VENGEANCE is an excellent subject for drama, one of the oldest and most vivid.
The problem with a show like Al Seed’s Everyday Vengeance, though – presented as part of this week’s Surge Festival of physical and street theatre in Glasgow – is that it inhabits a strange nether world of workshop theatre that is neither drama, nor mime, nor even wholehearted storytelling.
What it represents – deliberately and proudly – is an intelligent artist’s first few tentative responses to the theme in hand, expressed in four interwoven narratives. There’s the demon with the cut-glass accent who introduces and closes the show. There’s the prissy middle-class Scotsman torching the house of his wife’s lover; there’s a man called Jack who has a chance, years on, to take revenge for a terrible war crime. And there is a woodland tale about a mouse who falls out with his friend the bear, and finds that revenge is a dish best not eaten at all.
Alone on stage, the ever charismatic Seed illustrates all of these characters with a touch of white face, a mask, a slight element of commedia dell’arte clowning. Throughout, though, the relationship between the action and the words seems uneasy, almost the opposite of the organic unity of word and gesture achieved in great drama. Everything Seed has to say about vengeance is interesting and perceptive, and some of the verbal imagery in the script is vivid and disturbing. But I was left with an odd feeling that it might have been more interesting to listen to him give a lecture on the subject, or even to chat to him about it in the bar, than to watch him strive to make a piece of theatre out of thoughts that have, as yet, found no theatrical form at all.