A Wee Home from Home
Devised by Michael Marra, Frank McConnell, Gerry Mulgrew and Karen Tennent
Northern Stage, Newcastle, and touring
Maybe it's because I'm not a Weegie...
I don't know Glasgow. I've only visited it once, many years ago, and so my only other experience of the city is through watching Taggart and that can hardly be proper preparation for a dance theatre piece about growing up there. I must have missed many local references - although I did know what the Bar L and the Bru are: Taggart again! - so, watching this piece, I was very much the outsider looking in (with some incomprehension).
I have, however, seen the work of co-deviser and director Gerry Mulgrew with Communicado and am a great admirer of his work, so I approached A Wee Home from Home with anticipation, especially since our reviewer Seth Ewin found much in it to enjoy last year. Its reception from the critics has been enthusiastic - the Scotsman's Joyce McMillan called it "an intensely rich and colourful vision of the city" - but I found it difficult to connect with. I could see what it's saying but couldn't feel it.
Part of the problem is that it was first produced in 1988 and dance and dance theatre have moved on since then so that the dance has a slightly dated feel. The music - and Michael Marra's gravelly singing - is timeless and Karen Tennent's somewhat grungy set echoes the "mean city" feel. And I can't fault the performances: Frank McConnell's dancing, for example, is precise and controlled, and impressive given that he choreographed and first performed it almost 22 years ago. Marra gives a fine gruff performance as the laid-back old Glasgwegian, as well as playing the piano and singing.
Some of the themes are universal - schooldays, football, serious drinking - and some are Glasgow-specific - Celtic and Rangers, the Clyde, sectarianism. There are also references to Scottish popular culture - Jimmy Shand and Andy Stewart and the sentimental "Haste ye back".
It's the sort of piece which will be deeply meaningful and probably very emotional to Glasgwegians and will have resonances with Scots generally, but, for the outsider from south of the border, much of it, as the gentleman I overheard after the show said, "went over my head."
Reviewer: Peter Lathan