The Gold of the Pharaohs
Scotland - 90% of my work is played abroad.‘ Like Toru Takemitsu. one ofMusica Nova’s otherleatured composers. Dillon is largely self-taught. ‘My original inclination wastowards painting. although I‘d always played music. It wasn'tsomething you did as an act. it was just a part of yourlife. It didn't occurto me you could see “serious music" as a “career".‘ Feeling restricted by what he was doing in rockmusic. Dillon decided to getmore serious and ‘almost tripped into where I am.‘
Due to working abroad so much. Dillon‘s work is. he feels. ‘part ofthe mainstream European tradition. so there's not so muchtrouble withthe language I use. It isa sophisticated language. but not a difficult language to listen to.‘ adding ‘I don‘t have problems with audiences. l have problems with critics who thinkl should have problems with audiences.‘
The BBC commission of ‘helle Nacht’ (part ofa triptych. all with German titles) lorthe SND marks a bit of a new developmentlor Dillon. who says “I‘ve kept away until recentlyfrom writing anything very big. We always been fascinated bya particularkind of energy. The only wayl could deal with this energy in a meaningful way was to start at the bottom with solos and chamberworks and move up.‘
Like just about everything else in Musica Nova. itwill be interesting to hear Dillon‘s work andthe European influences on it. although Glasgow hasn‘t been entirely left behind. As Dillon puts it ‘The energy thing is the onlytangible thing you could say was Glaswegian‘. but at least Glasgow audiences should have a headstart in coming to terms with Dillon‘s music. (Carol Main)
Musica Nova. Sun 13-Sat 19. SNO Centre. Claremont Street and various Glasgow Universityvenues. First performance ‘helle Nacht‘ byJames Dillon. Mon 14
Pearlman/Allen. a dancing duo from New York. are lucky to be here atall. Before they left for theirtirst trip to Britain. they were nearly killed. twice! No soonerhad a maniac holding up a store toyed with their lives than a car mounted the pavement and ran them over. That last one left them with a broken leg. As a company they insist on the royal ‘we‘ even when it comes to broken legs and are reluctant to give away its identity.
lncrediblythe accident has not affected their performance and all four legs work in near-perfect harmony. ‘The first day out of the cast we started atthe barre and exercised 8 hours a day for six weeks.’ says Allen. with a suspicion of past pain in his face. lfthe foot did not detrostthey could kiss goodbye to their European tour. But- ‘Two months later we danced our full programme. with lots of ice.‘ It you catch theirshow atThird Eye Centre the one who kicked the castwill stand up.
As well as a company Pearlman/Allen are a couple. though Karen makes it clear that the order in which they met was work first. date later. Now married, they practise and create as a partnership
seven days a week. ‘We made the second section of The Laughing Movie on Christmas Day. We bring all of our lives into ourdance.‘ says Richard for both. Does
living together not get in the
way? ‘We don‘t cut each other any slack.‘ says Karen with a ring of practicality. No shirking from the job at hand.
Richard is originally from Australia and came to dance through theatre and writing. His poetry has won awards in his home country and features as catchwords throughouttheir performances. Karen mixes the soundtracks and picks up the poetry in rythym and music. It‘s a sharp. cinematic blend. Pearlman/Allen have lots of charm as couple or company and their uncannin matching physical appearance, slenderand dark. givethem added attraction. With their reke trip to Britain almost complete (they will be at Third Eye Centre. Glasgow until Sat 5 Sept) they hope to be back in this country next year. Whatever you do, don‘twish them luckwith ‘Break a leg'. Too many painful associations.(A.B.)
See Dance Page for Review.
THE PHARAOHS ARE COMING
Having scored a coup by hosting exclusively the Chinese ‘Emperor‘s Warriors‘ exhibition last year. Edinburgh City Art Centre will be the only British venue nextyear fora touring exhibition from Egypt reckoned to be equal in status to the Tutankhamun exhibition. Called ‘Gold olthe Pharaohs'. the exhibition comprises 68 treasures of pure gold discovered in 1939 on the site olthe ancientcity of Tanis and reckoned to date from the 12th century BC.
The cost of bringing the exhibition. which runs from February to April 1988. over to Britain will be inthe region of 2500.000. Major sponsorhip has been provided by Life Assurance of Scotland and Edinburgh District Council are still looking for other sponsors. although they are confident of recouping the cost in entry charge. encouraged by attendance figures for the ‘Emperor's Warriors‘ exhibition. which were around 225,000.
