Tina Conway explores life in Glasgow from a female perspective.
The new Glaswegian play, ‘Up a Close’, written by Tina Conway and directed by Victor Kennedy (playing at Webster’s Theatre), is a moving, realistic, and humorous ode to the female experience in late 20th century Glasgow.
This performance gave the audience a safe space to laugh and reminisce about happy memories and difficult topics of their past. It was a conversation between the audience and the actresses, about daily life, and also bigger, life-altering decisions. Being a spectator of this conversation, I was incredibly moved by the reaction it created. It resonated with the crowd and the theatre turned into a space of community. The role of the audience was just as important as the actresses themselves.
Joanna, imitating her abusive husband and laughing about her old mates from Catholic school, portrayed this role with realism and humour. As she walks around her flat in Partick, she narrates the story of her accidental pregnancy, her quick marriage when she was only 18, her high school days (getting caught with a joint by Sister Mary) and so on. Young Joanna, with college in front of her and opportunities all around, comes in dancing on stage with her school uniform and her wedding dress on, singing with her aunt and best friend on the sofas. Whenever a song would start, all the ladies would start singing along, rocking with their arms interlocked, eyes on the stage, and smiling at the nostalgia; they felt heard and listened to.
Every now and again, it took itself very seriously, with a sequence of blue lights and melancholy music with a torn veil. This unnecessary addition to the play didn’t take away from its main strength, and its relatability to the audience. At times they even started nodding their heads and murmuring in agreement at the specific hairspray and perfume that was name checked on stage. The props were simple, familiar and subtle, with a sofa, a coffee table, a window, and some bottles in the background.
Specific locations were frequently mentioned: Kelvingrove Art Gallery, Partick, Great Western Road, thanks to Tina Conway’s background in Glasgow. Growing up in the city, she opened and was part owner of the famous Cleopatra’s Nightclub on Great Western Road. ‘Up A Close’ is her first play and it comes with a lifetime of Glasgow memories to draw on for inspiration.
Joanna, realising her husband isn’t home, says, “I’m gonna have a sherry.” The groups of women in the audience laughed and egged her on. After a few drinks, she finally says, “Fuck it, I’m gonna have another one.” Hysterics broke out. The play was a representation of female individuality and desires; at the same time, the all-female casting pointed towards the theme of female solidarity and finding comfort, for the ups and downs of life, in the people around you.
At the end of the play, Shang-A-Lang by the Bay City Rollers started playing; the actresses danced around the stage as the audience stamped their feet, and clapped at the rhythm, with a few getting up themselves and dancing.
This production was a testament to the talent and creativity of the Glasgow theatre scene, and it undoubtedly gave people a good time.