King’s Theatres, Glasgow and Edinburgh Noises Dti, an improbable larce which satirises an impossible iarce, lacks the underlying seriousness oi most at Michael Frayn’s work, but its success is understandable. it is cleverly constructed and extremely iunny.
ln Act One, we see the linal rehearsal oi a sex comedy by a company oi, irankly, unbelievable incompetence. Its members are stereotyped caricatures oi theatrical people: ineiiectual, despairing director;
absolutely pedantic ‘motivation’ actor; ageing alcoholic thespian; etc. All are hard on credulity: the dumb blond with clockwork gestures and parrot iashion delivery is too much.
In Act Two, things improve. Backstage we witness a tangled love comedy to mirror the intrigue on stage. This grows more irantic than the iarce itseli and eventually lurches into slapstick: sardines, shoelaces and sabotage become weapons in an escalation oi Chapllnesque vengeance. All this occurs in irenetic, brilliantly-orchestrated dumb-show while the show struggles on. Three months later, in Act Three, we cringe as the backstage drama drags the ailing show agonisingly towards a disastrous, hysterical climax, despite desperate eitorts by the beleaguered company.
The (real) cast play with precision, verve and comic invention, directed by Stephen Barry, and the audience loved it, but i preier a shade more believability. See it ityour disbeliel is easily suspended. (Andrew Burnett)
Tron, Glasgow and Traverse, Edinburgh
The gamblers oi the title in this translation oi Gogol’s play, by Chris Hannan and Christopher Hathbone, have as their main preoccupation the workings oi individual psychology. Their aim as gamblers is proiit and their mode thereiore is manipulation. We are witness to an elaborate con-trick, skiliully executed, whose remorseless concern isthe pathetic denouement oi the duped Archdeacon (Craig Ferguson).
The set, designed by Peter Ling, conditions the images. The gamblers are revealed as though irom behind a drawn curtain in a small black-draped room, suggestive oi an intimate and iurtive secrecy. The group is also dressed in black and only their hands and iaces call attention to themselves, like a Frans Hals painting oi the city dignitaries. It is an apt metaphor tor a scene oi gambling connivance, where iaces are scrutinized and cards handled with important ilourish.
Jimmy Chisholm as Siemen iinds a balance which combines caricature with conviction in an unambiguous portrait oi an accomplished villain and Andrew Dalimeyer’s Farquhar is unsparing in successiully sending up the bureaucracy oi the oiticial liscal system. It there remains something not
quite resolved overall between the options oi artiliciality and sincerity this Tron/Traverse production, directed by Hamish Glen nevertheless has visual llair and much wit. (Sally Klnnes)
Theatre Workshop, Edinburgh and Third Eye Centre, Glasgow
The Rainmaker Touring Company aims to periorm theatre that is not only enjoyable tor unhandicapped children or those with English as a primary language, but also hopes to make it accessibloe to deal and dumb children and those of an ethnic or underprivileged background. With some help irom Roundabout international in Edinburgh, Rainmaker has produced ‘Gebb', a delightiully watchable ‘adventure’ play which combines stock caricatures, mime,
panic and some superb improvisation
tor an hour.
The emphasis is very much on the visual conveyance oi plot and character, scurrying activity, animated laces and exaggerated movements replacing language. Without being too ponderous or pushy, the three actors kept a hundred craning necks attentive throughout. With knowing glances, inviting nods and general buiioonery, a tale oi lost trains, lost holidays and lost property uniolds.
The performance is more than simply a needed and worthy venture, but an excellent piece oi children's theatre, both cleverly written and taking iull advantage oi the visual possibilities open to it. (Conor McCutcheon)
Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh Marie Corelli was a Victorian novelist, daughter oi Charles Mackay, the Scot who edited The Illustrated London News. When he had a heart attack she turned to novel writing to keep the wait irom the door. She produced a stream oi best sellers.
