One Thinks Of It All as a Dream

Oran Mor, Glasgow

Mary Brennan

four stars

THE LAST song that Syd Barrett ever wrote for Pink Floyd, in 1968, begins: “It's awfully considerate of you to think of me here...” before musing on a state of mind that hints at bewildered fragmentation. As Alan Bissett’s play (directed by Sasha Kyle) makes poignantly clear, countless fans – and indeed the members of Pink Floyd – kept Barrett in their thoughts long after he had physically left the group. Mentally and emotionally he was long gone before that.

No-one can say for sure why Barrett became the “crazy diamond” achingly evoked in a subsequent Pink Floyd anthem. Was he already mentally ill before he became the band’s lead guitarist/singer and songwriter? Did the repetitive stress of touring the same material – plus the stress of coming up with new hits – push him to distance himself through increasingly wilful behaviour? Or was it ingesting copious amounts of LSD that sent his highly-coloured view of the world into overload?

Bissett’s lovingly and intensively researched play, commissioned for the current Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival, side-steps posthumous speculation and doesn’t insist on any one specific trigger for Barrett’s idiosyncratic conduct. He opts, instead, for a wonderfully touching portrait of a beautiful, hugely talented boy, who seemed ill-equipped to deal with the routine realities of life. And by book-ending the piece with two extracts from Wind in the Willows – chapter seven, where Moley and Ratty find otter’s missing son in the care of the god Pan – Bissett conjures up the childhood influences that fed Barrett’s imagination with the whimsy, mysticism and love of nature he wove into his songs. If Euan Cuthbertson is a beguilingly wayward Barrett, his bandmates – Andrew John Tait, Ewan Petrie and David James Kirkwood – briskly ensure that the hard edged demands of commercial success make their presence felt as the dream implodes for Barrett.

Sponsored by Heineken