The New Maw Broon Monologues &
Tron Theatre, Glasgow,
both run ended
Reviewed by Mark Brown
Glasgay!, Clydeside’s annual festival of arts for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their friends, ended its 20th anniversary edition last night. It is a tremendous achievement, not least because, from Mayfest to the more recently deceased New Moves programme, festivals have a nasty habit of coming a cropper in Glasgow.
Over its two decades, Glasgay! has always had a strong theatre offering, boasting such great names as Neil Bartlett, Liz Lochhead, Ian Mckellen, Edwin Morgan and Louise Welsh. The 2013 programme continued the festival’s commitment to theatre with no fewer than seven productions.
Perhaps the most prominent theatre show this year was The New Maw Broon Monologues, by another of the festival’s big names, Jackie Kay. Four years after its predecessor premiered at Glasgay!, this updated comic-musical sees Terry Neason and Suzanne Bonnar back together as Maw and her black alter-ego Brüne.
New elements in Kay’s script include the independence debate (Maw’s undecided, unlike her indy-minded other self) and the bedroom tax (Maw’s all for it, but only if it means being able to charge Paw for farting in bed or stumbling, drunk into the bedroom, fish supper in hand). As in 2009, Neason and Bonnar render the dialogues-cum-internal-monologues and the fine songs (this time by the excellent Alan Penman as well as Tom Urie) with endearing wit and fine voice.
The show retains the humour and pathos of the original as it gently prods the very Scottish nostalgia, and the assumed heterosexuality, of Auchenshuggle’s most famous family. Amanda Stoodley’s set, a beautifully illuminated jigsaw of Broons cartoons, complete with an inverted tenement staircase hovering over the heads of the two Maws, is a delight. Likewise Penman, who plays the keyboard in the character of Daphne, and gives hilarious performances as various Broons.
A charming and modest piece of theatre though this is, it does suffer from a uniformity of pace and tone. Consequently, at 85-minutes, it seems a tad too long.
As Kay’s show played out the festival in the Tron’s main auditorium, Donna Rutherford was upstairs in the venue’s Changing House studio theatre performing Wilful Forgetting, her one-woman piece co-written with Martin O’Connor. Drawing together, as Rutherford’s devised theatre often does, diverse elements – such as live performance, recorded music, live song, audio recordings, still photographs, video and baking – the piece is a sometimes touching reflection on idealised notions of the family, and how they impact, often negatively, upon our lives.
In particular, the work focuses upon a strained relationship between a gay son and his unaccepting, heterosexual mother. Through the disembodied voice of the man and Rutherford’s own monologues (spoken, sometimes a little uncertainly, from prompt cards), we gain an insight into the pain and justified anger of the man, but also the anguish of his mother.
The piece shifts wildly between observations which are original, moving and insightful, and others which, in their more straightforwardly sociological inclinations, are more banal. Its presentation is similarly uneven, leaving this occasionally affecting show feeling somewhat incomplete.
These reviews were originally published in the Sunday Herald on November 10, 2013
© Mark Brown