I In the lact that, gIven recenI EIsIory,
WAITING FOR GODOT
Reviewed at Lyttelton, National Theatre, London, now at the Theatre Royal, Glasgow.
Although Estragon and Vladimir have been busy waiting ior Godot on stages round the world ior lorty years now, neither they nor the play have grown any older or any younger. And we, the indeiatigable international audience, are still in attendance too, translixed by this theatrical conundrum.
The play remains an interminable least lor speculators in Deep Meaning. Who is Godot? What is the cryptic allegory behind all the play's lack oi activity? Who do the characters really represent? You can go on ior hours, and many do. Beckett’s response to the brave iool who once asked him ‘Who or what does Godot mean?‘ made the brain-teaser as clear as mud: ‘li i knew, iwould have said so in the play.’
The nightmarish bus at Answers alter which the audience compulsiver chases is driven in the National Theatre‘s production by director Michael Rudman. He plays it straight (in as much as that is possible), lielding two quite dillerent actors as Estragon and Vladimir. Generally known as a more lightweight comic actor, John Alderton takes Estragon on as a two-dimensional misery. He plumbs the depths ol pessimism, suriacing only very brielly tor a lorced glimpse at cheer. Alec McGowen's Vladimir is a sort oi Shakespearian stage-manager, cavorting round the Lanzarote-like set and iorcing purpose into each day and into the doleiul Estragon. lie capers lrenetically and is melodramatic to Alderton‘s deliberately underplayed, mono- emotional Estragon.
Light and heavy reliel lrom the waiting game comes brielly with the arrival oi Pozzo (Terence Rigby) and the unlortunate Lucky (Peter Wright). The iormer has all the blutl pomposity oi the circus ring-master, whilst the latter twitches and paws the ground in dutiiul and whipped submission.
The production successlully swings irom one protagonist to the other, maintaining the tempo and rhythm oi the repartee. Consistent periormances lrom all the cast hold the attention, and
' although nothing happens, anything
could. Watching an excellent company passing the time is a line way to pass the time. Then, according to the dictum that ‘we always lind something to give us the impression we exist’, there's the added bonus oi titling in more time by doing a post- and interval-mortem wondering what it all meant. . . (Kristina Woolnough)
’TIS PITY SHE’S A WHORE
Citizens“ Theatre, Glasgow
It isn't olten you see the passion oi incest rather than its social problems portrayed on the stage. But, ‘Tis Pity She’s A Whore, written in the early 17th century by John Ford and directed and designed in this version by Philip Prowse, does just that and then goes lurther, suggesting that incest is not hall such a social problem as society itsell.
Prowse sets the action actually inside an imposing Catholic Church, with no less than three altars and a tomb which by an ingenious ‘sleight oi hand' becomes the incestuous couple's bed. Gradually, as the action progresses, the church lills up with bodies- some oi these are the inevitable carnage oi Jacobean Tragedy, but in addition, the city appears to be in the grip oi plague, and eventually the stage lills with basic, wood-slatted coliins ready to be burnt.
Against this background, Tristram Wymark and Yolanda Vasquez play the brother and sister with at iirst a passion that gives them a liie lorce at odds with the death and corruption around them. Later, as their love bears lruit with the social disaster oi Annabella’s pregnancy, and Annabella is lorced in to a marriage she doesn’t want, the passion turns to destruction.
This central relationship is one apparently between modern, psychologically complex characters - Wymark as Giovanni wouldn't be too out oi place in Shaiier's ‘Equus'. But all around them are images and symbols, mainly originating in the all powerlul church, creating a grimly atmospheric background which almost like a disease spreads to the couple — Giovanni makes his last appearance clothed Christ-like, only in a loin cloth, his body streaked in his sister's blood.
This is a darkly original interpretation, lull oi brilliant touches (the playing at Annabella's suitor as a crippled iool, possibly himsell the product oi inbreeding, lor example), together with more than one powerlul periormance. (Nigel Billen)
AN AUDIENCE FOR THE BARO
Annexe Theatre, Traverse, Edinburgh. Run linished. Annexe Theatre Company have been iindlng some talented writers recently (see also Joe, elsewhere on this page). Alan Nayton's An Audience tor the Bard starts lrom a bright, original idea — his real skill though lies in developing it into a well-craited, precisely written and very iunny play.
