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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, September 30, 2014

Theatre review: Grit - the Martyn Bennett Story

Published in the Guardian

Tramway, Glasgow
Three stars

IT BEGINS in darkness. Through brief bursts of light, we capture the fleeting movement of running figures as the acoustic strum and wailing lament of Martyn Bennett's Move gives way to the fuzzed-up urban rhythms that characterised the composer's thrilling fusion of the ancient and the modern. In bold capitals, the words "MOVE" and "SHIFT" flash across the back wall of Kai Fischer's open set.
This is Cora Bissett's tribute show at its best. With a punkish energy, the director captures the sense of open-ended excitement generated through the music of Bennett, who died in 2005 from Hodgkin's lymphoma.
She celebrates his deep respect for the traditions of Scottish folk and his equal love for the rave beats that animated the Glasgow club scene of the 1990s. He was a piper who dared to reinvigorate the old folk forms, not as a gimmick or with any "misty-lensed fanciful garbage about Scotland", as he says here, but with an honesty that leaps out in the recordings he left behind.
Bennett was 33 when he died, and his life story appears to have been entirely without conflict. As told here, in a script written by Kieran Hurley in collaboration with Bissett, his greatest obstacle was a music teacher who asked him to rein in his experimental tendencies. As a result, Grit is always one step away from soap-opera banality, well-acted though it is by Sandy Grierson as a dreamy Bennett, Hannah Donaldson as his ever-smiling wife and Gerda Stevenson showing her versatility in a range of supporting roles.
With too many indifferent dance sequences, it's left to the very great force of the music itself to give the show its punch.
© Mark Fisher 2014 
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