THE Polish Play wasn't the only international event taking place in Craigellachie on Wednesday night; the annual Speyside Whisky Festival was about to open, and the streets were full of happy tourists sampling malt whiskies as if their lives depended on it.
THE POLISH PLAY
CRAIGELLACHIE VILLAGE HALL
The cosmopolitan atmosphere in the bars, though, only helped to emphasise the central point of Gavin Stride's deceptively simple and completely charming show, which is that there really is no "abroad" any more. Based on the true life story of Edinburgh-trained actress Agnieszka Korzuszek, the show begins in confusion, as Polish dad Stanislaw and his daughter Marta noisily join the village audience. Why, she wails, is she the only Polish au pair in Britain whose dad insists on coming with her? Then it shifts into some deft, gentle storytelling, both about their life at home in a Polish farming village, and about their journey to Britain; and finally develops into a cheerful community party, designed to welcome the newcomer.
Created at Farnham Maltings in Surrey, and already widely performed around village halls in south-east England, The Polish Play is designed to remind us – through an exploration of the unchanging aspects of rural and family life, set against the background of an ever-shrinking global village – that every migrant who arrives in Britain is someone's beloved son or daughter. Following the recent murder of a young Lithuanian migrant in Brechin it's a point worth making around the North-east – this show tours there this weekend – and it's made with economy and grace, with some lovely live accordion music and sound-effects, and with two delightful leading performances from Agnieszka Korzuszek as Marta, and Michael Strobel as Pappa.
AS NIGHT FOLLOWS DAY
WITH those horrific headlines from Austria dominating the news, it's been both the best and the worst of weeks in which to confront a show about the intensity and ambivalence of parent-child relationships, as seen from the child's point of view. Scripted and directed by the great English stage artist Tim Etchells and performed for adult audiences by a company of 16 children aged between eight and 14, As Night Follows Day is produced by the experimental Victoria company of Ghent, and if its form is simple, its effect is quietly revolutionary. The children simply sit or stand along the front of the stage, or against some school-gym exercise bars at the back, and deliver – sometimes in chorus, but mostly as a sequence of individuals – a series of observations, in the second person, about how "you", parents and other adults, use and abuse our power to shape children's lives.
Etchells's script is an masterpiece of precise observation and perfectly crafted musicality, moving subtly through love, amusement, anger, frustration and joy. The result is a record of parenthood and child-rearing, as rich in its tribute to the thousands of tiny acts of love and explanation carried out by parents every day, as it is unflinching in its view of the impact on children of adult anger and lies. The performance by Etchells's company of young Belgian actors is simply breathtaking; authoritative, passionate, vulnerable, beautiful and true, in what's perhaps the finest show about parenthood and childhood ever produced in Europe.
CLASSIC GRAND, GLASGOW
COLIN Macintyre's days of littering the stage with inflatable sheep and giant dog mascots wearing wigs seem to have gone the way of his Mull Historical Society moniker, but although his live show is a more sober affair these days, little has changed musically since he reverted to using his own name.
Macintyre still indulges his honourable impulse to pen a catchy chorus and surround it with little embellishing hooks, as demonstrated by set opener You're A Star from his most recent album, The Water. Still, it paled slightly next to old MHS favourite Watching Xanadu, a song that deservedly took him all the way to Top Of The Pops.
Beyond the blatant pop tunes, the remainder of his new material, liberally strewn about the set, took him in new directions. Stalker, based round a classic rock riff, was as heavy as things got. At the other end of the spectrum, The Water sounded like a lurching sea shanty given a folk pop make-over, while swelling ballad I Have Been Burned showcased Macintyre's way with a plaintive tune. There were also guest appearances by Tony Benn and the Tobermory High School Girls' Choir – both on tape though – on the would-be epic Pay Attention To The Human.
Macintyre and his band were enthusiastic in their delivery but, lacking some of the pop fizz of the past, things looked a little lonely and low-key up there at times.