#Lanark @citizenstheatre – a lot of theatre for your money.
I went to see “Lanark”, a play that is an adaptation of Alasdair Gray’s epic Scottish dystopian novel; “Lanark: A life in four books” was presented as “Lanark: a life in three acts”.
I was so pleased that this adaptation was on a scale to match that of the novel. It was lovely to have scenes, lines and images awaken the memories of reading the book that had lain dormant for years.
The opening scene was just right – the written words, Lanark in the rain, looking for light. I was delighted that all of the characters were there in the bar, and the whole thing set off with things just as they should be.
I could have done without the clumsy sex/nudity – but I guess that was the point – Rima echoed that thought herself…
I was pleased with the hospital/institute scenes – with Lanark’s speedy promotion to Doctor and the unethical food. I did miss the echoes that reverberated through the Institute from the novel, in particular the “Man is the pie that bakes and eats itself” line, but the dragon going salamander made up for that.
If there was a disappointment it was when Lanark and Rima went through the intercalendrical zone. I remember that reading that, back in the day, blew my mind. The presentation of that section was fully appropriate, but I didn’t get the sense of interminable frustration that Lanark and Rima experienced in the novel. (Which is – on reflection, given the four-hour length of the play, all in – perhaps a good thing!)
The ‘real’ sections in Glasgow were in some respects hugely reduced and simplified. The cast were elements of Lanark/Duncan himself, or played roles in his life. They were all dressed in matching clothes and the set was pared back. The simplification was very effective and the storytelling was extremely clever. Given the complexity of the scenes in Unthank, Provan and the Institute, the contrast with the scenes in Glasgow was appropriately striking, and the presentation of the narrative through the oracle was successful in presenting fragments of the past as memories/ little vignettes.
The climax of the play, where Lanark becomes aware of himself as a fictional character was really well done, and the final scenes were suitably poignant.
All in all, it was a lot of theatre for the money. The whole production was careful, thoughtful and appropriately aware that this was a novel to contend with. I’m glad I went, and I’m glad I saw it in Glasgow.