Citizens' Theatre, Glasgow
A swirling display at iraught types and emotions with tangible themes only occasionally thrown to the surface, The Vortex lives up to its title it not its author’s reputation.
While serious themes have their part in Noel Coward's better known comedies, The Vortex is a bleaker vision at the upper classes than we are used to. The witty, rich, young man returning irom Bohemian Paris to shook his parents by announcing his engagement, is not as careiree as he at iirst appears. Played successfully by Rupert Everett with a languid, slightly oil-balance poise, he seems on the edge oi some kind of lrenzy.
The core of The Vortex, which is anything but a still centre, is the relationship between Everett and his mother (Maria Aitken). When he reveals his addiction to drugs, suddenly his mother's sell delusion oi perpetual youth, which has been indulged by the more or less sycophantic society around her, is seen to be not just ioolish, but dangerous.
Philip Prowse’s production, which even beiore the play begins has the actors restlessly performing behind a gauze, reilects, literally, the chaos that ensues. The action oi the last act is caught in the opposed angles at the bedroom’s vanity mirrors. What we see could be the scene at a society suicide. Lingerie is strewn about the floor, the bed is crumpled and unmade, a bath (in which one leels wrists could be slashed) is in the background.
As the son pleads with his motherto
. understand how she is responsible for
his addiction and lor the shallowness at his relationships, there are allusions to Hamlet and obvious parallels with other Oedipal conirontations. But Coward‘s attempt to link a psychological examination oi these characters to the nature of the society they lind themselves in tails to come to satislactory conclusions.
The second act attempts an analysis at these people: the young alrald to
grow old and the middle-aged
a mesmerized by youth or like Altken's L cuckolded husband, only waiting for time to pass. But the analysis is
suspended in lavour oi dramatic encounters, and the character of Helen (Anne Lambton), who contronts the characters urging them to lace reality, appears more dramatically convenient
I than plausible.
While this early work by Coward
' contains at least one hilarious
caricature (Fidelis Morgan, an egotistical opera singer) and some sharp dialogue, the impression that lingers is at an unstable society that Coward himseli has still to work out how to approach. (Nigel Billen)
THE TAMING OF THE
it takes a good iew scenes to come to ; terms with the jarring anachronism of
Shakespeare's verse being rattled out irom a turn-oi-the-century saloon bar in accents approximating those of America's Deep South. As the
22 The List 5 — 18 February 1988
‘howdys’, ‘gringos' and ‘Colt 45s’ sit uncomiortably on top oi Shakespeare’s ‘whereiores‘ and ‘sirrahs’, you cannot help thinking that Charles Nowosielski's directorial interpretation oi The Taming 0i The Shrew is just an ill-considered gimmick. Geography isn't one oi my strong points, but talk oi Padua, Pisa and Verona by men in stetsons is laughably incongruous.
These sort oi inconsistencies haunt the whole production, but alter a shaky and uncertain opening the play begins to pick up a comic momentum of its own which ior most of the time overrides the more bizarre elements. The play hangs together around the compelling periormances oi Bobin Begg as a wild cowboy Petruchio, Emma Currie as an Annie-Get-Your- Gun Katherina and Anne Lannan as Bianca. A iiery chemistry develops between Emma Currie and Robin Begg - both deliantly sexy— which allows them to transcend the honky-tonk locale and enter a timeless and exciting battle oi two vigorous personalities more akin to Anthony and Cleopatra.
Alter such a powerful periormance as Kate, we can only blame Shakespeare ior allowing Emma Currie’s ‘shrew’ to be tamed. This act of blatant submission —though handled superbly — is well out at step with 20th century thinking and given the context, a round oi ‘Stand By Your Man' would have been appropriate. Unlortunately, this production holds none oi the irony oi Tammy Wynette’s standard and what has gradually built into a racy and comic periormance once again leaves us not a little bemused. (Mark Fisher)
King Lear, George Square Theatre, Edinburgh. Bun ended.
King Lear is one oi those plays that makes even our most ancient and distinguished actors think twice beiore performing. Standard am-dram iodder it is not. So it's heartening - not to say staggering -to report that Edinburgh University Theatre Company have taken on Shakespeare's tragedy and just about got away with it.
Wisely placing the emphasis on the clarity oi the text, Conall Morrison’s production has the simplest oi sets, dispenses with all but the most essential oi props and makes no use of recorded sound. This approach has its drawbacks — George Square Theatre would have seemed a little less anonymous with some pre-show music for example - but generally it makes for a last-paced periormance that brings to the lore Shakespeare’s high drama at turbulent power politics.
