Tuesday, 29 April 2008
The power of good writing
A Play, a Pie and a Pint
On Friday I bussed it into Glasgow to watch some lunchtime theatre at Oran Mhor. I may have featured A Play, A Pie and A Pint before but it is always worth a plug. I made an extra effort last week because the play was written by Denise Mina so it was sure to be a winner. I saw her first play Ida Tamson performed there last year and was gripped by the story of a granny squaring up to a Glasgow hard man.
Last week’s play was A Drunk Woman Looks at the Thistle which is an adaptation of Hugh MacDairmid’s poem A Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle.
When I arrived at Oran Mhor half an hour before the box office door opened, I was stunned to see a growing queue. I was informed that the play’s star was Karen Dunbar, a popular Scottish comic actress and that The Herald had awarded the play five stars.
It lived up to its reputation. Karen gave a virtuoso performance of this epic poem which analyses the Scottish identity and psyche and put a few hypocritical noses in the audience out of joint. It is a piece of Scottish writing that is well overdue and I applaud not only Karen Dunbar for performing it with such energy and fun, but Denise Mina for having the guts to write it in the first place.
A mention should also be made of Alison Peebles who directed the play. Every Alison Peebles play I have had the pleasure to watch has been executed with perfection.
You can read the script here, but be warned the language is strong and it is not for the faint hearted.
It’s been yonks since I featured a ‘Just Read’. That isn’t because I haven’t been reading; it is because either the book hasn’t been worth mentioning or because I have been reading tons of research material that no one else would be bothered about.
One research book is however worth a mention. It is Brazzaville Charms by Cassie Knight, subtitled ‘Magic and Rebellion in The Republic of Congo’.
I was fascinated by this book, firstly because, I am ashamed to admit, I knew nothing about The Congo and didn’t realise there was Belgium Congo and French Congo, which is pretty dim of me because I have stamps from both colonies.
The second major aspect about this book was that it made me angry and the more I read the angrier I became and will remain. Angry about Colonialism; angry about how oil and power seem more important than people; angry about poorly managed forestry and the destruction of the second largest rainforest in the world.
Angry that the world can sit back and watch oil, and forestry companies conspire with the Congolese government to allow a resource rich country remain one of the poorest in the world.
The writer may exert a certain amount of bias in this book but the facts are staggering in their simplicity. She uses a clear and unpretentious style to make her case of exploitation of a people and country she is passionate about.
Read it and feel as enraged as I was. Everyone needs to feel this anger before something positive is achieved here.
Cat’s Eyes by Margaret Atwood was also a research book but I would probably have worked my way round to reading it eventually.
Cat’s Eyes is a story of girls bullying girls and how this situation can affect all parties’ life choices. The story swaps back and forth in the life of one of the girls, Elaine. As an adult she returns to Toronto where she grew up and was tortured by her little class mate Cordelia. Although Elaine is now a successful artist she is still haunted by Cordelia, and this visit peels open old wounds.
The descriptions of the bullying are as subtle as real life girl bullying is, but there are a few episodes that bordered on criminal behaviour and I feel might have been better left out.
As always Atwood spins a good story with solid, well crafted prose. Every time I read one of her books I learn something about my own writing. She is a master.