Reviews: Richard Alston Dance Company & Rambert

DANCE REVIEWS

 

Richard Alston Dance Company

Seen at Festival Theatre, Edinburgh;

Playing Theatre Royal, Glasgow,

November 23

 

Rambert

Seen at Festival Theatre, Edinburgh;

Playing His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen

February 15-17, 2018

 

Reviewed by Mark Brown

Richard Alston - Chacony
Chacony by Richard Alston Dance Company. Photo: Chris Nash

Richard Alston, acclaimed choreographer and artistic director of his own celebrated dance company, is one of the true gentlemen of the dance world. A fact that was further attested to in Edinburgh, where his company played on September 22.

A long-time patron of youth dance in the UK, Alston invited the Re:Volution Youth Dance Company from Inverurie to raise the curtain, not only on the Edinburgh show, but on the entire autumn tour. Before the youngsters’ performance, Alston came on-stage to praise the energy and invention of their piece, which is entitled Into The Shadows.

He was entirely justified in doing so. The Aberdeenshire youth company showed tremendous technical ability in presenting an exciting, sharp work which bristles with  tension and cooperative ingenuity.

The London-based Richard Alston Dance Company (RADC) itself tends to stand at the gentler, more balletic end of the contemporary dance spectrum. There are no pointes and no tutus, but nor is there much of the high modernist experimentalism of the likes of Pina Bausch’s Tanztheater Wuppertal or (stars of August’s Edinburgh International Festival) Nederlands Dans Theater.

There is no value judgment contained within this observation. In fact, there is something rather charming in what one might call the quasi-balletic contemplation in Alston’s work.

The reflections in the programme presented in Edinburgh were primarily musical in nature. The opening piece, a world premiere entitled Carnaval, is danced to Robert Schumann’s lovely piano composition of the same name (which is played dexterously, live on stage, by Jason Ridgway).

In the midst of the splendour of an early-19th century ball, the young Schumann exposes his beloved, young wife Clara to the two sides of his personality; which he named Eusebius (his cool, centred self) and Florestan (the wilder, uneasy aspect of his character). On a stylishly minimalist set, which is lent a period grandeur by five chandeliers, Clara (danced beautifully by Elly Braund) is charmed by Eusebius (the excellent Liam Riddick) and, quite literally, swept off her feet by Nicholas Bodych’s wonderfully combustible Florestan.

From a polarised human personality to the contrasting and pleasingly compatible musical styles of Henry Purcell and Benjamin Britten in Chacony. Purcell’s very English rendering of the baroque musical form known as “chaconne” is followed by Britten’s equally English, yet strikingly modern, composition, which references the work by Purcell.

The starkly colourful, impressively simple sets and costumes combine perfectly with a choreography that (like the music to which it is danced) emphasises contrast, continuity and control. It is performed (and, notably, concludes) with an understated sense of drama.

The most explosively dramatic work of the evening, however, was Alston’s Gypsy Mixture (a 2004 piece restaged here by RADC’s associate choreographer Martin Lawrance). A celebration of the effervescent and diverse cultural life of the many communities of travelling and Romany peoples, it is made of high-octane dances to six pieces of fast-paced dance music from the extraordinary album Electric Gypsyland.

Gloriously informal and celebratory, breaking suddenly from precision to freedom, Alston’s diverse choreography will, surely, delight its Glasgow audience as thoroughly as it did dance lovers in Edinburgh.

Rambert - A Linha Curva
A Linha Curva by Rambert. Photo: Foteini Christofilopoulou

Broad though his choreographic palette is, Alston has nothing on contemporary dance company Rambert (which is also based in London). Styling itself “Britain’s national dance company”, the group offered the Festival Theatre audience an extraordinarily varied programme.

The first piece, A Linha Curva (The Curved Line), is a fantastically bold, dynamic, carnivalesque homage to the music and dance of Brazil.

The Dutch percussion quartet Percossa sit in an elevated box at the back of the stage. They perform an original score developed with choreographer Itzik Galili in Sao Paulo.

The music, played on a startling array of instruments and objects (and upon the bodies and faces of the musicians), is a brilliant artwork in its own right. Echoing not only Brazilian carnival but the many cultural influences in Brazil and South America, its subtleties and explosions are perfectly in tune with Galili’s choreography.

The dance itself is quite unlike anything I have seen on a theatre stage. The vivacity, colour and humorous competitiveness of carnival are evoked by dance which is so celebratory that it sometimes seems almost instinctive.