The scene is eighteenth-century Edinburgh New Town in the house at Robert Rattray, an upper-class
g X i,‘ . , mediocre poet (it to call him mediocre isn't to do the genre a disservice) blinded by his own sell-importance. He and his toolish, ioppish lriend Bimpy are about to give audience to a ‘ploughman poet’, having iirst dispensed with Rattray’s sister’s hand in marriage, much against herwill. The narcissistic, chauvinistic, sell-enclosed little world, riddled with nepotism and sell-regard, that Hayton portrays could easily be iound today, as Annexe’s modern-dress production points out. This just adds another layer at irony to the play, however, which is written, deiightiuliy, in the style oi the time, employing all the conventions oi English Restoration comedy.
Not only is this a splendid piece oi pastiche - and one that doesn't become sell-indulgent— but it also illustrates beautiiuliy the play’s subject. When the ‘ploughman poet' arrives- Robert Burns, neatly tilting the role at country bumpkin come to town — his plain talk and the vitality and integrity at his verse is like a gust oi lresh air, blowing open the artiiiciaiity oi style and situation and immediately conveying the poet’s originality and iorce, both in social, literary and national terms.
The shattering eiiect it has on the assembled company is all neatly tied up within the convention, however, as Hayton's cleverly constructed play never loses control. He is well served by the cast, particularly Andrea Hart as Rattray‘s intelligent iiancee, making the best oi her trapped situation, and Graham de Banzie as Burns, who speaks the bard’s poetry with great sympathy and lorce. (Sarah Nemming).
THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING HONEST
Wildcat, On Tour.
Cleaning the corridors at power one day Mrs McSween accidentally overhears a government secret being exchanged in code. The code having to do with butterllies and her son being a bit at a naturalist, she naturally passes it on. Via various mishaps it becomes published in an obscure butterin magazine - and suddenly bugs take on a whole new meaning lor the McSweens. Though iunny in itseli, the real iun in David McNiven's show lies
the larcical situation seems almost plausible.
McNiven weaves sinister developments in serious issues. including ireedom oi the press, privacy oi the individual and environmental health, into an increasingly manic iarce as the McSweens are lorced to give houseroom to a Special Branch oiiicer sultering irom amnesia and avoid the attentions oi a double-act oi double agents. There are some strong, iunny periormances - particularly irom Dorothy Paul and Peter Mullan. There is still room tor a more savage, serious drama about the implications oi this government's current attitudes towards secrecy-this isn’t it. What it is is Wildcat doing what they do best- a warm, breezy show iorging solidarity and celebrating the importance and integrity oi ordinary people — all ol which becomes increasingly necessary in the present climate. (S.li.)
TAG and Annexe, On Tour.
Sadly there are only three public periormances at this line double bill combining the talents oi two small, enterprising theatre companies, TAG and Annexe, and the promising playwright Anne Marie Di Mambro.
Joe (Annexe) was iirst periormed in October last year—I have now sat through it twice and would happily sit through it again. Dstensibiy a two-hander it is in tact a monologue delivered by a middle-aged ltalian woman, living in Glasgow, on successive visits to her motionless husband — who remains stretched out, silent, in a hospital bed throughout. There’s a touch oi Dario Fo about the situation — but Di Mambro’s play never develops into iarce. Rather it combines its edge at black comedy with a restrained and beautiiuliy developed monologue that unlolds the restrictions ol lolanda‘s upbringing and the problems she has reconciling inherited values with her lile as an immigrant. It must be a story that has been lived through by thousands oi women, and the production is made by Alyxis Daly's warm, sympathetic and precise pertormance (directed by Maggie Kinloch).
The problems oi being an ‘outsider’ are addressed more directly in Di Mambro's newer play, Visible Diiierences, which has recently been touring Strathclyde schools. Here a young Indian boy comes lace to lace with a stupid and malleable young Fascist. Aimed at conironting racism tor a school audience the play is rather simplistic and the initial situation not entirely plausible. Its strength lies in the dialogue as it develops, however, and in two clear, strong periormances lrom Michael Snelders and Alastair Galbraith, directed with punch and energy by Ian Brown. (Sarah Hemming)
A WEE HOME FROM HOME
Seen at Adam Smith, Kirkcaldy. Now at Tron, Glasgow and then on tour. A Wee Home From Home is a brilliant
20 The List 4 — 17 March 1988