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Mark Fisher
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Follow me on Twitter at MarkFFisher, WriteAboutTheat and LimelightXTC I am a freelance journalist and critic specialising in theatre and the arts. Publications I write for include the Guardian and the Scotsman. I am the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: how to make your show a success and How to Write About Theatre: A Manual for Critics, Students and Bloggers. I am also editor of The XTC Bumper Book of Fun for Boys and Girls: A Limelight Anthology. From 2000-2003, I was the editor of The List magazine, Glasgow and Edinburgh's arts and events guide.
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Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Bliss/Mud, Tron Theatre review

Published in The Guardian.

Bliss/Mud review

Tron, Glasgow
4 out of 5

It is billed as "Tron Stripped" but, whatever the budget limitations, there is nothing low-rent about the intensity of this north American double bill. Seen individually, Bliss and Mud would pack a powerful punch; together, these bleak studies of the dispossessed are almost overwhelming.

Bliss by Olivier Choinière - in a crisp translation by Caryl Churchill - is the missing link between Hello! magazine and David Lynch's Eraserhead. It starts as an ironic portrayal of the life of Céline Dion as seen through the gushingly reductive prose of a celebrity magazine, then mutates into a desperate tale of child abuse and mental instability.

To Oracle, played by Gabriel Quigley, Dion is a latter-day goddess whose most minor actions she imbues with quasi-religious meaning. Initially appearing to be a figure of authority, Oracle turns out to be authoritative only when it comes to pop-star trivia. In every other aspect of her life she is a powerless victim; Quigley brilliantly captures the vulnerability, delusion and conviction of a deeply damaged woman.

Andy Arnold's production shows some signs of first-night nerves, but it is unsettling in its transformation from the throwaway to the horrific.

If there's something condescending about Maria Irene Fornes's portrayal of illiterate hicks in Mud, it is offset by the sensitivity of the actors' performances.

This time, Quigley is pinning her hopes of salvation on Grant Smeaton's mild-mannered Henry, whose marginally superior education offers the possibility of escape from poverty. Her attempted departure, bleakly echoing that of Nora in A Doll's House, leads not to emancipation but tragedy, brought on by Mark Prendergast's dysfunctional housemate. Dark humour and moments of hope compensate for the desolation.

© Mark Fisher, 2009

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