26 October 2010 Unpublished

Blood and Roses

By Sandy Thomson. A Poorboy Theatre review.

IT is only when you are half way through Poorboy's rich and rewarding promenade performance that the pieces start falling into place. You are sitting alone in Café Cossachok, a Russian restaurant, sharing a table with a larger-than-life white doll with woolly red veins and prominent belly button, like the ghost of some distant relative in a faraway land. On your headphones, you are trying to keep track of several stories running in parallel, taking you back and forth from the siege of Leningrad to the 1960s Glasgow of Alex Harvey, from the 1980s of anti-Thatcher protest to the witch-burning of the 17th century.

All this requires some mental juggling, but slowly it becomes apparent that the threads of Sandy Thomson's script – as vividly written as it is beautifully recorded – are taking their cue from the Merchant City streets you have been walking. Like a site-specific radio drama, Blood and Roses is a journey through geography and history, some real, some imagined.

Café Cossachok suggests St Petersburg; a retro clothes shop recalls the excitement of rock'n'roll; the church of St Andrew's in the Square prompts a happy ending to this family saga. Interwoven through the narrative strands is the story of Isobel Gowdie, who was tried for witchcraft in 1662 and who inspired one of Harvey's songs. It is a suitably ghoulish tale for the run-up to Halloween, as is the traditional Russian fairytale of Baba Yaga that adds another layer of fable to the script.

Timed to perfection, the solo journey is gorgeously realised by visual artist Jen Robson whose opening cat's cradle of photographs, illustrations and toy horses – viewed by torchlight in a tiny broom cupboard – establishes an atmosphere of maze-like myth, memory and marriage. Staged for the forthcoming IETM international theatre conference, it is a love story well worth crossing Europe for.

Until November 6. Box office: 0141 552 4267.

© Mark Fisher 2010

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