However, that sense of spontaneity is reined in by the piece’s extraordinary discipline and control. The tension between these elements creates of truly immense energy and sensuality (indeed, the work is equally homosexy and heterosexy).

Symbiosis (choreographed by Andonis Foniadakis, with music by Ilan Eshkeri) contrasts radically with the warmth and heat of A Linha Curva. There is a cool, almost sci-fi aspect to the piece, visually, musically and choreographically.

Dancers dressed in neutral-coloured costumes that might have been inspired by fish move in a beautiful, almost mechanical harmony, whether as a corps or in duet. However, in other moments, individual variations suggest a jazz-like improvisation, which suits Eshkeri’s classical, jazz-inflected score perfectly.

“What a waste of great dancers”, exclaimed the disgusted man sitting behind me at the close of Goat, the third and final piece on the Edinburgh bill. It wasn’t difficult to understand his disgruntlement.

Choreographer Ben Duke’s piece, set in a mocked up community hall, belongs to the modish, postmodern strand in contemporary dance in which dancers talk into microphones and the ugly “movement” seems hostile to the entire history of dance. A reflection on the performing arts as therapy (or something), it is self-conscious navel gazing of the worst and most alienating kind.

These reviews were originally published in the Sunday Herald on November 12, 2017

© Mark Brown

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Review: Tabula Rasa, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh (Daily Telegraph)

THEATRE

 

Tabula Rasa

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

 

Reviewed by Mark Brown

Tabula Rasa 2
Jonathan Morton (violin) in Tabula Rasa. Photo: Niall Walker

Vanishing Point has long been one of the most ambitious Scottish theatre companies. Renowned for its sometimes beautiful experiments in modern, European aesthetics (the company collaborated with Scottish Opera on a remarkable staging of Bluebeard’s Castle by Bartók earlier this year), the Glasgow-based group now turns its attention to the extraordinary oeuvre of the great composer Arvo Pärt.

A collaboration with the dozen-strong string company the Scottish Ensemble (and pianist Sophia Rahman), director Matthew Lenton’s Tabula Rasa interlaces the live performance of Pärt’s music with theatrical contemplations inspired by it. Now aged 82, the Estonian composer (a former Lutheran who converted to Russian Orthodox Christianity) is rightly credited with creating some of the most profound, spiritual music of the 20th and 21st centuries. It is little surprise that, in trying to express the appeal of the music to people of all faiths and none, Vanishing Point’s secular intervention should alight upon death as its primary subject.

Sitting among the musicians, actor (and co-writer, with Lenton, of the piece) Pauline Goldsmith tells us the story of Peter from the perspective of a grieving friend. His brain, and, significantly, his hearing, ravaged by a particularly virulent tumour, Peter went through a major and, for his friends and family, deeply distressing personality change during his final months.

We hear of Peter’s irascibility and burgeoning prejudice as he lay, dying, in a hospital bed. Goldsmith’s narrator, a matter-of-fact, everyday philosopher, muses on the efforts of his loved ones to square the “real Peter” they knew with the increasingly difficult man they encountered towards the end of his life.

As she does so, a partition slides away towards the back of the stage revealing a dream-like hospital scene. A nurse (played by Sarah Short) reads from a book about snow to Peter, who is represented by a glowing, white mannequin.

There is something incredibly brave, yet (surely inevitably) incomplete, about Goldsmith and Lenton’s attempt to find a connection with the universal emotions of Pärt’s music through a specific narrative. Although it is moving, humorous and thought-provoking, their script feels somewhat slight beside the Ensemble’s gorgeous musical performance.

Blessed with exquisite design (by Lenton himself and lighting designer Kai Fischer), the production achieves some affecting visual moments which, like the work as a whole, express an admirable desire to connect with the indefinable power of the music of Arvo Pärt.

Touring until November 24. vanishing-point.org

This review was originally published on the website of the Daily Telegraph on November 10, 2017

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/theatre/what-to-see/brave-flawed-attempt-dramatise-arvo-part-tabula-rasatraverse/

© Mark Brown

Reviews: Slava’s Snowshow, Festival Theatre, Edinburgh & The Monarch Of The Glen, Pitlochry Festival Theatre

THEATRE REVIEWS

 

Slava’s Snowshow

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

Ends today;

Playing King’s Theatre, Glasgow

November 7-11

 

The Monarch Of The Glen

Pitlochry Festival Theatre

Until November 12

 

Reviewed by Mark Brown

Slava
Slava’s Snowshow. Photo: Andrea Lopez

 

Slava’s Snowshow, by the great Russian theatre creator Slava Polunin, is a phenomenon of world drama. Created in 1993, his show has become an international smash hit. Yet it has never made the kind of compromises we have come to expect of big commercial shows from Broadway and the West End.

