Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Yer Granny by National Theatre of Scotland

National Theatre Of Scotland’s new comedy Yer Granny, is set in Glasgow, in a flat above an obsolete chip-shop, pushed out of business by its competitors across the road.  Set in a hyper realistic but hideous 1970's living room, decorated alarmingly in mismatched patterns and beige, the Bay City Rollers blast out from the radio, and the clothing is the cream of seventies fashion.

The occupants are the Russo family. A 100 year old Granny, played by Gregor Fisher, who is greedily eating the family out of house and home, the audience wondering just how much food she can get through.  Diligent hard-working grandson Cammy and his wife Marie try to keep things going but are obstructed by their hapless family members. Cammy's brother Charlie is a 'musician' who has written a few bars of 'Requiem for Accordian' and not much else. Unwilling to work, he impedes Marie's plan for him to get a real job, at every opportunity. Innocent and romantic Aunt Angela wants to help out, and her spiral into drug dealing is perhaps the most humorous aspect of the play. Nice but dim Daddy's girl Marissa completes the family set up.  

The broad comedy of the first act darkens in the second.  Granny's insatiable appetite drives the family to desperate measures. There is a sense of impending doom and the morality of the family dissolves under the strain. Marie leaves her husband, they sell the furniture piece by piece, Marissa becomes a prostitute, Aunt Angela deals drugs. Charlie perhaps has the most outrageous approach to the problem, trying to lose Granny at the fair, attempting to murder her and inventing an elaborate scheme to marry her off to the much younger octogenarian Donnie Francisco.

The play appears to have many layers of meaning.  Granny could represent our global consumption of the world's resources, threatening ecological catastrophe. She could represent the parasitic matriarch in some European societies, controlling the lives of her children and grandchildren. She could represent capitalism, the welfare state or communism devouring it's government, its economy and its society.

It asks "What is your breaking point?" "At what point do you sell out your moral values?"

Based on Roberto Cossa’s Argentinian classic farce La Nona, written in 1977, a time of great difficulty for playwrights in Argentina, when artistic censorship was in place and Cossa asked "Do we Argentine playwrights even exist?"

Soon after Cossa’s condemnation of artistic censorship, he and other Argentine playwrights launched ‘Teatro Abierto’ (Open Theatre), a movement that would become one of the most important artistic resistances during the dictatorship. In a massive festival that generated over 25,000 spectators, artists came together to stage one-act plays that directly or indirectly spoke out against the dictatorship and proved that yes, Argentine playwrights do exist.

During the dictatorship, there was no censorship for plays before they were staged. After the premiere, some plays, like Eduardo Pavlovsky’s intense family drama ‘Telarañas’, were banned. However, many plays with decidedly political undercurrents premiered to great public and critical success, one of which was La Nona in which our ravenous Granny ends up killing her children.

I'm not sure that the depth of meaning was clear to the Gregor Fisher fans in the Lyric, who laughed and cheered at every move he made.  The audience laughter at the comedy of the first act lessened considerably as the surreal plot and dark humour took over and people realised that there was no way out from the ferociously gluttonous Granny who at the end threatened to eat the audience as well.

Yer Granny is at the Lyric until Saturday. Click here to find out more.

Read more about Teatro Abierto here:

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