LINLITHGOW Players broke new ground last week with their production of ‘Cage Birds’ by David Campton and ‘Three More Sleepless Nights’ by Caryl Churchill.
Two contrasting pieces but with overarching themes of communication (or lack of it) and relationships.
Cage Birds saw the curtain open on a near bare stage with six characters all in black trousers and self-coloured tops. Each of the characters had a story to tell but not one that anyone else was listening to. At first the audience thought we were looking at an Old Peoples’ Home or a Psychiatric Ward but with the arrival of the Mistress and then the Wild One we realised we were looking at a cage of birds who have been locked away for a number of years and have retreated each into their own world. We see the Wild One trying to communicate with each of the birds eventually making enough of an impression on one that it begins to listen to a story of outside and escape. After breaking free the Caged Birds group together and back away from their chance of freedom and eventually to return to the status quo they kill the Wild One and then the bird that had listened. The experienced cast gave a solid performance of an intricate script which required concentration from both the cast and the audience. The simple setting contributed to the audience not knowing where the scene was set and the choreographed move worked well in creating the potential for conversations that just never happened. Directed by Sandra Moar, she is to be congratulated for also taking on the part of a member of the cast who was taken ill.
The second piece, Three More sleepless Nights, by Caryl Churchill saw the curtain open on a bedroom scene. The play consists of three scenes each involving a couple having a sleepless night; something that would no doubt chime with audience experiences. The first couple are being torn apart by the husband’s infidelity and drunkenness and the scene is played out through a violent and unpleasant argument with recriminations flying from both sides. The second scene sees Dawn in a state of nerves making desperate phone calls and at one point getting dressed to go out at 3am. Pete her partner is recounting the plot of Alien and it’s not clear whether he is doing this as a defence mechanism or as a misguided way of offering her reassurance. The scene ends shockingly with Dawn taking a bread knife into bed and whilst we don’t see what she does the audience can use their imagination. The third scene sees Margaret and Pete together and they appear to be happy. However, over the course of the scene Pete retreats into film plots – this time Apocalypse Now – Margaret begins to descend into insecurity again and the audience is left wondering if the whole cycle of sleepless might begin again. The scene changes were achieved simply by the cast changing the bedding between scenes and effective use of bedside lamps and colour washes on the back wall created the sense of an intimate space we should not have entered. An interesting sound track also added to the piece. Liz Drewett both directed and acted in this piece for which she also deserves congratulations.
The casts and crew should be pleased with all their hard work which saw two thought-provoking pieces being very well presented. It was encouraging to see Linlithgow Players stretch their abilities to bring these challenging pieces to a large and appreciative audience.