A Crown of Laurels – Paradise in Augustines

Written & Directed by Ryan Hay

Composition & Musical Direction by Lavie Rabinovitz

Design by Danielle Connally

Choose your favourite sexual abuse paintings”, this is a quotation from the website Fine Art America. Wanton Theatre Co presents A Crown of Laurels, an adaptation of Apollo & Daphne, of which the attempted rape of a Greecian nymph by God Apollo is the subject.

Daphne wants to have fun; she’s been planning this evening for months now. Finally, her sisters and friends are all together and about to get leathered. The night doesn’t go to plan, separating from the group, Daphne finds herself in the arms of Olly. Daphne hopes to have found a connection she has been longing for. Olly, a handsome, middle-class white junior lawyer, has other ideas.

In terms of adaptation, it’s by the books. Little has profound development, and if you’re familiar with the original tale or Caroline Kepnes novels – you know the likely outcome. Or, so you would suspect. For the most part, the first act is pleasant, with amiable, at times compelling, vocals courtesy of Herron.

Projection is an issue within Paradise Sanctuary if you don’t have mic set-ups. Although allowing for the live band to receive the correct acoustics, it’s audibility drowns out vocals.

Aesthetically, A Crown of Laurels is stripped back – reliance is on the live band, performance elements and writing. There are however a series of glasses, drinks and cocktails sitting across the stage. In pairs, they are small reminders of the setting, a minute touch showing a working mind behind tiny details.

We suffer drawback in the character of Olly, who, while attempts are made to make him interesting, is notably flat. Hurley in no way turns out poor performance, but he’s overwhelmed by Herron who brings tighter vocals and diverse emotion.

Then it hits, like a truck laden with uncomfortable, unknown by many, truth. A serious monologue about the art world today is the real merit of this production. Faultless in execution, there’s a sense of glass-like fragility in Herron’s voice, but her command of the stage is iron. To discuss the profit made from sexual abuse, desensitisation in the arts community is noble cause we applaud. It’s an issue in discussion for theatrics circles, but less so in the arts community.

A Crown of Laurels has protentional to ripple a community with its direct approach towards the billion-dollar profit on the back of under-age ‘subjects’ and painters historic sexual abuse. With investable characterisation, projection and clearer vocals there’s a defining play here.

Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love

Directed by Nick Broomfield

USA/ 2019/ 102 mins

CalliopeDora MaarPatti SmithGala Dalí and yes, Rhianna all share one thing in common. To one person or a number, they are Muses; inspirational figures who evoke artistic passion into (largely male) writers, painters, sculptors and astronomers. Nick Broomfield’s documentary Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love superficially excavates a 50-year relationship between an artist and his muse.

The Leonard on which Broomfield focuses is the one and only Leonard Cohen. The Canadian singer, poet, novelist and the man behind ‘Hallelujah’, undoubtedly his most well-known song. Marianne Ihlenwas, not only for Cohen, a Norwegian Muse and mother. She was Cohen’s lover, friend and inspiration for ‘So Long, Marianne‘.  His use of the term ‘Words of Love’ ties to various aspects of the documentary, more so than one would first expect. The letters the pair would send to one another, and the songs she would inspire. Despite top-billing, Nick Broomfield’s documentary retains focus on Cohen, with Marianne’s input slinking in and out of focus. His theory seems to derive from her impact rather than the women herself.

From their meeting on the isle of Hydra, we leave Marianne behind as Cohen propels his career into the lands of drugs, sex and religious monasteries. While creating a documentary principally on Cohen, Broomfield intentionally weaves the isle itself into the narrative. Not only examining the pair but Marianne’s influence on other people and the impact she had. A chief success is Broomfield’s brutal discussion on the essence of island life, and those left behind by the sixties counterculture of free love.

Presentation for the production is primarily archive footage and audio clips from numerous sources, chiefly the BBC. One appealing aspect of the documentary is new interviews with the likes of Judy Collins and Ron Cornelius. These offer a substantial reason for fans of Cohen to watch the documentary, and for those unfamiliar, they are the nearest to real engagement we receive. Floating questions, Broomfield allows them to flow into their own stories, allowing for clear answers to the subject, but offhand jokes, stories and insights.