James Eastaway’s coniident portrayal of Lear succeeds best in both the sell-righteous indignation oi the opening scenes and the pitiiul madness oi the iinal act, ialtering only slightly in the transition from one to the other. He is ably supported by a generally strong cast, most notably his Fool, played by Ross MacFarlane, who juggles Shakespeare’s nonsensical riddles with an inspired lreshness.
With even the costumes looking like they’ve been made from Halls oi Besidence' blankets, this is a highly worthwhile production that exploits the ambitious human resources oi EUTC in a way that minimises the inevitable limitations oi so young a company. (Mark Fisher)
3pm; Tue 9—Thurs 1 1 Feb. 2 & 7pm. £2.50 (£1 .50). Lookahead. a new theatre company. bring the popular character Maisie-the-kilted-kitten-from- Morningside — well known to readers of Aileen Paterson‘s books — to the stage for the first time. The kitten will be engaging in her usual eventful escapades and should appeal to kids of all ages.
Alice in Wonderland Sun 14 Feb. 2.30pm. £1.50(£1) A show for kids by the Garret Mask and Puppet Centre.
Coming Home Thurs 18 Feb. 7.30pm. £3.50; concs £2.50: children £1.50. Polish clown. actor and drummer Rick Zoltowski in a rare performance up here. Playinga Polish Count. he inherits a cupboard. which he generously decides to open to the public — with comic results. Also appearing at the Traverse. Edinburgh.
I TRON THEATRE 63 Trongate. 552 4267 '8. Box Office Tue-Sat Noon-8pm: Sun 12.30-11pm. Closed Mondays.
Anything tor a Quiet Lite Tue 2—Sat b Feb. 8pm. £4 non-members; £3 members: £1 concs(mcmbers only). Perrier Award winners Theatre de Complicite in their new touring show. which takes a comic look at the fears of living in a bureaucratic world.
A Night For Nicaragua Sun 7 Feb. See Cabaret.
Troy Tue 9—Sun 2() Feb. 8pm. Prices as for AnythingfnrA Quiet Life. Body Politic present their new version of Patrick Evans' award-winning play. a poetic. many-layered text which delves into the issues at stake. while following the work of two archaeologists searching for the lost city ofTroy.
Comic Relief Sat 13 Feb. 10pm. Sec Cabaret.
I ASSEMBLY ROOMS 54 George Street. 225 3614.
Comic Relief Evening Sat 6 Feb. 9pm. £3 (£2). See Cabaret.
I BEDLAM THEATRE 2 Forrest Road. Box Office 225 9893. Mon-Sat 10am-late. Cafe.
Three Little Pigs Wed 10 Feb. 1.30pm. £1.50. (EL'TC members £1). Includes lunch. Edinburgh University Theatre Company in a new play by company member Simon Startin.
Everyman Tue 16 Feb. 7.30pm. Wed 17 Feb. 1.30pm & 7.30pm. £1.50. (EUTC members£l). Includes lunch. Edinburgh University Theatre Company in the famous medieval morality play.
I BRUNTON THEATRE Musselburgh. 665 2240. Box Office Mon-Sat 10am.8pm. Bar. [1)].
The Taming of the Shrew L'ntii Sat 6 Feb. 7.45pm. £3.75 (£2.25). Brunton Theatre start off their new season with Shakespeare's marriage comedy about the taming of the wayward Kate. Directed by Charles .\'owosielski. the production is set at the turn of the century in America's deep South and on Friday 5 Febthe performance will be followed by a Wild West Evening: dinner (all Wild West food) with the cast after the performance (10.30pm). Tickets for the meal are £7.50 and there are only 175 so book early if interested—the last such occasion sold out. See Review.
Stage Struck Wed 10—Sat 20 Feb. 7.45pm. £3.75 (£2.25). Special First Night Price £2.25 (£1.50). Tickets for three plays (Tamingofthe Shrew. Stage Struck and The Cauldron) £10 (£6). 10‘}? discountfor group bookings of ten or more. Simon Gray's modern comedy thriller. which was a West End hit with Alan Bates. which focuses on what happens when a stage technician decides to take revenge. Directed by Sandy Neilson. whose first show at the Brunton, where he used to be artistic director nine years ago, was alsoa thriller. Finlay Welsh is in the central role. The BeaI'Thurs 18—Sat 20 Feb. 10.30pm. £1 . Cheap at the price. The Brunton brings back its occasional late-night