NO MAN’S LAND
Citizens' Theatre, Glasgow
Harold Pinter’s Ho Man's Land is an elegant play with a rotten core. It’s a private, sell-mocking and very human tragedy acted out in the drawing room of a famous and wealthy writer, Hirst. He, for want of a better means of escape, has allowed alcohol to dull and confuse his reason and he lives an almost ersatz existance with his two ‘heavies’, Fosterand Briggs. Kathy Strachan’s imposing set is the appropriate pale complement to their bloodless day for night lite and the books on the shelves at the side of the set are painted a uniform grey-blue as though life in this big bland room is already beginning to wither and die at the edges.
It is into this hollow household that Spooner (Giles Havergal) tries to ingratiate himself and the play describes his elaborate attempt to be hired as Hirst's secretary. Both Havergal and Robert David MacDonald as Hirst ply Pinter's text with a beautiful eloquence. Who would care anything about the middle class meanderings ol these two self-obsessed and ageing men with their foppish charm, their adulteries and jealousies, their elitist club and army talk, it there wasn't such pathos in their awareness of their own self-delusion. Hirst and Spooner may be weak, hopeless even, but they don’t ask for sympathy and they don't pretend to be heroes. The play is directed by the cast and this is heightened realism at its most credible and most sad. (Sally Kinnes)
THE MERCHANT OF VENICE
Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh.
Ian Wooldridge’s production of a Merchant oi Venice, Shakespeare’s ambiguous account at anti-semitism, is set in a careless pre-First World War Italy. At its most effective, the production draws on this setting to suggest that the merchants, wrapped in their ominous dark coats ioppishly following the fortunes of their love lives, are living a dangerously cavalier exshence.
Antonio (Billy Riddoch) finds himself surrounded at the trial by seconds who earlier come within an inch of physically attacking Shylock. Andrew Dallmyer manages to make the Jew appear a complete alien in a society that attacks him rather than a society that he endangers. We are deliberately made to feel unconvinced that his is everthe upper hand despite the bond of a pound of flesh that he has against Antonio. The production itsell comes within an inch oi describing a society where rich are invulnerable, and where the trial is nothing but a joke or worse a play thing for Portia and her maid.
Ian Wooldridge is content to be undogmatic, leaving these interpretations as hints, although in some scenes, such as the casket challenge for Portla's love which is played as burlesque, the production is the worse for a lack ol clear direction. (ngel Billen)
Theatre Royal, Glasgow
Theatre moguls like Lloyd-Webber and Hal Prince have access to two commodoties: pleanty oi talented people and much expensive technology. Both may be good things, but they often conspire to stifle the invention that is born of necessity. In my view, Evita, the musical biography of Argentina's Eva Peron, is ironically burdened by its pre-guaranteed success.
In this, the long-running West End production, there are huge slide screens, innumerable sets and costumes, and a large chorus, all oi which add and detract in almost equal measure. For example, the bourgeois chorus is crisp, clear and amusing, but the soldiers are sloppy and unmilitary, losing some at the author's wittiest lyrics to a snappy dance routine.
Among the principals, Tessa Pritchard makes an elegant and thoroughly convincing substitute Eva, and Michael Bauer's Peron is handsomely robust.
It is a spectacular, glamorous evening with some splendid moments, but power politics are an odd topic for entertainment, and a nine-year run has not developed Evita's potential poignancy. (Andrew Burnet).
THE JUNGLE BOOK
Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh
We often talk at ‘the law at the jungle‘, conjuring up a picture of a ruthless world characterised by inner lighting, a world of dog eat dog and survival of the fittest. Kipling’s ‘Jungle Book’, however, explores the idea of there being an actual law of the jungle and oi its being a clear-cut ethical set oi rules designed to maintain peace and balance. As he points out man is one of the few animals who kills not just to eat and who kills his own kind. Ironically, he investigates the idea through a cast of animals who behave characteristically, but characteristically as interpreted by humans—we won't ever really get to grips with the laws oi the jungle because our perception is too anthropocentrlc.
Stephen MacDonald's stage adaptation puts across the serious aspects of the book, as well as the fun, and both he, and director Charles Howosielskl, manage to give the animals characters without slipping into Walt Disney schmaltz. Gordon
Fulton‘s Baloo the bear is bumbly without being too cuddly-cute, Clunie MacKenzie’s Bagheera the panther has a sly edge, and Vincent Friell makes a wonderfully vain Kaa. There are none of the familiar jolly Disney ditties here —there is comedy, but the atmosphere created is slightly eerie and the animal-world is approached with respect. We could, it is suggested, learn something from them although we can never really live among them.
The production could make better use of having both the younger and the older Mowgli (Greig Alexander) on stage occasionally and more irony could be wrung out of Mowgli's kidnap by the foolish chattering monkeypeople, with their desire to emulate man. The build-up to the confrontation between the ageing tiger Shere Khan (Robin Begg) and Mowgli is well handled however, and the production makes use of Richard Cherns‘ atmospheric, sometimes eerie, original music.
This inventive and successful rendering of Marlowe‘s ‘Doctor Faustus’ transforms the Tron building with a raised stage (balcony height), providing an unstable world beneath the tangible lirmament of the theatre’s domed ceiling, and letting devils come and go through the floor. One particularly impressive effect confirms the feeling of a mechanical universe, the tragedy of which, for Faustus, is that he understands exactly how it works, but not his place in it.
The strength in Michael Boyd's production is in establishing this world. I have never seen a production (though others have been funnier), where the low life scenes and sub-plots have been better integrated into the whole. As a result the poetry of Faustus‘s aspirations is played down - here Helen, instead of becoming a glimpse oi Heaven, is transformed belore Faustus’s eyes into a lrenetic incubus- butthe play is given a unity that prevents it falling into pantomime.
This Faustus (played by John Bell, who might perhaps have extracted a little more dignity lorthe character without ruining the interpretation) is
merely a player in a world of devils that he cannot dominate - a world that ends like a debauched party where everyone, save one lorlorn symbol of good, joins hands to descend into the underworld. (Nigel Billen).
THE BUG IS BACK
‘A Smash Hit! ' ‘De/ightfu/ Family Entertainment'
THEATRE COMPANY SCOTLAND
THE INCREDIBLE BBECHIN BEETLE BUG
The Songs and Humour of Matt McGinn starring Alastair McDonald as ‘Dame’.
PAVILION THEATRE. GLASGOW 1 7—28 NOV TICKETS TEL 041 3321846 PLEASANCE THEATRE, EDINBURGH 8—1 2 DEC TICKETS TEL 031 557 3090 and 031 2281155 MITCHELL THEATRE, GLASGOW 1 5 DEC—9 JAN TICKETS TEL 041 227 5511
Morning, afternoon and evening performances. Concessions for party bookings.
Subsidised by the Scottish Arts Council
TUES 17/WED 18 NOV PAINES PLOUGH
THE WAY TO GO HOME
BY RONA MUNRO
FRI 27/SAT 28 NOV MAN ACT TWO
FRI 27/SAT 28 NOV NEIL BARTLETT & ROBIN WHITMORE
REVEALED IN SLEEP
All tickets £3.50/£2.50 (conc). AccessNisa. Box Office: 041 332 7521. 350 Sauchlehall Street, GLASGOW.
The List 13 - 26 November 1987 23