An enchanted world of night skies and snow-covered landscapes, populated by lugubrious-yet-mischievous clowns, Polunin’s show has remained wonderfully true to its origins. Western commercial theatre tends to have its rough edges smoothed away, all the better to deliver the expected product to the customers.

Snowshow, by beautiful contrast, is as idiosyncratic, eccentric and handmade as ever it was. There is, for example, no concession to the demand for straightforward narrative.

Instead, the yellow clown (originally played by the 67-year-old Polunin himself) and his little army of green clowns offer a series of inspired sketches. Yellow clown is, at the outset, on the verge of committing suicide, only to find that, at the other end of his long rope, is a green clown with exactly the same idea. Simultaneously touching, humane and humorous, this lovely opener is typical of the show as a whole.

The dozens of vignettes that follow include: yellow clown climbing into the audience and cheekily redistributing the jackets and handbags of audience members, the clowns going to sea in an improbably improvised boat and a fabulous snowstorm that feels like Christmas has come early.

There’s surrealism and slapstick, too. In a particularly delicious sketch, yellow clown sits, as if in a surrealist portrait, on a chair that is set at an impossible angle. Of course, to the particular delight of the children in the audience, he slips off onto his backside repeatedly, like a particularly dense, latter day Russian Charlie Chaplin.

All of this is presented with the kind of physically accomplished performance and clever use of music and sound that will be familiar to fans of such wonderful Russian theatre-makers as Derevo, Akhe and Do-Theatre.

Snowshow has grown in size over the years, and it has become justifiably renowned for its moments of grand spectacle. However, its real charm still resides in its starting point, the human possibilities of a sad little yellow clown who, at his lowest moment, finds a friend to play with.

There’s comedy of an altogether different kind in The Monarch Of The Glen, a new stage adaptation of Compton Mackenzie’s famous novel by talented Scottish playwright Peter Arnott. Directed for Pitlochry Festival Theatre (PFT) by Richard Baron, this delightful production enjoys a genuinely stellar cast (which includes such outstanding actors as Deirdre Davis, Hannah Donaldson and Robin Harvey Edwards).

Set in early-20th century Scotland, the play finds Chester Royde, an American property developer with a penchant for building golf courses (played with hilarious brilliance by Grant O’Rourke), showing up at Glenbogle Castle, seat of Donald MacDonald, aka Ben Nevis (Benny Young on fabulously posh, reactionary form). What ensues is a farce of romance, chicanery and politics (courtesy of some left-wing English hikers and an absurd, conspiratorial Scottish patriot called Alan).

Designer Ken Harrison’s sets, costumes and comic, miniaturised props are up to PFT’s typically high, hyper-realistic standards. However, the real star of the show is Arnott’s script, which never misses a chance to connect Mackenzie’s satire with Scotland and the world today.

The clash between Ben Nevis’s entitled, unionist Toryism and Alan’s Saor Alba brand of Scottish nationalism has delightfully funny echoes of the shriller moments of the 2014 independence referendum. Meanwhile O’Rourke’s monstrous American is just a Twitter account away from being Donald Trump himself.

This review was originally published in the Sunday Herald on November 5, 2017

© Mark Brown

Review: La Traviata, Theatre Royal, Glasgow

OPERA REVIEW

 

La Traviata

Seen at Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Touring until December 2

 

Reviewed by Mark Brown

La Traviata 2017
La Traviata. Photo: Drew Farrell

It isn’t difficult to see why there was so much resistance to the work of Giuseppe Verdi, both from sections of the 19th-century audience and, most damagingly, from the political and cultural establishment of the day. Although his music was among the most exquisite in all of opera, his political instincts (like those of the younger Alexandre Dumas, whose writings inspired La Traviata) were in conflict with the stern and hypocritical mores of his society.

La Traviata (or The Fallen Woman) is a love story and a morality tale about Violetta Valery, the high-class prostitute of Dumas’s novel La Dame Aux Camelias (who was based upon the real-life Parisian courtesan Marie Duplessis). Turning her back on her former life for the love of young society gentleman Alfredo Germont, she finds herself confronted with the threats and exhortations of Alfredo’s puritanical father Giorgio. Proving herself more loving of Alfredo than her adversary, Violetta rejects her lover, so as to spare him and his family the strictures of an unforgiving society.

