Guest reviewer: Hugh Simpson
Doppler: The Story So Far, a portrait of Grid Iron’s 2020 production of Doppler that never was, is an edifying, surprising and deeply human film.
A Norwegian novel by Erlend Loe (translated by Don Bartlett and Don Shaw), Doppler is a story of a man who leaves society behind in order to live a solitary life in the forest, away from consumerism and its demands, trading in the company of his family for that of an elk whose mother he has just eaten.
The book’s themes of separation and isolation chime poignantly with recent events – although Grid Iron’s adaptation was intended for the 2020 Fringe long before lockdown happened. Attempts to stage a socially distanced version outdoors thwarted, a plan was hatched to film it in Gifford Community Woodland – only for Storm Francis to put a stop to that too.
Around a third of the script was actually filmed, and those fragments are presented here. Grid Iron still hopes to stage the production at a later date, and there is enough to suggest that will be well worth seeing.
Keith Fleming’s performance as the man who has shunned society is a well-judged one, blending righteous anger and comic disconnection. Sean Hay and Itxaso Moreno, meanwhile, are tremendously versatile in a variety of roles, both human and animal – Moreno’s young elk is a particularly impressive creation.
The material has an engaging peculiarity yet remains immediately recognisable, and has a considerable satirical bite. However, the excerpts of performance are far from the whole story.
Framing these inserts is the background to the production, with producer Judith Doherty and adapter/director Ben Harrison helping to tell the story. The cast and other creatives chip in, including designer Becky Minto, composer David A. Pollock and production manager Elle Taylor.
This may sound like it is of minority interest at best, and certainly the prospect of watching other people’s Zoom meetings is not one that instantly appeals. However, this is a beautifully judged and excellently put together film; the sections on the production’s travails are never less than illuminating, while the various participants speak honestly and informatively.
There are ruminations on the arts and theatre, notably on the access to theatre on both sides of the stage, that were relevant before the pandemic and are no less urgent now.
All of this makes for a cohesive and enlightening whole, more of a quietly defiant look ahead than an elegiac rumination on things lost, that should prove involving for anyone interested in Scottish theatre.
Running time: one hour 7 minutes
Grid Iron online
Friday 26 March – Sunday 9 May 2021
Details and online link: gridiron.org.uk
Free but donations can be made on the website
Screenshot of the whole cast and crew in Gifford Community Woodland.