Theatre review: Vlad The Impaler, Glasgow

WRITTEN in tribute to the late Romanian poet, playwright and satirist Marin Sorescu, Richard Crane’s new play – premiered at Oran Mor this week before a run at the Brighton Festival – is a fiercely ironic and surreal meditation on the role of savage violence in creating and underpinning political order, set in 15th century Romania.

At the Oran Mor, Glasgow. Picture: Geograph

Vlad The Impaler

Oran Mor, Glasgow

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On stage, a pair of impaled victims of Vlad’s reign of terror – played with style by Iain Robertson and Anna-Maria Nabirye – remain strangely alive on the points of the sharpened tree-trunks that have been thrust through their guts, giving the odd obligatory yowl of agony, while shooting the breeze about Vlad, his character, his political methods, and whether the recent invention of the printing-press will make any difference.

Meanwhile Vlad – splendidly conjured up by Jack Klaff, in an impressive range of headgear – often wanders down to have lunch among his victims, and complain about the burdens of power, until political events sweep him off into a rat-infested prison, and then back on to the throne again.

And if there’s something about the tone of Faynia Williams’s production that doesn’t quite work – a distracting jokey ingenuity in the staging that somehow masks the underlying weight of the theme – there’s also a magnificent strand of wild music and song in the play that’s delivered with great flair by all three actors; and that often seems to come closer to the bright but despairing heart of the drama than all of Richard Crane’s witty and well-crafted words.

Run ends today