and grotesque: a clown, a dictator, scary - especially when smiling. Now comes the companion piece to that force-field of mayhem and menace: OOG.

The war is over, and Seed's character is locked in a cellar, huddled inside a vast great-coat, head sunk inside the collar like a defensive tortoise.

When he does emerge, we see echoes of the Factory-man in the black slash of mouth and eye-brows but one eye is maybe missing, and the tufty clumps of hair are definitely a clown-cut.

OOG is steeped in aftermath and clearly Seed's character didn't have the "good war" he intended.

He conjures up (and re-enacts) memories of those days when he was Mr Convivial, proud of his rank - hand straying to the pips on his shoulder, as he chit-chats to invisible others - but as the booze takes hold, so too does the rage and frustration.

Imagination runs riot, in episodes where, manga-like, he morphs into an insect-predator with deadly pincers.

But there's nothing to fight but his own inner demons, and Seed's compellingly-nuanced physicality peoples the newspaper-strewn space with them.

Upstage, a ladder leads into - a rubbish chute? a missile launch-tube? Like the meaning of 'oog', it's never spelled out.

As a sequel to The Factory, it's a brilliant denouement but OOG works, impressively, in its own right with Seed in storming form.