2007 (pt 1)

Feature by Hugo Fluendy | 07 Dec 2007
That's the thing about hindsight and end of year lists too: you don't know what you're missing until aux escaliers your rusting critical apparatus crunches arthritically into gear and in a sudden flash (for what other kind is there?) of belated 20 20 vision/intellectual cowardice you realise that the play you hated back in January was actually quite good. You know that because everyone else said so too. In real life, being right after the fact is entirely useless, and in criticism, frankly irritating.

But despite this annual ritual of self-congratulatory consensus there's no missing the productions that really mattered to you personally. These are the shows that hit you hard at the time and continue to resonate even as the initial CMYK impressions fade into a nuanced sepia. Some productions are so hotly anticipated that the list-induced, herd mentality works its mediocre magic in advance and you are dishing out the plaudits before the curtain has even gone up. Mabou Mine's masterfully surreal Doll's House at the Edinburgh International Festival was one: the dream sequences from its hallucinatory take on Ibsen's period piece seemed to etch themselves onto your subconscious like the ghost image of a light bulb. Others, such as quirky mother and son dance piece Susan and Darren at The Traverse in October, are more unexpected. An eccentric, audience participative lament for a murdered father, the show's boozy picnic to a pop reggae soundtrack format was instantly charming yet the dignity of the eponymous lead as he struggled to make sense of his loss lingered long after your hangover.

Certainly 2007 has been a year packed with incident; geo-politics finally made it onto the agenda with Suspect Culture's revue Futurology, a National Theatre of Scotland growing in stature with each new production, a new home for the continuing renaissance at the Scottish Ballet under Ashley Page at The Tramway, Breakin' Convention's international celebration of street dance at Edinburgh's Festival Theatre, a new Artistic Director for The Traverse as Philip Howard steps down after 12 years at the helm, Andy Arnold's Arches managing to both champion emerging talent with initiatives such as The Brick Awards and The Arches Festival while also ensuring more established voices continue to be heard with the first new drama from James Kelman in over a decade and of course the Edinburgh Festival continues to burgeon with more than 2,000 shows making it the world's biggest festival of the dramatic arts by a country mile to name only a few. So while the opinion gathered here does not claim to offer a definitive record of Scottish theatre in 2007 but merely a study for a much, much bigger picture, it's testament to the vitality of our nations cultural scene that such a wide spread of productions are on offer.