Alex Norton is a man with three strings to his bow— and all of them have been pretty much inthe public eye recently. As an actor his marathonfourteen-role performance in Bill Douglas‘s masterpiece aboutfhe Tolpuddle martyrs. ‘Comrades'. has
just reached screens around 9
the country; as a director. his production ofTony Roper‘s phenomenally successful play ‘The Steamie‘ is just being revived fora second Scottish tour. and asa writer. his new version of Italian writerDario Fo's ‘Can't Pay? Won't Pay!‘ is aboutto open at Edinburgh's Royal Lyceum.
Fo’s political farce—the hilarious fantasy in which two Milan housewivestake revenge on rising prices and dupe theirdozy husbands by removing large quantities of food from the local supermarket —was written in the Seventies. Norton points outthathe and director Hugh Hodgart have worked on the play. not to change it in essence. but to make it slightly more accessible by putting it in modern parentheses.
‘The politics are really relevant to the time when Fo wrote it—whathe's espousing in the play are Maoist policies. Performed straight it‘s a bit of a period piece.’
The play has also been what Norton calls ‘Glaswegianised‘—adopted into local vernacular and setting without losing any of the basic Italian framework and references. It‘s a curious combination-yet one thatseemsto worktime and time again in Scottish Fo productions. partly. perhaps, because of some sort ofnatural emotional affinity betweenthe Scottish and Italian working class. and partly because the added layer ofstructural absurdity is easily accommodated into Fo‘s theatricality. As adaptor. Norton found this fascinating to work with.
‘It translated much more easily into Glaswegian than the Cockney of the version I was working from. lthink it’s maybe something to do with the fact that Milan is a big. vulgar. warm-hearted city like Glasgow-whereas London is something different. The patterand dialogue of Glasgow gets across the spirit of the play betterthan a Southern accent. The thing that really interested me though was
the style Fo uses. He draws on the Italian commedia dell‘arte a lot. he even uses
stock characters like the fool and the old man. When Istarted working on itI thought. now whatwould
ourtradition be? So I've made it much more variety style—characters address the audience astheywould in a variety show. say. in the Glasgow Pavilion of the 1940s.‘
It is a style and an erathat is very close to Norton's heart. Though new resident in London. he was born in Glasgow and hisfirstjob when he left schoolwas back-stage at the Glasgow Pavilion Theatre. He laments the passing ofthe traditional Glasgow variety show and attributesthe success of ‘The Steamie‘ partly to the fact that it gives pedple that good old-fashioned thing a Good Night Out. ‘Glaswegians are dying to get back intothe theatre and dying to have a good laugh — partly because olthe death ofvariety.‘
Though he was plunged straight into theatre from leaving school. he was really bitten by the bug when. atthe age of fourteen. he had the auspicious pleasure of appearing in ‘Dr Findlay‘s Casebook‘. He neverwent to Drama College. however. but learnt as he worked and is surprised that peopletind his duplicate role in ‘Comrades' extraordinary.
‘lt's notthe firsttime I‘ve played a multiple role part- you do itall the time in Fringe theatre. Though I suppose it's not donetoo often in feature films. At first I didn‘t understand. though. why Bill Douglas wanted this multi-role part playing and I couldn‘t get it out ofhim. because he wanted me to find outfor myself.‘
Norton plays a number of linking figures. principally a magic lanternist. who are mostly illusionists observing the story olthe martyrs. His understanding
of the part was central to the nature of thefilm.
‘I had to decide whetherit was the magic lanternist or Alex Norton playingthe parts. I decided it wasthe lanternist. Which meant always standing backfrom the part- playing italmost like a puppet.‘
This interpretation was central because the lanternist. to a degree. represents Bill Douglas's alter-ego in the film—the storyteller. ortilm-maker: ‘Bill Douglas has a great interest in pre-cinema - in seeing stories and seeing things transformed through optical illusions.’ he explains.
Douglas's almostpoetic. perfectionist approach to image is part ofhls genius and can make him not the easiest of directors to work with. Norton discovered: ‘He never tells you whatto do. You have to find out. It's difficult - in a positive way it‘s difficult. It really puts you on yourtoes.‘
The end result. hefeels. is something ofa masterpiece and really uses cinema in a waythatmosl British films do not at present: ‘Many ofthem are just giant TV. really.‘
Norton‘s next move. however. will be backto theatre. back to writing and back to his first love. After ‘Can‘t Pay? Won't Pay!‘ opens and “The Steamie’ reopens he returnstothe desk to exercise his demon: ‘I want to write a play about the golden years of Glasgow musical variety. It‘s been burning inside loryears.’ (Sarah Hemming)
For details of ‘Can’t Pay? Won‘t Pay!‘ and ‘The Steamie’ see Theatre listings. Fordetails of Comrade“ see Film