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Normal service resumes

Pauline McLean | 06:07 UK time, Tuesday, 16 September 2008

My self imposed cultural vacuum didn't last long.

You clearly can't wind down without a good book - and Kate Atkinson's new novel When Will There Be Good News and Catherine O'Flynn's amazing debut novel What Was Lost both fitted the bill. Both have clever, funny children at their heart - and I raced through both quite happily during the holidays.

Back to the theatre too - this time the Tron - for V.AMP's production of Fleeto. Originally part of the Play and a Pie and a Pint season at Oran Mor, it's now been expanded into an hour long stage play with a fairly substantial cast - including students who play the shadowy gang members and deliver their own chilling version of Auld Lang Syne.

The play examines a knife crime from many different angles - victim's mother, policeman, pathologist and perpetrator - ambitiously in verse as a sort of classical Greek drama. All the cast are terrific but in particular Neil Leiper as the menacing gang leader Kenzie.

The night I was there the Tron was packed with schoolkids whose teenage rustlings and giggling were very swiftly replaced by rapt attention. Interestingly when Kenzie drew a huge serrated knife from his shellsuit, there were a few gasps of awe as well as the more general ones of horror.

Regardless, we were all gripped to the play's final chilling denoument. No easy answers - but then again, perhaps that was the point.

Destined to keep repeating our mistakes over and over until someone is brave enough to stand up and say enough.

Fleeto is off on tour around Scotland this autumn, including four performances in Polmont Young Offenders Institution. Artistic director Alison Peebles - who also gives a bravura performance as a bereaved mum - tells me the age gap between the cast will also be most apparent in their down time. While the young stars may be off out on the town, she's looking forward to a few sessions of tea and scones with friends up and down the country.

After the full on assault of Fleeto, I should probably have taken myself off to the cinema for something light and comic, but having already seen Mamma Mia and not liking the look of the remake of The Women, I found myself in the GFT on Friday afternoon for the Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.

Based on the John Boyne book of the same name, it's the story of an eight year old boy called Bruno whose father - a Nazi commandant - moves them to the country to be closer to his work, a death camp.

Bruno doesn't know it's a death camp, he thinks it's some kind of farm, and he tries to find out more from another eight year old he befriends on the other side of the wire fence.

Now I'm aware that there's a whole raft of opinion which believes that any fictionalising of the Holocaust is wrong - I once heard Bernice Reubens rant about the evils of Steven Spielberg and Thomas Keneally before him for attempting to sentimentalise the subject in Schindler's List and playing right into the hands of those who believe the Holocaust to be all made up.

But I've always thought there was room for both factual and fictional accounts. And as long as they're still teaching about the Holocaust in schools, I see no reason why children who're unlikely to have any direct contact with anyone who lived through that era (save perhaps a few hardy great grandparents out there) shouldn't get some sense of the horror of the time through books or films.

It's not cloyingly sentimental - or as exploitative as Life is Beautiful - and it doesn't shy away from an ending which is dark and disturbing and all too painful.

What was interesting too, was that the audience on Friday afternoon at the GFT (still £3 for all!) was largely made up of older people - many of whom would have been children themselves during the second world war and unable to do little more than follow their parents and hope they had the moral magnitude to make the right decisions.

So back to work this week - and cultural activity continues apace.

Scottish Ballet dip their toes in vintage territory this week with their new show Pennies from Heaven, the Heritage Lottery will be handing out their latest award - not for another Titian this time - and notching up half a billion pounds of awards across the country since the pot began.

And the BBC's first Gaelic channel launches at the weekend. I went to the preview this morning when they promise music from Skye, a documentary on the killer Peter Manuel and a drama about a punk who meets Elvis.

Stay tuned. Normal service has resumed.


  • Comment number 1.

    Come on, let's cut the hubris - there's NOT as much going on on the South Bank of the Clyde as on the South Bank of the Thames... you know it, I know it, anyone with the faintest interest in the arts knows it, it's a ridiculous comment.

    I defer to no-one in my pride at Scotland's many achievements in the arts, but this kind of spurious and unnecessary comparison merely invites sniggering and ridicule from the already barely-sufferable London arts establishment.

    Why do we have to compare ourselves to anyone? - just celebrate excellence without any silly outside comparators. If that demands a new title for your blog, how about 'Squinting from the Squinty Bridge'??...


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