Preview of Crude by Ben Harrison staged by Grid Iron theatre
IT'S not a velvet curtain that rises on Grid Iron’s Crude, but a great roll of corrugated iron. It ascends with an industrial grind and clatter, opening the doorway to Shed No 39, a warehouse on the Port of Dundee estate, a little-seen landscape of cranes, exploration rigs and fiercely lit ships. As we step inside, our path is laid out between two rows of safety helmets, their clean white surfaces picked out by Paul Claydon’s low-level lighting, drawing us across an empty expanse towards a stage of gantries, cages and oil drums. An abseiler dangles from the cavernous ceiling, figures flit past in hi-vis jackets and digits race upwards on the back wall, counting the barrels of oil extracted from the earth since the performance began (answer: a lot).
By Jim Crace. A Grid Iron theatre review.
SOME say all theatre is about sex or death. It’s certainly the case in this adaptation of Jim Crace’s short-story collection. Rarely does a scene pass in Ben Harrison’s sumptuous production, revived by Grid Iron for a 10th-anniversary site-responsive tour, without some erotic subtext or intimation of mortality. The ostensible theme is food. As we climb the grand staircase of the UK’s oldest purpose-built custom house and promenade through its featureless rooms, we follow a sequence of scenes involving everything from an unlabelled tin can full of culinary possibilities to a community store-cupboard collection for hungry refugees. Performed by four actors and two musicians, these scenes are drily ironic, often quirky and sometimes dark.
"I'M at home and I feel homesick," says the character of Kate Bane, explaining her unresolved anguish to the boyfriend who has come to meet her parents. Or rather, in Ella Hickson's new play for Grid Iron, it is one version of Kate Bane; whether or not she is the authorised version is hard to tell. Either way, she is a young woman trying to make sense of her past.
YOU'RE sitting in your local and everything looks familiar: special offers chalked on the blackboard, neon advertising signs above the till, the various beer logos on the pumps. But look closely and all is not what it seems. Those are not the usual brands of ale on sale, but a feisty selection with names oozing sexual innuendo. The sign you thought said "sloe gin" says something altogether more rude. It's like a parallel-universe local.
IT must have been tempting to go down The Inbetweeners route. However outrageous the E4 teen comedy gets, there is little in its portrayal of adolescent angst that Frank Wedekind didn't do first in Spring Awakening. By using translator Douglas Maxwell, a playwright with a catalogue of coming-of-age dramas, Grid Iron theatre company could have opted to refashion Wedekind's 1891 play (banned in the UK until 1965), as a modern-day black comedy about sexual repression and ignorance.
IF THE opening theatre production of the Edinburgh International Festival did nothing else, it challenged you to consider how you tell a story. To say the answer provided by New York's Elevator Repair Service was unconventional is an understatement. Having no interest in staging a regular adaptation of The Sun Also Rises, director John Collins challenged himself to use every last word of Ernest Hemingway's breakthrough novel, plus selected passages of first-person narration from Jake Barnes, a war-wounded US foreign correspondent in Paris.
IT is nearly 80 years since Aldous Huxley published Brave New World, and around 60 since eugenics was discredited, so this site-specific collaboration between Grid Iron and Lung Ha's theatre company might easily have seemed old hat. Set in a clinic where test-tube babies are fed alcohol to determine their social status, Huxley's Lab is a dystopian vision of a culture hell-bent on perfection. Yet rather than treading familiar ground, the production by Ben Harrison and Maria Oller is fresh, funny and polemical.
1 May 2008 The Guardian
Devised by the company. Grid Iron review.
EDINBURGH site-specific company Grid Iron specialises in after-hours trips into half-familiar spaces - airports, department stores, play parks - always immersing the audience in a world somewhere between reality and make-believe. Each location brings its own costumes, but nowhere has the idea of dressing up been so much to the fore than here in Verdant Works, a jute museum built in a former cloth factory. Working with Dundee Rep, the company interpret the idea of textiles in two ways. One is as storytellers, spinning a line, telling a yarn. A thread of red cotton marks our journey through four spaces, while a metaphorical thread sews together the patchwork of monologues, anecdotes and sketches performed by the six-strong company.
30 October 2007
IN the spring of 2006, Scotland's Grid Iron theatre company staged a site-specific show called Roam in Edinburgh International Airport. The audience arrived by bus, passports in hand, and were ushered towards the check-in desks. Instead of flight arrivals, they saw images of exotic destinations on the monitors. Instead of a tedious wait in departures, they watched a row of air hostesses, with matching blonde bobs and lurid turquoise outfits, performing a line-dance to a soundtrack of groovy 60s jazz.
By Pauline Mol and Moniek Merkx. Grid Iron review.
Grid Iron review.
AT a time when a pair of nail clippers on a short-haul flight can set alarm bells ringing, it will be interesting to see if Edinburgh Intl. Airport remains the only such venue with the boldness of vision to host Grid Iron's remarkable "Roam." Performed as the last airplanes of the evening are arriving on the runway, lead writer-director Ben Harrison's site-specific show takes over four airport check-in desks, several TV monitors, a baggage carousel and a section of the lounge to create a funny and polemical impressionistic collage of a population taking to the skies.
14 April The Sunday Times
Grid Iron review.
THE baggage you deposit at airports is all physical. They want your suitcases, holdalls and rucksacks. But to every check-in desk you also bring emotional baggage: memories of those you’ve left behind, anxieties about your journey ahead and fears for your sense of self in the big wide world.
By Justin Young. Grid Iron review.
ROCK musicals have had such bad press that the publicity for this show by maverick Edinburgh company Grid Iron tones down the music. Yet Justin Young's play with a score by Philip Pinksy is virtually through-composed. Fierce focuses on urban alienated teenage life, telling the story of Finlay, a 14-year-old boy from an Edinburgh housing scheme who is only released from his attention deficit disorder when daubing graffiti on buses, trains and buildings. Mark Arends plays him as a twitchy misfit, well meaning but easily led, living amid a grim youth culture of violence and intimidation. His one talent is both his saviour and his undoing, daubing his tag, "Fierce", as he keeps one step ahead of the police and a rival gang.
May 2004 Hi-Arts
By Justin Young. Grid Iron review.
WHEN they build musicals on Broadway, they spend longer in previews than the average Scottish production stays on stage. The New York approach is vigorous and unsentimental: a song might be great, but if it doesn’t help the show, it’s thrown out and a new one written to replace it. No such business-like luxuries here, where the money simply isn’t available to develop a show at such a careful pace.
Grid Iron review.
IF all Edinburgh's Grid Iron company did was to find odd performance spaces, you could write its work off as a gimmick. But that's not the case. For a gothic thriller it found a supposedly haunted cellar; for a teenage drama, a playground; and now, for a play about memories and loneliness, it's found a deserted town house.
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