Dir. Lou Prendergast, The Arches, 2nd-5th July
You may have already read about Lou Prendergast and her play Blood Lines in The Daily Record. The tale of how she turned her father’s past as a drug dealer and gangster, running a brothel in Glasgow’s Maryhill, into a piece of theatre has picked up quite some media attention. It is a colourful and eclectic story, just as Lou’s childhood must have been, but while it holds an audience’s interest, this colour does not necessarily come across on stage.
The staging of Blood Lines is incredibly effective; red cords are draped from the ceiling as a physical manifestation of the play’s title and main theme, while a Mercedes – remembered from childhood as important to Harry Prendergast – sits on one end of the stage, facing a band set-up. The audience are either side in traverse seating, and the actors move from the car to the instruments, often in the middle of the stage.
What the play tackles is not just the unpacking of Lou’s family history and connections, with her sister Sophie and her uncle joining her on stage, but the culture that created that family and its particular path. A culture of slavery and racism and struggle, created in part by the Commonwealth. As part of The Arches Culture 2014 season it engages interestingly with political questions that may otherwise be ignored or forgotten. Torn between two cultures with a white, hippie mother and a black, gangster father, Lou and Sophie talk of childhood confusion and not knowing where they fit in. Too much of one thing, too much of the other.
Unfortunately, despite its strong political engagement and insightful cultural exploration, the storytelling performances of Blood Lines hold it back. As it utilises elements of verbatim theatre, it is hard to accept the actors as anyone other than themselves, as they do not quite enter fully into any character. The bringing in of music to break up the speech is the most entertaining element of the show and showcases incredible talent in The Wee G3. However, it is not always the theatre’s exclusive job to entertain. The political questions are, perhaps, far more important, and the personal way they have been examined by Lou and her fellow performers will continue to resonate after the performance.