As you watch, you’re forgiven for asking where Ihlen is. Broomfield seems to relegate the driving force of the film into the background. She ebbs and flows, never being too prominent in the documentary. The audio clips and footage, when brought into use, are touching and quite often the documentary’s legitimate points. Perhaps intentionally, she is kept to shadows. Ihlen is not a permanent fixture for these men, but instead, her input is more akin to an occasional guide. Broomfield may place her in high respects but pays respect to the woman as more than a muse. As a mother, friend and human.

Broomfield has an auteurist habit of placing himself within his work, nowhere more so than Marianne & Leonard. Evidently, due to his close involvement with the pair, openly stating his previous position as a lover of Marianne. It’s no wonder that this elevates the documentary outside of the realistic realms. There’s a definite sense of pedestalling both Ihlen and Cohen, the former especially.

There is no doubt in the poignancy of the documentaries deeply compassionate scenes. It’s ending leaps, beyond touching into an earnest look at genuine humanity. Few and far between, small islands of sincerity exist in an ocean of inconclusive intention. Fuelling Broomfield’s documentary is a deep intimacy. It’s a documentary which, despite its namesake, feels less a study on the closeness of the pair or Marianne’s impact and instead, a condensing of Cohen’s life. Broomfield achieves tremendous heart, moments of genuine emotion but frustration in the direction taken.

Review originally published for Wee Review: https://theweereview.com/review/marianne-leonard-words-of-love/

Lauder – Festival Theatre Studio

Original Script by Jimmy Logan

Adapted by Jamie MacDougall & Kally Lloyd-Jones

Directed by Kally Lloyd-Jones

At one moment in history, Harry Lauder was the highest earning entertainer across the globe. He was the first British artist to amass the sale of over one million records. Following the loss of his son in the First World War, he also went on to raise vast sums for returning soldiers. For this, and much more, a knighthood was bestowed to (now) Sir Lauder in 1919, the first one for a performer of music halls.

The story of one of Scotland’s most successful singer-comedian, or as he would prefer minstrel, is a rich one to compact. With such a notable history, Jamie MacDougall tackles the role in a way that would without a doubt make the man himself proud.

MacDougall and director Kally Lloyd-Jones have adapted the original script by Jimmy Logan. Harry Lauder finds himself rehearsing backstage while a single solitary member of the press sits in the audience, offering questions. From this simple jumping point, we cover most of Lauder’s fascinating, star-studded life through dance, melody and nostalgia goggles.

True to the name of a minstrel, Lauder comprises itself around his music, with interjections of historical facts, gags and snippets of crowd japery. From his first pantomime performance of “I Love A Lassie” to the crowd-pleasing behemoth that is “Romain’ in the Gloamin”, a wealth of numbers are performed. Renowned for his voice, MacDougall’s vocals are without question impressive. Perhaps most remarkable is that the sheer force behind his voice is under tremendous control inside the smaller space of the Festival Theatre Studio. He tempers the intensity; we feel how much power is in MacDougall’s voice, and yet he exhibits a playfulness with the lyrics to fit with the tone.

While MacDougall’s vocals add his own touch to Lauder’s own distinct timbres, his characterisation is spot on; from facial expression to shifting his entire body to push for authenticity. It’s intimate theatre with a strong sense of an almost one on one conversation taking place before us. With the piano, along with his costume pieces on stage, MacDougall and Lloyd-Jones production benefits from the updating of Logan’s script. The video projections – chiefly of war-time documentary footage – are a pleasant touch but could have been utilised on a broader scale. Its use is sporadic, and its lost potential is evident during the costume changes.

Perhaps though, it may simply be desiring more of a good thing. The same is valid for the anecdotes MacDougall shares with us, which are just as sought after as the music. They’re infrequent to begin with, becoming more prevalent as Lauder reaches his semi-retirement. They make for the human insight to the man behind the sporran, MacDougall carrying them well. The news of his son’s passing, revealed in a telegram on New Year’s Eve is the poignant moment. One not used to milk emotion, instead, Lauder’s brief recollection leadings into the dedications and memories of Lauder’s son.

There are two groups of people who will sit with honest smiles, devoid of pretence. The first is children, experiencing something magical for the first time. The second, a crowd who are re-living that magic which would conjure happiness and see them through sorrowful times. Lauder is a wee smasher of a treat: big in performance, large in heart and enormous in character. So, before you depart – have a “Wee Deoch An’ Doris”for Sir Harry Lauder and this excellent portrayal courtesy of MacDougall.

Review originally published for Wee Review: https://theweereview.com/review/lauder/