Howard Purdie’s witty play portrays the lite, character and novels oi Corelli. The process at creating iiction
A scene irom Gamblers. Photo David Liddle.
is dramatised in a variety oi comic and poweriui ways and interwoven with an enactment oi the events oi her lite, at the time at theGreat War and suiirage ior women, while Corelli’s romances embrace passion and spirituality, the one aiiair oi her Iiie was a tedious ilirtation with artistArthur Severn which lasted ten years. Her deepest love was lor Bertha van der Vyver, her Belgian paid companion, and society labelled it a lesbian relationship.
Maggie Jordan is larger than liie as the ilamboyant, autocratic Corelli and Barbara Haiierty an excellent steadiast Bertha. Three strong supporting actors adopt the roles at philandering brother, maid, publisher, loverand iather.
Fine Victorian ballad singing and piano and violin music complement the action and the tight inventive direction by Charles Nowosielski gives a lively insight into Corelli’s lite. (Ness liaison)
Drama Centre, Glasgow
No one could describe Thomas McLaughlin's Peasants at the Strathclyde Drama Centre as a cheertui evening’s theatre. Set in some indeterminate tribal landscape iull oi iear, loathing, unthinking loyalties, twitchy male aggression and the restless spirits oi the dead, it in tact represents a barely-disguised and heavily extended metaphor tor the current situation in the playwright’s native Northern lreland, or iorthat matter in any chronic war-zone irom Beliast to Beirut. The publicity iorthe production makes great play at the writer’s rejection oi the ‘social realism’ at most contemporary drama irom Northern lreland; but in tact the science-iantasy vagueness oi the setting seems to drain the drama oithe kind at natural, creative development that is possible tor characters rooted in the complexities at a real-lite situation, and the action oiten lurches perilously close to the clichés oi a style oi macho lantasy-iiction it presumably intends to criticise.
The main interest oi the play lies in its vigorous, it hardly uniamiliar, use at Northern irish idioms and speech rhythms, and in its poweriui understanding oi the primitive, traditional and deeply conservative iorces at work in such tribal conilicts. But not all the once-trendy trappings oi ‘total theatre’ — irom the sombre electronic plonkings oi the score, to the ilickering video screens relaying iamiliar TV news pictures oi urban violence - can conceal a basic scarcity oi interesting plot and character-development; and by the end oi the evening I ieit exactly like McLaughlin‘s old village granny who, laced with a gorily severed head on the kitchen settle and an umpteenth expression oi the squeamish hero’s shock and horror at the same, looks him tirme in the eye and replies, ‘Dch, don’t be so morbid; just have a wee cup oi tea.’ (Joyce McMillan)
in Looking Back, a woman, Jo, comes to lace personal tragedy through the singing oi a great operatic role. it’s an idea which depends ior eiiect on the running together at art with spiritual value. This is a contemporary concept, interesting because it secularises what is basically a Christian premise, the need to lace suiiering and go through pain. The dramatic substance lies not in the wit oi the idea, but in Jo’s emotional challenge and whether or not she is equalto it.
The theme is approached through the personal and interpersonal relations oi three characters, related through blood or marriage. They are middle class proiessionals who share a common set at values and their arguments are not so much with each other (although they may disagree on the details) as with themselves. Middle class and aspirational, they are rooting around ior meaning.
Directed by John Carnegie, the play was devised by the company Winged Horse. The three actors, Isabella Jarrett, Monica Gibb and Michael MacKenzie, worked together according to a method (pioneered by Mike Leigh and Mike Bradweil) oi iinding the script through improvisation and ieellng tor character. This perhaps accounts tor the conviction which which each part is played and that each character is played irom its emotional centre. But they all have the same emotional centre. A dissenting voice is lacking, both idologically and dramatically. Essentially the characters are cliched, taken irom what is believed to constitute a media or arts ‘type’ tor whom moral substance equals meaning. They work iorthe BBC, The Observer or an Opera House, potent symbols oi communication whose supposed value they wish to have lor themselves.
The play rather supposes the audience’s agreement with these values it it is to work, tor its aim is to describe, not to evaluate. The iundamental sense oi cliche, however, resists any real empathy.
20 The List 20 Feb — 5 March