Arts: Theatre: Savage but predictable indignation

FILTH/THE BOOKS OF BLOOD CITIZEN'S THEATRE GLASGOW
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The Independent Culture
SMALL WONDER that the Citz front-of-house staff were even more than usually concerned, as the first three productions in Giles Havergal's 30th anniversary season opened this week, to ensure that patrons were directed towards the right play.

In particular, that the elder female contingent there to see the main- house Pygmalion didn't end up in either of these two studio adaptations. Torrents of - well, filth (verbal, bodily, moral, psychological) in Harry Gibson's new one-man dramatisation of the latest Irvine Welsh opus; buckets of stage blood and sexed-up modern Gothic in Jon Pope's staging of two short stories from Clive Barker's bestselling debut collection: hardly the stuff of a good night out for your My Fair Lady fans.

Starring Tam Dean Burn, another leading figure from the semi-underground Edinburgh cultural scene that helped to engender Trainspotting, and with Gibson having successfully (to say the least) transposed that novel from page to stage, Welsh's gleefully repugnant portrayal of a corrupt Lothian and Borders policeman is in expertly sympathetic hands.

As a rough description, Filth rewrites The Bad Lieutenant as a black Scottish comedy, with a protagonist who doesn't even have Harvey Keitel's charisma going for him, but does have a nasty genital rash and a talking tapeworm. Abel Ferrara got there a few years before Welsh, however, and the story's underlying theme of masculinity/patriarchal society in crisis, threatened and terrified by difference (women, gays, black people), scarred by generations of destructive conditioning, has been so much the talk of the Nineties as to render Filth's delve into the causes and implications somewhat predictable in its direction.

However, there's rarely any faulting the energy of Welsh's writing and this came crackling through Burn's performance as the disintegrating DS Bruce Robertson, with thumbnail cameos of a dozen or more subsidiary characters deftly worked in alongside the central interior monologue. Given its obvious commercial potential, you'd hardly expect to find this show in the Citz's tiniest space, but dramatic priorities have taken precedence: Welsh is best appreciated on his own in-yer-face terms.

Upstairs in the Circle Studio a piece of popular fiction holding even less truck with highbrow opinion has been brought triumphantly to theatrical life, somehow managing to scale peaks of high-camp hilarity without remotely patronising either material or audience.

Pope, wearing a triple hat as adaptor, director and designer, and his four-strong cast enter Barker's fantasy-horror world with the kind of conviction only a postmodern Nineties sensibility can generate: think a distilled-down Rocky Horror minus the songs, plus a lot more sex, technical subtlety and splatterfest gore. Contradictory as those elements might seem, it's the production's finesse and - again - infectious relish in juggling unashamed, penny-dreadful-meets-B-movie melodrama, cartoonish imagery, purported intense solemnity and slick contemporary styling which makes for such superbly sophisticated entertainment.

Until 9 October, 0141-429 0022

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