Wee Andy [FringeTIX]
Tumult in the Clouds @ Holden Street Theatres – The Studio
2:30pm, Sat 25 Feb 2012
It’s to be expected that any discussion of Wee Andy is going to occur in conjunction with Fleeto – the two are inexorably linked by the attack on (the eponymous, in this case) Wee Andy at the top of both shows. But I found the two pieces to be markedly different, despite the numerous links and crossovers between them, both in content and – most importantly – in tone.
Wee Andy, as the title would suggest, follows Wee Andy after his Glasgow Smile attack, with the action taking place in his hospital. Narrated by the Surgeon (listed in the programme as “Police Officer”) who has tended to the results of too many of these attacks, much of the performance focusses on Andy’s Mother’s shock at the attack, followed by the realisation of what her son’s life has subsequently become: visibly branded by that act of violence, his options in later life become extremely limited.
Andy’s friend Mackie – Fleeto‘s protagonist – makes a brief appearance, but Kenzie has a much more significant role in the play after he is admitted to the hospital – he’s still the same evil fuck that he was before, but the frustrated – almost animalistic crippled howls – struggle as he loses more and more of his influence is incredibly scary… and compelling.
Pauline Knowles’ performance as Andy’s Mother is magnificent – easily one of the best performances I’ve seen this year. Andy Clark again imparts a restrained weariness in his Surgeon, despite an explosive scene with Neil Leiper’s Kenzie that really turns the performance on its head. But because Mother and Surgeon form a lot of the focus of Wee Andy, the language is a lot more adult – restrained, circumspect – especially compared to Fleeto. And that, in turn, removes a lot of dynamism from the show.
It’s also a less overtly violent piece – certainly the language, being restricted to that of the Surgeon and Andy’s Mother, is nowhere near as profane or violent. The actual acts of violence are similarly handled through separated characters enacting the physical movements – an effective ploy. But the real violence in the piece is communicated by the Surgeon – detailed descriptions of the natures of the attacks upon Andy and Kenzie made me squirm in my seat. And the string used to “scar” Andy is particularly effective.
But, despite all the quality inherent in Wee Andy, it really didn’t grab me as tightly as Fleeto did. At times it seems overtly preachy, almost lecturing on society’s need to pay more attention to the underclasses… a message that was more subtly presented in Fleeto. And, after the performance, I spent the best part of twenty minutes with Holden Street staff discussing the preferred order of seeing the shows. I reckon I stumbled into them in the correct order, Fleeto then Wee Andy; I think it helps to see Mackie’s story in full before the minor role he plays in Wee Andy. And I really enjoyed seeing Kenzie suffer in this show, especially after discovering the truth behind Andy’s attack… a truly bitter twist in the tail.
But then I start wondering: how would I have felt in Fleeto if I knew all there was to learn in Wee Andy? Unfortunately, that’s something that I just cannot experience now… but it does make for deliciously deep and ponderous contemplation.