Them! (5 stars)


credit: Tommy Ga Ken Wan

Pamela Carter and Stewart Laing's new NTS show is an iconoclastic triumph

Taking the classic kitsch 50s creature feature Them! as a loose jumping-off point, writer Pamela Carter and director Stewart Laing's show for the National Theatre of Scotland is a wayward, anarchic meditation on politics, media and the creative process, with their characteristic wit and invention – and ants – acting as an extended metaphor for collective responsibility. Their ambition is more than matched by the density of Carter's script. It's rich and complex with zingers which land every time.

Set in a mocked-up TV studio (with fabulous neon design from Nick Miller) the incredible Kiruna Stamell is a glamorous, three feet tall presenter, also called Kiruna, with her own cheeky way of commandeering her guests. But when Stewart Laing's hilariously earnest self-parody figure tires of trite questions about his meta remake of Them!, he brings in wild-eyed substitute (Ross Mann on splendidly manic form) to spit out some home truths about Laing's work and the role of the artist. The remarks about funding and authenticity would be a scream if they weren't so close to the bone.

Discourse and mischief make easy bedfellows here, and the interjections from Carla J Easton's live band, Village of The Damned-esque chorus of children and Rosina Bonsu's filthy minded adviser, all point to a furious, engaged, if not quite dystopian, future where everyone fits in place like little cogs in the machine.

Tramway, Glasgow, until Sat 6 Jul.

National Theatre of Scotland: Them!

New performance event from Stewart Laing and Pamela Carter exploring identity in a changing world.