A brilliant revival of David McVicar’s 2008 production, this Scottish Opera staging by Marie Lambert takes us to the very heart of the opulent and cynical society soirees of Paris in the mid-1800s. Splendidly costumed, set and lit (by Tanya McCallin, design, and Stephen Powles, lighting), with vivid colour swallowed by dominant black, the piece looks and feels like a living premonition.

Dutch tenor Peter Gijsbertsen gives a vital and anguished performance as Alfredo, while English  baritone Stephen Gadd offers a perfect, stiff-necked rendering of the brutally upright Giorgio. The performance of the evening, however, comes from Russian soprano Gulnara Shafigullina, who makes a searing Scottish Opera debut with a hauntingly sympathetic, gorgeously sung Violetta.

For tour dates, visit: scottishopera.org.uk

An abridged version of this review was originally published in the Sunday Herald on October 29, 2017

© Mark Brown

Reviews: Our Fathers, Traverse, Edinburgh & The Maids, Dundee Rep

THEATRE REVIEWS

 

Our Fathers

Seen at Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

Touring until November 18

 

The Maids

Dundee Rep

Until November 4

 

Reviewed by Mark Brown

Our Fathers
Rob Drummond and Nicholas Bone in Our Fathers

“Written and performed by Rob Drummond and Nicholas Bone”, reads the poster for Our Fathers, the new co-production between the Traverse Theatre and Edinburgh-based touring company Magnetic North. So the piece takes its place in a tradition of “devised” theatre that has become prominent (if not predominant) within new theatre work in Scotland. Indeed, one could be forgiven for wondering if playwriting is becoming a dying art in our country.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a great admirer of many works in the devised genre. Akhe from Russia, Robert Lepage from Quebec and English dramatist Tim Crouch (who is, it seems to me, the inadvertent father of the millennial generation of Scottish theatremakers) are among the finest artists currently working in world theatre.

Scottish theatre’s millennials, such as Rob Drummond (Bullet Catch), Nic Green (Trilogy), Kieran Hurley (Beats) and Gary McNair (A Gambler’s Guide To Dying), have made some impressive pieces. Just how their output compares with that of the 1990s generation of Scottish playwrights (such as David Harrower, Zinnie Harris, David Greig and Anthony Neilson), however, is a moot point.

Too often the devised strand in Scottish theatre seems modest in ambition, both thematically and theatrically, and lacking in dramaturgical craft. Our Fathers is an abundant case in point.

The piece is inspired by Father And Son, the early-twentieth century book by the English writer (and Protestant fundamentalist) Edmund Gosse. Nicholas Bone (artistic director of Magnetic North) was given the memoir by his father, formerly the Anglican Bishop of Reading. He, in turn, encouraged Drummond (whose father is a retired Church of Scotland minister) to read Gosse’s opus.

The resulting show is a cobbled together series of more or less interesting reflections on religion and the nature of the relations between Bone and Drummond and their fathers, intercut with somewhat dramatised sections from Gosse’s book. Structurally, the piece barely hangs together: a fact that is aided not at all by the irritating, deliberately fake conflict between the two performers about who plays which character and the order in which scenes are presented.

A lovely musical score by Scott Twynholm and charming, museum-style design by Karen Tennent (beautifully lit by Simon Wilkinson) lend the show an aesthetic quality that is lacking in an otherwise uncertain, halting production.

There is a similar lack of conviction in Dundee Rep’s disappointingly bloodless staging of Jean Genet’s modernist classic The Maids. Director Eve Jamieson’s production is set in the handsome, hyper-real boudoir of a bourgeois Paris apartment. The room is flanked, in pointlessly obvious metaphor, by two glass cabinets in which the housemaids (and sisters) Claire (Irene Macdougall) and Solange (Ann Louise Ross) sit, illuminated in red when inactive, and green when they must spring to life.

It is not ungallant of me, I hope, to point out that Macdougall and Ross are somewhat beyond the ages of their characters (who, Genet stipulated, are in their early to mid-thirties). This generational shift is intriguing and could have worked, were both actors not so observably uncomfortable with the sadomasochism of the sisters’ fantasy ritual regarding their despised mistress.

When the mistress (Emily Winter) finally arrives (in the midst of her recently arrested lover’s crisis), she soon crosses the line between the character’s self-dramatising and simple overacting. To the absence of sexual tension is added a lack of subtlety in the mutual class hatreds and personal resentments between the three women.

