Last weekend, theatregoers converged on an 18-storey tower block off the M8 for one of the National Theatre of Scotland's opening productions. Home, performed at 25 Soutra Place, an area once notorious for crime, was one of 10 plays on the theme from the NTS, which, freed from the shackles of a traditional venue, exploited locations across Scotland, from a ferry in Shetland to a Caithness glass factory.
The concept of an "outdoor spectacular", with video-camera-touting abseilers nosying into random flats, was exciting. But John Tiffany, the creator and director, and the NTS's associate director, struggled with his canvas, fielding a poorly scripted 40 minutes of increasingly static drama.
Warned of an imminent MI5 sting on two unsuspecting brothers, who'd been e-mailing one another cross-country about depleted uranium, we were told that Murdo, codenamed Dangermouse, was on his way up from London. Suddenly a car, headlights on, careered into the forecourt. Dangermouse (Billy Boyd, who played Pippin in The Lord of the Rings) got out, yelled up to "Chemical Tam" 10 floors above and rushed inside. Three MI5 men in black balaclavas then abseiled down the outside of the building. A thumping soundtrack blasted out from the speakers and the cameras were switched on.
Sadly, this was where the drama ended. Despite the dramatic possibilities of the location, our attention was focused for the remaining 39 minutes on the side of a lorry, on to which live film, ostensibly taken by the men in black balaclavas, was projected in fuzzy analogue.
A disembodied voice urged what we were led to believe was an army of hidden security forces to "Move in!", but this potentially exciting scenario did not come to pass. As increasingly bored children in the audience provoked chaos by log-rolling down the knoll, a slightly more organised group, a local youth theatre project, appeared to save Murdo and Tam. But although the young players applied themselves with gusto, they were poorly served by Allan Irvine's choreography. The final message - that home is family - was realised, disappointingly, in voice-over, as we gazed up at the blank face of Soutra Place. It's lucky then that the theatrical spread-betting exercise of this opening night meant there were nine other chances for an opening production worthy of a national theatre.Reuse content