Theatre review: Cain’s Book, Arches, Glasgow

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BROUGHT to the stage for the first time since its publication in 1960, Untitled Projects take an appropriately fragmentary, multimedia approach to this compelling adaptation of Alexander Trocchi’s beat novel Cain’s Book.

Cain’s Book

Arches, Glasgow


Heavily autobiographical, the Glaswegian writer’s chronicle of the life of Joe Necchi, writer, heroin addict and scow captain on New York’s Hudson River flows between lissom poetry and agitated rant on drug prohibition, shifts in tone and intent the production ably conveys.

The piece was put together in a matter of weeks, with Lou Prendergast, Graham F Valentine and Ross Mann playing Joe collectively and other characters off him, affording it a rough, attractive immediacy. Passages slip around each other like ships tethered together, between the present and Necchi’s adolescence in Glasgow, his memories of Paris and London, with writer-director Alan McKendrick conceiving it as an early incarnation of an extended production that might perhaps incorporate the entire novel.

A confessional, philosophical screed that strives to elevate the morality of the junkie, it deserves praise for the satirically mischievous dance interlude that forms the interval. Elsewhere, striking use of video reinforces the temporal confusion and creeping irrelevance of time. Nevertheless, Trocchi’s disdain for bourgeois existence occasionally takes on a strident note and this adaptation, which has an air of hagiography, doesn’t really care to curb or contain it.