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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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Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Raspberry, theatre review

Published in The Guardian


Tron, Glasgow
3 out of 5

Christine Bruno enters in virulent pink tights, a dirty grey tutu and a wayward string of pearls. Her mop of curly hair heads in every direction. It's a look of punkish defiance, a style at once idiosyncratic and recognisably late-70s. That she is wearing callipers and being wheeled around the stage on a porter's trolley only adds to the effect.

Such gleeful non-conformity was the stock-in-trade of Ian Dury, whose subversive ghost haunts Garry Robson's play. With music by Leigh Stirling, Raspberry summons up the confrontational spirit of a musician whose contribution to the United Nations' International Year of Disabled Persons in 1981 was a song called Spasticus Autisticus.

Robson himself plays Dury, back from the dead, with the kind of acerbic bite captured by actor Andy Serkis in the recent biopic Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll, plus a warm charm that is all his own. In his two-tone jacket and shiny red DMs, he is a bald-headed people's poet with an unsanctimonious message about the perils of body fascism.

Bruno plays a character called Raspberry, a cute nickname if her mother hadn't been thinking of the rhyming slang for cripple. She doesn't want to deny her disability, she just doesn't want to be defined by it. Her quest is to live without being judged by others.

Directed by Gordon Dougall in a three-way split between Fittings Multimedia, Sounds of Progress and the Tron, Raspberry has an appropriately reckless atmosphere, down to the anvil and climbing frame that serve as impromptu percussion instruments. Artist Keith McIntyre adds a touch of class with his monochrome set, a chalky blackboard with dated images of bodily perfection, from a bathing belle to a robot and an American wrestler.

It has the promise of a dynamic show, but the oddball texture of the staging is let down by an inconsequential story. Having given his spiky advice to Raspberry, the Dury figure evaporates. The woman's encounter with her self-hating father, meanwhile, is a soap opera scene and not a fully fledged drama.

The energy might flag during the dialogue, but it never lets up during the songs. These are the real heart of the performance, evoking the sound of the Blockheads with Jankelesque keyboards, jazz-funk rhythms and choppy guitar to match the playful lyrics that, in true Dury style, are at once erudite and earthy. That's good enough reason to be cheerful.

At Traverse, Edinburgh (0131-228 1404), Thursday to Saturday. Then touring.

© Mark Fisher

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