Wednesday, 8 March 2017

'One thinks of it all as a dream' is a play written by Alan Bissett and directed by Sacha Kyle. It charts the 1967 release of Pink Floyd’s début album, 'The Piper at the Gates of Dawn', and the erratic behaviour of frontman Syd Barrett. Is he having a drug-induced breakdown or is he playing an elaborate joke on the band and the music industry?

Roger 'Syd' Barrett was the principal songwriter for 'The Piper at the Gates of Dawn', an absolute masterpiece. He wrote a handful of classic singles that helped define the psychedelic age. However he was happiest when sketching, painting. Unlike some of his peers – Jimi, Jim, Brian, Janis –  he survived that era, though he was hardly undamaged. Syd died in 2006 aged 60.

The play takes the form of vignetted, dream-like sequences; it almost lapses into pantomime mode. I tried LSD - it was nothing like the play's interpretation. I caught Floyd live a couple of times at festivals back then – later, that and the fact I once spent a weekend in Roger Waters' Mum’s house, made my pals who were aficionados of the band a bittie jealous. These fan(atic)s hibernated when a Floyd LP was released, then emerged in a trance to carry the album around plaguing others - "Play it, play  it!" - like or not. I told them Pink Floyd was a great singles band, that their 'Relics' LP was mostly shite, that I was totally rat-arsed during my late teens and beyond, that I can recall. This confirmed what they suspected - I was the one with problems, a wayward idiot winding them up, a guff who went off to festivals wearing beads, rode a motorbike and danced to PP Arnold with the Small Faces, fave act of the Mods. My pals named a syndrome after me: 'Confused' became my nickname.

In  'One thinks of it all as a dream',  acid guru and Scottish psychiatrist R.D. Laing makes an appearance. “How do you know it’s Syd who has the problem?” he asks Roger Waters. It's a good question.

This poignant play was commissioned by the Mental Health Foundation for the Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival. Co-produced with A Play, A Pie and A Pint, Traverse Theatre, Òran Mór and Aberdeen Performing Arts, the hour-long production manages to paint a vivid portrait of a transformational period in pop music, studying as a focal point one of its most enigmatic, complex characters. It stars Euan Cuthbertson as Syd Barrett.

One thinks of it all as a dream' was performed at the splendid Lemon Tree venue. A Play, A Pie and a Pint is great value (£11 on this occasion); the format has whetted the appetite of Aberdeen's culture vultures - there were queues and the Lemon Tree was packed for the matinee performance on November 4th 2016. The audience was principally of a certain vintage: I didn’t spot anyone having acid flashbacks.

Alan Bissett is a playwright, novelist and performer who grew up in Falkirk, where he has a street named after him. He won the Glenfiddich Scottish Writer of the Year award in 2011. Alan and Sacha Kyle are one of Scotland’s most acclaimed writer-director teams, creators of Edinburgh Festival Fringe hits such as The Moira Monologues, The Pure, The Dead and the Brilliant and Ban this Filth! Sacha's recent credits include Turbo Folk and What the F**kirk?
Related reading:  Sacha's website     Alan Bissett article - 'Portrait of a life in theatre'

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