Arts Review: STaG New Works, Night 3

Student Theatre at Glasgow, Websters Theatre, 18th February

The third and final night of Student Theatre at Glasgow’s ‘New Works’ festival exposed two very distinct styles of writing, direction and performance to a packed Websters Theatre. Samuel Scott’s Tragedy at Barnaby Lane and Anna Siegel’s It’s A Dog’s Life closed out the 3-day showcase of brand new material by Glasgow students.

Tragedy at Barnaby Lane is a tale of two incompetent burglars forced to break into a house to retrieve documents for an important patent they’ve managed to let slip; David Bain and Bryn Jones entertainingly bounce off one another as the two burglars, with some skilfully executed stage violence and excellent physical exuberance reined back just enough to avoid the dreaded OTT territory so often plaguing student theatre. The comedy mainly revolves around the two thieves’ rapport, with a few genuine laugh-out-loud moments (but mostly just ticking along enough to keep a grin settled firmly on on-looking faces), and at times carries a faint whiff of sub-par Tumblr humour, but picks up once the house’s owners (Holly Macmaster and Robert McGovern) unexpectedly return and begin a second act propped up by an up-down-up-down lighting  sequence, providing seemingly infinite physical punchlines, all imaginative and surprising enough to keep from getting stale.Tragedy at Barnaby Lane is a very solid piece of theatre worth seeing, but one can’t help feeling it acts somewhat as a support act for what’s to come next.

The fairly uninspiring title bestowed upon It’s A Dog’s Life is its only disappointing feature. Essentially a canine take on Bugsy Malone, it follows a young pup, Johnny (Ruaridh Mathieson), arriving in New York and finding a job in BoneyMaroney’s speakeasy. The story is set in flashback, occasionally cutting back to Johnny recounting the tale in the dog pound, and all six actors play two distinct characters in flashback and present. The standout performance undoubtedly comes from the brilliant James Johnson as Barry, with a perfect (at least to Scottish ears) Bronx accent, an out-of-the-blue drag scene and by far and away the funniest punchline in the show. It takes a stellar effort by the rest of the cast to stop him from stealing the show, but they manage it – well-paced and impressive musical interludes by Harriet Rafferty and Midge Parry have Websters Theatre rapt in silence, while Johnson and Elliot Thompson’s roles as Rob Anderson (BoneyMaroney himself)’s bumbling cronies all come together beautifully to produce a truly stunning piece fit for bigger stages. STAG are going from strength to strength.

[Ciaran McQueen]

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