Saturday, June 25, 2016

the James Plays at the Hearn - must see

I spent the afternoon watching the first of The James Plays, part of the Luminato arts festival at the Hearn Generating Station, an abandoned hulk of a building near the lake. The play is brilliantly written and produced and extremely timely, telling of the internecine warring of Scottish factions and their hatred of the British - just as, after the Brexit vote, Scotland may try once more to separate and go it alone. The play is truly a marvel, in plunging us into 600 year old characters and their lives, amid complicated issues of succession and blood, and making it all feel as fresh and urgent and personal as yesterday's newspaper.

So the production is thrilling, but so is the Hearn, a giant of crumbling concrete and shards of steel, with lumpy concrete underfoot and art installations every few yards - extraordinary, unforgettable, including the biggest mirror ball in the world. At the play, I sat next to three elderly ladies - at least in their late seventies - who had come in from Ottawa for this. They'll be spending the entire day at the Hearn seeing all three plays, with a two hour break between each one - 8 hours of performance in a day for the actors. I would have loved to see the two other plays, but hadn't bought tickets because I thought one might be enough. I do not feel deprived by not seeing the others, particularly as it was a stunning day and I was happy to leave the vast wreck of a building, hop on my bike and cycle into the sun. But I know I've missed something spectacular.

Brava to writer Rona Munro, who put as much emphasis on James as a man, a lover and poet and a struggling husband, as on him as a nascent king of a bloody-minded nation. She made Joan, his English wife, perfectly understandable as a very young woman trying her best in an impossible situation. A brutal time. And yet what infuses the story is love of Scotland, love of the land and its people.

I could not recommend this experience more.

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