Self-conscious and quite insipid, this production compares badly with Stewart Laing’s exciting, if uneven, all-male version of the play at Glasgow’s Citizens Theatre in 2013.

For tour dates for Our Fathers, visit: magneticnorth.org.uk

Abridged versions of these reviews were originally published in the Sunday Herald on October 29, 2017

© Mark Brown

Review: The Brothers Karamazov, Tron Theatre, Glasgow (Sunday Herald)

THEATRE REVIEW

 

The Brothers Karamazov

Tron Theatre, Glasgow

Until October 28

 

Reviewed by Mark Brown

Karamazov - Biggerstaff
Sean Biggerstaff, photographed at the Tron Theatre. Photo: Jamie Simpson/Herald & Times

It isn’t difficult to see why Glasgow’s Tron Theatre chose to stage this revival of Richard Crane’s 1981 adaptation of Dostoyevsky’s famous novel The Brothers Karamazov. The piece has an impressive heritage.

Originally presented, by the Brighton Theatre Company, as part of the prestigious programme of the Edinburgh International Festival, its four-strong cast included the late, great Alan Rickman and excellent Scottish actor Peter Kelly. Faynia Williams’s Festival production enjoyed critical plaudits. Reviewing for our daily sister paper, then called The Glasgow Herald, my colleague Mary Brennan praised “a lean forceful play”, which was given “uncluttered, pacey direction” by Williams.

This Tron revival is very much an homage to that celebrated production of 36 years ago. Not only is it working with the same text, but it also boasts the original music by Stephen Boxer (who also acted in the 1981 show) and the services, as director, of Williams herself.

If this new staging of the Karamazovs arrived loaded with expectation, sad to say the production dashes one’s excitement quickly and emphatically. Williams has created a production which is so dry and languid that it is difficult to believe that she actually created the fondly remembered show of the early-Eighties.

Dostoyevsky’s novel places the bloody, internecine crisis of the bourgeois Karamazov family within the wider context of a decadent Czarist Russia. As in a Chekhov play, we sense that this is a social, political and religious order that is on the brink of collapse. Indeed, both writers, Dostoyevsky and Chekhov, are so penetrating in their observations of the clash between Czarism and European Enlightenment thought that they seem almost to prophecy the rise of Bolshevism and the revolution of October 1917.

Crane’s adaptation of the Karamazovs pares Dostoyevsky’s novel down to the essentials of the brothers (including Smerdyakov, reputed “bastard” son of the rancid and disreputable paterfamilias Fyodor). Unlike the original production, however, there is little in this revival of the stifling atmosphere of late-19th century Russia.

Williams’s production never achieves the promised, swift, sharply focused evocations of, for example, the dissoluteness of the wayward Dmitry (Thierry Mabonga) or the piety of the youngest brother Alyosha (a novice in an Orthodox monastery, played by Tom England). Instead the piece feels hesitant and disjointed, the acting performances strained and uncertain.

Sean Biggerstaff tries to lend some kind of moral weight to Ivan, the restless nihilist who, like a Lucifer of the Enlightenment, tests Alyosha’s faith. However, his playing is heavy on exposition and emotional hyperbole, and light on subtlety. Likewise Mark Brailsford’s Smerdyakov, who is a caricature of oily servility, rather than a complex schemer capable of violent patricide.

This production isn’t even a decent advert for Boxer’s music, which is characterised in this staging by occasional chimes and awkward singing by the cast. If Williams’s decision to have her actors sing, in pairs on either side of the auditorium, from behind the audience, is intended be emotionally evocative, it fails dismally. One can only imagine the spiritual polyphony that might have been achieved by her original production, because it is entirely absent here.

The show’s set, designed by Carys Hobbs, certainly contributes to the piece’s sense of dull inflexibility. A hard, static arena, the actors either clamber upon the steps upon its walls or roll, barefoot in the too-obviously metaphorical mud. The results are both theatrically unforgiving and visibly unedifying.

It is only four years since director Dominic Hill brought us a superb production of another Dostoyevsky novel (Crime And Punishment, adapted brilliantly by Chris Hannan) at Glasgow’s Citizens Theatre. The inevitable comparison does this listless Brothers Karamazov no favours at all.

