Benandjerrygirl's Blog

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Harbour Arts Centre

Harbour Arts Centre, Irvine

On Saturdays the HAC Bar at the Harbour Arts Centre in Irvine has two menus which run alongside one another during the 12-2 normal lunch slot. Whilst it is nice to have a traditional lunch, it is a rare treat to have a late breakfast. The breakfast menu has the usual bacon and egg option and also vegetarian options. They do a delicious French toast with bacon and Maple syrup. Yesterday my companion had this and said it was as good as it looked. I opted instead for salted porridge with cream followed by toast with butter and jam with the bread being from a traditional loaf rather than a shop-bought one. The coffee came with a large shortbread biscuit and with the addition of a Hot Cranberry Canadian Apple drink it still came in at just over £7 per head. Reasonable prices, nice surroundings and views and delicious food with the current art exhibit to look at afterwards. What more could one want on a Saturday afternoon?

Alcohol? They have that covered too.

They also do special menus on other days and provide papers for the lone visitor. The staff are friendly and recognise the regular visitor. There is also a loyalty card.



A Slow Air

I grew up with Borderline  and the 7:84 theatre company. In those days theatre companies had funding to take theatre to the masses and as a result edgy productions were available and well attended as the ticket prices were affordable. My teachers took us Glasgow overspill children to see real plays, traditional and modern, and the habit stuck. 

How times change.

Now children seem to only go to panto or school organised Bard productions in city theatres. The upshot of this was that I was the second youngest person in the audience of about 30 people at the HAC to see a very good production of a recent sell out Edinburgh Festival play specially touring to mark the 4oth anniversary of Borderline. It has been performed all over the country and in New York.

The two hander, believably acted by  Lewis Howden and Pauline Knowles, A Slow Air revolves around a family reunited after a decade and a half of estrangement. A graphic novelist cartoonist is approaching his 21st birthday and he turns up on his uncle Athol’s doorstep for no apparent reason. The story is told in alternating monologues – he said, she said – about the same event. One character will sit in darkness while the other talks and details of a buttoned up life compared with a wild hand to mouth existence emerge. No-one is fully happy or innocent and with nods to the recent past of terrorism in Glasgow and the more proactive marches on the Mound of the past fleet in and out of the pictures being painted. Morna is the kind of woman who will overstep boundaries with her boss or on a bus whereas Athol will worry about his next contract and any part he played in terrorism no matter how insignificant and yet can manage to consign his sister and her boy to a drawer in his mind not to be opened.

There is pathos and comedy in the script written by David Harrower as we edge towards that moment where Athol and Morna will have to decide if the pains of the past or the efforts of the present will determine the future. 

There is a lovely moment where Athol is able to show Josh that he has never been forgotten and “Don’t You Forget About Me” is of more significance than one would expect from the tones of the monologues at the start.

“You can feel blood. You can. Even after all this time.”

A lovely play that deserves to be seen by more than the turnout at the HAC last night. The stripped down stage didn’t used to mean stripped down audiences. It’s time to support your local theatre once more.




Marymassacre and Seven Year Itch

Last night I went to a double bill at the Harbour Arts Centre in Irvine. The publicity blurb for the two plays read as follows:

A double bill of two critically acclaimed comedies from Scotland’s premier touring company, described in the national press as brilliant, gifted and fiercely accessible.
MARY MASSACRE A bitter sweet, emotional rollercoaster of a story about two disappointed women waiting at the candy floss machine on Irvine Moor. On the surface, there are stories of the women who share a light hearted secret and a love of psychics. Underneath, a tale of deceit, loss and betrayal. Both of them are unaware how they’ll change each others lives for ever.
SEVEN YEAR ITCH This true story of the brutal slaying of an office worker in America is interwoven with the delightfully flamboyant tales of two Glasgow co-workers, one of whom is obsessed with Dolly Parton.
Seven Year Itch is for the day dreamer who looks at the stapler with murderous intentions, for anyone who thinks about shredding their co-workers fingers and for those of you who sing out loud and proud at your desk.

Random Accomplices have been touring with Marymassacre since 2008 and it had returned to the HAC with another two-hander written by the same writer Johnny McKnight. It had originally been specially commissioned for the HAC and the set would have been instantly recognisable to an Irvine crowd with monochrome houses in the background evoking the Glasgow Vennel style of an ancient Irvine Street. Two women who do not know one another meet at the shows in a fortune teller tent on Irvine Moor. Their tenuous link is that the woman telling the fortune is the functioning alcoholic wife of the man Gavin that the younger woman is about to meet for a first date after chatting for days on an internet dating site. The younger woman knows that Gavin is married but “His wife doesn’t understand him.” The wife has found out about the date as she can hack into her husband’s password protected online profile. The dialogue is by turns hilarious and tragic and the tiny HAC set was used to its best effect with a hamper on the slightly raised stage containing every prop required to tell the story from candy floss to laptop.

The intimacy of the HAC worked well for this piece and at the sad parts it is hard to stop your eyes welling up in empathy for the wife’s tragedy as she delivers her searing lines. Another benefit of the HAC is that the cast drink in the same bar afterwards and are perfectly happy to chat to the audience which is something you don’t generally get with larger theatres.

Seven Year Itch was however a completely different kettle of fish. It took a true story of the slaying of an American Catholic Polish/English translator at a Chicago funeral home by a gay teenage fellow employee and attempted to transfer that to a Glasgow office and turn it into a comedy. The actors had three personas on stage, “themselves”, their Glasgow counterparts and the American characters. They frequently became themselves to explain why they were doing something or what they had changed to retell the story in a comedic fashion. In some ways it was too clever for its own good. In saying that however it was well acted, told the stories well and had some good lines. The clumsy stepping in and out of character unfortunately meant that our disbelief was never completely suspended.

A 2-for-1 Double Nugget however was a bargain night out and I would recommend that you go to the touring version once it gets to your town.

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