So if you take, then put back good
If you steal, be Robin Hood
If your eyes are wanting all you see
Then I think I'll name you after me
I think I'll call you Appetite
Ah, Prefab Sprout. I heard the song the other day on 6Music in my little flat in Liverpool, and it stuck. And so by the magic of wifi, I pull it from the ether while sitting in my (booked ahead therefore cheap) 1st class seat, Newcastle to London. I was up to watch and hear Ruby Moon, Matt Cameron's work in a production by Erica Whyman at Northern Stage. Erica directed his play Tear From A Glass Eye at the Gate a few years back, and I have to say it was one of my seminal nights in the theatre. I couldn't quite believe what I was seeing - a contemporary play that had the force of fable, the poetry of Beckett, a proper experience that put you through the mangle. I'd been feeling a bit jealous of Cameron as Erica had seemingly only ever worked with two writers, Shakespeare and me. Of course it wasn't true but it felt like it. And I didn't mind so much her going off sitting in a tree with Billy Bard. But after seeing Tear I was quite awestruck and smitten, and did that thing of going up to MC - he was over from Australia - and mumbling thanks and praise. Ruby Moon felt by comparison quite hard , in the sense of restrained in its treatment of big emotions, that was my first impression of it. But of course the paradox is that those emotions are generated by Cameron's story, so... Like Tear the play deals with loss and recovery, but it feels like the writer knows his own powers better now and is somewhat shrewder in their use, there's a control and an authorial distance there. But still the kind of stage poetry and intensity I loved in Tear, allied to perhaps a greater confidence, on reflection, in himself as a storyteller.
Erica and her associate Soutra Gilmour have wrought, as ever, a production to die for. Soutra has radically rethought Stage Two of the theatre so that once you pass the usher you're passing a kitchen window in suburban Australia, as you do so falling under the mournful gaze of Ruby's mother, whose agonies we are about to witness. Then you find yourself walking into her living room and taking a seat, never able for the next two hours to forget that she and the missing Ruby's father are living a hell.
Lyn Gardner's review pays proper tribute to the play, production, and the performances of Tilly Gaunt and Nick Haverson.
And for the record here is Mr de Jongh's review of Tear From A Glass Eye, which resulted in the play's nomination for an Evening Standard award, though he can't resist a barb or two, natch.
A couple more things.
The Miniaturists played the Everyman on Wednesday last, did'n dee. About twice as many people showed up as I was expecting, bloody good house, including the artistic and executive directors of Liverpool Theatres, assorted commissioned writers, Mike Bradwell and David Eldridge. No pressure, then.
But we pulled it off, I reckon. There was our trademark variety, largely speaking, for Liverpool to see. And if actually the first half was by turns tragic, heartbroken and enraged, Glyn brought the house down after the interval with his comic bookshop story. I brought up the rear, Dominic and Leanne playing dad and daughter under Lucy's (fine and felt, as usual) direction. Unusually for the Minis, there was just the one performance, so no second bite at the cherry for the bits that went pear-shaped (one of our actors, naming no names, inverted a line and so appeared to be claiming the Sun goes round the Earth, an old-fashioned view to be sure...). But safe to say each of the plays will pop up again on another bill in the not too distant.
Some rehearsal pics of Miniaturists on tour on the website (go to 'previous shows, click on Minis 7).