Theatre review: With You in the Distance – EHG Theatre, Glasgow Green

First published in The Times, Friday July 23 2021

Four Stars

Scotland’s theatre makers are finding increasingly inventive ways of reconfiguring work for outdoor spaces, with shows due to open soon in a car park, on a beach and on a caravan site.

This new piece from the Glasgow-based EHG Theatre is a hybrid of walking tour and monologue that uses a diverse portion of the city as both backdrop and setting.

Visitors to Glasgow are often encouraged to “look up” to appreciate the city’s rich architectural heritage. With You in the Distance — written by Neil John Gibson and performed alternately by Gibson and Ciaran Stewart — requires its single audience member to engage from the outset with their surroundings, whether that means peering through the iron gates of the Briggait, where the tour begins, imagining the teeming fish market that would have existed in the late 19th century, or gazing down the Clyde to where the shipbuilding industry would have been hitting its peak in the same era.

Pic: Claire Millar Photography

Gibson’s script knits together these historical strands in the story of Stewart and Anselmo, the first a Glasgow fishmonger, the latter a Spanish seafarer, who meet and become lovers during the Glasgow Fair of 1888.

The storytelling keeps pace with our promenade along the north bank of the river, with each stopping-off point appearing as a staging post in the narrative. At first, the tone is informal, placing the audience member at ease, the performer’s conversational manner belying the care and lyricism of the writing.

On the return route through Glasgow Green, the tale also takes a turn, switching into a first-person point of view and passing into territory that is unsettling.

There is nothing trite or predictable about the ending: Gibson asks us to think carefully about ideas of inclusion, acceptance and shame, in an era of criminalised homosexuality and in a contemporary context.

It is testament to the writing and an engaging performance that we become drawn in so powerfully. At times the environment appears to melt away. The other boon is the stunning weather, which shows off the cityscape to full advantage.

Box office via ehgtheatre.com, to August 7

Author: Allan Radcliffe

I am a writer, freelance journalist, subeditor and theatre critic, based in South Queensferry. My short fiction has been published in anthologies such as Out There, Elsewhere, The Best Gay Short Stories, ImagiNation, Markings, Gutter, New Writing Scotland and Celtic View. I have won the Scottish Book Trust's New Writer's Award and several of my stories have been adapted for broadcast on BBC Radio 4. As a journalist I write regularly for The Times, the Scotsman, Scotland on Sunday, Sunday Herald, Sunday Times, Metro, Big Issue and I was formerly assistant editor of The List magazine.

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