This review was originally published in the Sunday Herald on October 22, 2017

© Mark Brown

Reviews: Cockpit, Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh & Dragons Of Drummohr, Drummohr House, East Lothian

Cockpit,

Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh

Until October 28

 

Dragons Of Drummohr

Drummohr House, East Lothian

Until October 29

 

Reviewed by Mark Brown

Cockpit
Peter Hannah as Ridley in Cockpit

Cockpit, by the late Anglo-Irish writer Bridget Boland, is both an extraordinary historical document and a remarkably prescient drama. First staged (at the Playhouse Theatre, London) in 1948 it is set in a grand theatre in Germany which has been transformed into a post-Second World War transit centre for “DPs” (displaced persons) from across Europe.

Young, multilingual Captain Ridley of the British Army is tasked with sorting the multitudinous and diverse refugees into westbound and eastbound convoys. However, as no-nonsense, Geordie Sergeant Barnes (who has been keeping order in the centre ahead of Ridley’s arrival) has discovered, ethnic, national and political conflicts make this a complicated and dangerous task.

It is not difficult, in these days of the Catalan crisis, Brexit and the return of ideology (on both the Corbynite left and the xenophobic right), to see in the play a premonitory metaphor for Europe in 2017. Yet, if the recent war in Ukraine teaches us anything it is, surely, that we are still living in the divided Europe instituted by Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt at Yalta in 1945.

By setting the action in a requisitioned playhouse, the play cleverly puts the audience at the heart of events. Designer Ana Ines Jabares-Pita has put additional seating at the back of the stage, thereby enhancing the claustrophobia of the piece.

The splendid Lyceum auditorium itself is hung with drying laundry and (courtesy of superb musical director Aly Macrae) filled with the musics of Europe. One can feel the nervous energy of a broken continent on the move.

Director Wils Wilson and her talented, international cast build excellently on these atmospheric possibilities. Boland’s intelligent conceit, in which the theatre is sealed for a time by a health emergency, magnifies the dramatic intensity.

There are fine performances all over the place, not least from Alexandra Mathie as a Polish professor of anatomy, who is as rusty in her medical practise as she is distrustful of Russians. Peter Hannah (the idealistic Ridley), Deka Walmsley (the deliciously blunt Barnes) and Dylan Read (the comically unctuous stage manager Bauer) also impress.

For all its dramatic sophistication, there is a degree of reductive, political over-simplification in the play. Ridley represents Boland’s doctrine that “belief is dangerous”, seemingly oblivious to the fact that his “anti-ideological” liberal humanism is also an ideology.

Unsurprisingly, the politicos among the refugees are often two-dimensional caricatures. A Yugoslav partisan, for example, shouts “Tito! Tito! Tito!”, with clenched fist in the air, at the very mention of his leader’s name.

Depicting a period of crisis-induced cooperation sandwiched between belief-inflamed conflicts, Boland’s anxious and humane drama is a bold and brave exploration of the complexities of post-war Europe. However, it has beliefs of its own, and they are not without their own dubieties.

Dragons of Drummohr
Dragons Of Drummohr

From the besmirched grandeur of an appropriated theatre to the (on Wednesday night) somewhat waterlogged splendour of a Scottish country mansion. The grounds of Drummohr House in East Lothian provide the location for Dragons Of Drummohr, the latest, dragon-inspired “augmented reality theatre adventure” from Edinburgh-based company Vision Mehanics.

With the “Dragon Matrix” app downloaded to your smartphone or tablet you are invited to join the Dragon Protection League (DPL) in their quest to find the various creatures that are inhabiting the grounds of the house. At the DPL’s base camp a little museum exhibition tells us all about dragons and the evil poachers who threaten to eradicate them.

Then, out in the grounds, we explore a variety of splendidly constructed, interactive (and often delightfully eccentric) installations and sculptures. There’s a place where we can assist the survival of dragons through dance, a garden of massive, multi-coloured flowers and, of course, an enormous, very friendly-looking red dragon.

Throughout the grounds there are codes to scan with the app, each of them bringing creatures, from scary spiders to despicable trolls, into your phone. Collect all of the animals and there are prizes to be won from the grateful DPL.

Needless to say, this is all great fun for media-savvy primary school kids. A good pair of wellies, a decent torch and the app on their phone are all that’s needed for an engrossing and active 45 minutes of exploration.

The only slight disappointment is that Vision Mechanics’ emphasis on computer technology means that the actual physical materials of the piece tend to be sculptures, rather than puppets. An actual moving dragon in the grounds of the house would have been a treat.

For details of Dragons Of Drummohr, visit: dragonmatrix.org.uk

These reviews were originally published in the Sunday Herald on October 15, 2017

© Mark Brown