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The Attic, by Alan Jackson

Friday, 26 August, 2011

Performed with consummate style

Edinburgh ’11, Main Hall, The Columcille Centre – 13rd &14th  Aug at 14.30 & 18.00

Sometimes a piece of work on the stage is so illuminating it is worth seeing three or four times before attempting to make comment about its content. Alan Jackson’s play for solo actor, “The Attic”, is one such work. It is one hour twenty five minutes of densely packed consideration of the nature of a life, lived as a human, in the last century, from the perspective of a humble, evolved Being living now.

That this is today, in the 21st century, rather than the 20th century is important in the context of the play, however, much of the action comments on the last forty years of the 20th century, much of it lived in an attic, where The Poet is experiencing self imposed isolation, to filter his thoughts, assess his life and hone his Art Form. He is in the process of Becoming. The action moves between NOW, where the audience is being directly addressed, and then, when the Poet lived in the attic, which features as the title of the play.

“ I had rented the attic for years as a workplace, a studio, you weren’t meant to live there. When I told friends I shared a flat with that I was going to stay there I said: ‘I am going to go and stand in my own fire.’

We witness The Poet “standing in his own fire “ at various times in the years before, as beautifully played flashbacks, upon which the present time narrator Poet comments, while the story and poetry unfold as one.

The set is a beautiful evocation of bare, sparsely furnished, attic space littered with papers and books. One gets the impression there might have been more papers in piles if the set was more permanently fixed than a touring set can be. The poetry in The Attic was written between 1961 and 1978. The real attic is still there, high up in a university building in Buccleuch Place, in the heart of Edinburgh.

A well known brand of pie in its tin features as a meal during the performance. The fact that the tin is also a plate underlines the practical efficiency of everything domestic in the attic room, as is anything which is not to do with the writing, like the Baby Belling cooker and the bedroll.

The writing is found in notebooks, on the backs of envelopes and other odd places, written on any surface to hand when the muse was flowing. These are found and typed up on an old fashioned typewriter, not a computer, to become part of The Work. The Poet sleeps on a mat rolled out on the floor. Sometimes he speaks insights into a tape recorder when awakened in the night by The Voice of Insight. We hear him think.

Andrew Floyd, the actor charged with becoming Alan Jackson on stage inhabits the space with great grace and a splendid command of the beautiful language. This is a serious exploration of the intelligent developing male psyche, laced with witty observations and deep insights, following the poet through a particularly challenging section of his life, in which he is taking his social construct apart and allowing himself to be guided to re-emerge as a connected Human Being. The writing is never self indulgent but spare, dense with meaning and powerfully evocative. Often it is very beautiful while still being colloquial and modern. The intensity of the work is directly expressed. It has emerged as a result of living deliberately, to reveal that which is hidden beneath the surface and break through into Freedom from social programming and lies.

Although rarely publicly active now, Alan Jackson is one of Britain’s major poets. He was one of the central figures , giving hundreds of readings with Norman McCaig, Adrian Mitchett, Edwin Morgan, Pete Morgan and Brian Patten in the 60’s and 70’s. He stepped out of the limelight to obey – to live – the poetry, rather than deliver it. He continues to do this, as well as collating his poetry into books and writing new works. His work Collected Poems, Walking Through Apocalypse and A Great Beauty are now accessible on line and can be ordered from www.lulu.com or www.amazon.com and can be found in any really good book shop.

This well directed production of Alan Jackson’s most recent writing and creative collaboration finishes with Alan Jackson’s own voice, on tape, speaking his own work. Hearing him in the air was an extra treat at the end of this beautiful performance. Andrew Floyd is playing a living person, which is always a terrific challenge for an actor. He creates a rare hybrid, giving Alan Jackson’s script all the necessary weight and lightness to hold the attention, entertain and provoke deep responses. This production is a gem. Everyone involved has created their masterpiece, to manifest this splendid autobiographical script and its writer’s character with due craftsmanship and insightful power. I laughed aloud often and sat in rapt silence, smiling the rest of the time, delighted to be presented this rare opportunity to look inside a man. We were being given honest insight into the creative process of an astonishing, warm-hearted talented Human Being who is still alive and well, living in Scotland and once more sharing his work with the world.

Cast Credits: ( alpha order ) Andrew Floyd – The Poet,  Alan Jackson – The Voice of Alan Jackson

Company Credits: Writer – Alan Jackson,  Director – Adam Fotheringham.  Voicework and Artistic Direction– Lizzie Hutchinson.  Lighting Mike Watson, Production Assistant – Nathaniel Mason,  Set Construction – Moses,  Construction Assistant – Zeb, Painter – Michael Harter,  Administration and Marketing – Rosie Strain, Artwork,programme and publicity Dylan Floyd, http://www.dylanfloyd.co.uk

© Lilian Kennedy Brzoska 2011

reviewed Sunday 14h August 11

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