There is a chuckle of recognition from some of the audience when one of the characters in â€œLanarkâ€ is asked if they have read the book. â€œThe first 2 chapters,â€ is the reply. In this Citizens Theatre production at the Lyceum, the near impossible has been done, and done well.
Alasdair Grayâ€™s epic, complex, convoluted â€œLanarkâ€ has been successfully adapted by writer David Greig and director Graham Eatough into an enjoyable, understandable four hour theatrical experience that manages to enthral and grip its audience. There is no question of people leaving early during this mammoth production.
The stagecraft is excellent, and as Sandy Grierson delivers what must be the most demanding performance of his career as the eponymous hero, we are entranced by the intellectual rigour of this most challenging of works. Four hours may make our backs squirm, but never our minds. There is humour, and arch references, there are knowing nods in the direction of Kafka, Brecht, Pirandello, Joyce, Lewis Carrollâ€¦.. the list could go on. It could be a pseuds corner of spot-the-reference, but the self deprecation and down to earth tone behind the writing keeps us firmly grounded most of the time.
It would take a PhD thesis to write about the form and storyline, but suffice to say it is a surreal semi-autobiographical story which starts with Act 2, followed by Act 1, the Epilogue, and then Act 3. And no, it is not confusing. There is so much to ponder in this play. Itâ€™s the Scottish equivalent of classical Greek theatre – there is even an Oracle. It may have been a monumental challenge to produce, and a gruelling challenge to perform, but this play deserves a long life after the Festival. And if it leads people to read Grayâ€™s book in its entirety, then the experience can only be enriching.
Lyceum Theatre until August 30th