One Scot’s muddled, mad world

Times Staff Writer

In a fever of creativity, a man narrates the movie unfolding in his imagination. It’s a sort of present-day “Metropolis” about zombies racing to nowhere in their dead-end lives.

Then Oscar McLennan, a schlump of a guy in a rumpled white suit, pauses to edit himself. “It’s too cold,” he says. “Too cynical. And where’s the feel-good factor?”

The audience, steeped in the ways of Hollywood, laughs knowingly.

Unfortunately, this is one of the few times that theatergoers get to laugh during McLennan’s bizarre solo performance of “The Quiet Bastard: Director’s Cut,” which UCLA Live is presenting as part of its second International Theatre Festival. What to make of this stream-of-consciousness gibberish?


“Someone sits in front of a computer and screams and screams.”

“Let’s hear it for Mr. Plastic.”

Um, yeah. Whatever you say, dude.

The modern city as moral, spiritual and creative desert. That’s one of the recurring themes in this hourlong piece written by the Scotland-born, Ireland-based McLennan. So is the concept of people behaving like animals -- the carnivores and the carrion.


And then there’s the notion of McLennan’s protagonist walking around with a movie studio in his mind, where he churns out films about penguins on sinking icebergs, or where he re-envisions Bob Hope-Bing Crosby-Dorothy Lamour road pictures as journeys into debauchery.

McLennan seems to be saying that this act of creativity, as strange as it might seem, is one man’s way of shaping meaning in a mad universe.

But comprehension, here, is in the mind of the beholder. You must make what you will of McLennan slipping into an Elvis-style rendition of “Heartbreak Hotel,” with its lyric “I get so lonely I could die.”

Or saying (in an accent so thick that, at times, the words are difficult to make out): “Why bother talking if every time you open your mouth you get drowned out by the big dogs barking?”


McLennan performs in the dim light of images projected onto a small screen behind him. Words appear magically on a typewriter page. Other times, McLennan is framed by empty, sprocket-hole-lined strips of film. Movie theme music plays. A projector hums.

This audiovisual environment is by McLennan’s creative and life partner, multidisciplinary artist Anne Seagrave.

In the middle of the performance, McLennan steps offstage and Seagrave’s visuals take over. Images of floor tiles, manhole covers and sand, all tinted a sickly green, are metaphors for the urban desert. McLennan’s disembodied voice intones: “People are like plants. If you don’t sprinkle them with hope, flood them with new ideas, they wither away and die.”

Well, sprinkle away, but we’re dyin’ out here anyway.



‘The Quiet Bastard: Director’s Cut’

Where: Macgowan Little Theater, northeast corner of UCLA campus, Charles E. Young Drive East, north of Wyton Drive entrance

When: Today, Saturday, 8 p.m.; Sunday, 7 p.m.


Ends: Sunday

Price: $30

Contact: (310) 825-2101

Running Time: 1 hour