Lyceum, Edinburgh

Liz Lochhead’s ‘Mary Queen of Scots Got Her Head Chopped fo' rescues the hapless queen from the cobwebs of history in many ways. Bold, punchy and stylised, her rich, often poetic, Scots text throws onto the stage the beautiful, proud Mary and the awesome, proud Elizabeth, hurtling us back and forth between the two queens and their courts. As it does so it builds up a vivid picture of the two very different women, plays on the strange irony that created ‘twa queens in the one green island’ (paralleled at least in their common battle to hold their own against the men that surrounded them), and deftly demonstrates the extent to which Mary's Scotland, with its Protestant-Catholic rivalry and its debilitating inability to escape the power of the South, can still be seen in Scoflandtoday.

It is a rich, pungent and witty play. written with Lochhead‘s fine sense of language and comedy and it is revived lorthe Lyceum by Communicado Theatre Company, using the same cast as they used last year to create the vibrant studio production that deservedly won them a Fringe First. Gerry Mulgrew's production matches perfectly Lochhead's style: punchy, stylised, witty. This is history as a stage; politics as a circus; religion as a masque; love as a bullring. Proceedings are introduced by ‘La Corbie', (the crow) a sardonic ringmaster who guides the audience in and out of the story, linking the acts and providing commentary, as we shift back and forth from the dark, dreich Scottish court and the glittering English one. Mulgrew uses dance, music and visual sleight of hand (most memorably in a beautifully conceived wedding-dance between Mary and Lord Darnley) to create a production that is highly stylised and yet puts across the intimate machinations of a dark, back-stabbing world and the personal plight of the two queens. Alison Peebles as the diamond-like Elizabeth and Anne Lacey as the opal-like Mary are beautifully matched, and the whole production is smooth and precise a definite argument for returning to new plays after a break.

And yet to me it seemed to have lost something in the move from the small stage to the large. Neatly redesigned as more of a pageant on the open proscenium arch, the production's visual excitement is still there but the intimacy, cohesion and punch that were part of it in the round seem to have dissipated. It was a laudable decision to give audiences another chance to see this piece of writing and to give it a different lease of life by

transferring it to the large stage. I hope the Lyceum will do the same for other new plays. On this occasion, however, it almost seemed to prove how well conceived the play was for its initial


I ROYAL LYCEUM Grindlay Street, 229 9697. Box Office Mon—Sat 10am-6pm. 10am—8pm on perf. evgs. Bar. Rest/Cafe. [D]. (TheatreSaver Concession Cards cost £1 , last all year, give £1 offthe full price each time you come for you and a

studio venue, since it doesn‘t have the same impact. (Sarah Hemming).


Traverse Theatre: Run ended

Anne Marie Di Mambro doesn’t only have a feel for language, she has a feel for people. Just as the rhythm, character and wit of west coast speech falls effortlessly into her plays, so the people she creates are real, individual and human.

In Sheila, the third play to appear at the Traverse’s Scottish Accents season, Di Mambro demonstrates a quality of only the best writers. She neither simplifies nor passes judgement, but rather lets her characters speak for themselves. The three characters in Sheila are a beautiful mixture of good points and contradictions, strengths and weaknesses, moods and misunderstandings.

Sheila (Blythe Duff) is a diligent university student from a working class background who, out of eagerness to better herself, shuns the immaturity of her contemporaries in favour other idealized view of academics. Three days in the company of Tam (Andrew Barr) and Rab (Douglas Sannachan) who come to decorate her bedslt, exposes her underlying inferiority complex and limited sexual maturity. At the same time it gives Rab and Tam the chance to reconsider their own attitudes to class, sex, race and the social restrictions which bear down upon us all.

But true to life, Di Mambro offers no simple solutions. Sheila’s course unit in feminism is no answer to Rab’s pregnant wife with two young children to look after. Equally, Rab’s night on the town for a friend’s stag night is a poor alternative to Sheila’s all-too-polite university parties. But for all their differences, Di Mambro's characters are able to see through their prejudices and to connect on a human level. Sheila, Rab and Tam are richer

friend available to OAPs, LIB-40s. Students, Disabled and YTS scheme) Tickets for Lyceum productions are also available at the Ticket Centre. Waverley Bridge; branches of AT May‘s travel and the Queen‘s Hall, Clerk Street.

Mary, Queen of Scots Fri 3—521! 18 June.

personalities than the stereotypes we first expect and, under Liz Carruthers‘ direction, Di Mambro's witty script becomes touchineg convincing.

All this and a rendition of ‘Hello Dolly!‘ that won't be bettered until it falls victim to the talents of Victory and Barry! (Mark Fisher)


Traverse Theatre: Run ended

John Merryfield‘s view of the world allows little room for the sane and well-balanced. His new play, The Way We Were, the final production of the Traverse's short season of new writing, Scottish Accents, is populated by a cast who range from the eccentric to the demented and who rather worryingly tend to hold positions of power and influence over others.

Set around the dilapidated home of the callously self-obsessed Rob (Ralph Riach) and his retarded son Martin (Stuart Davids), the play concerns the rival attempts of a property developer, represented by Dora (Kirsty Miller), and Robin’s brother-in-law Kenny (Sam Graham) to take possession of the house. Dora, coldly manipulative and showing early signs of megalomania, intends to demolish the

property to make way for more financially lucrative developments. Kenny, smitten with nostalgia, wants to resurrect the house to its former glory and rediscover his family‘s past. Recognising Robin as the eccentrically difficult character he is, Dora and Kenny focus their attentions on the ‘innocent', and apparently more susceptible Martin. Robin’s disturbingly violent hold over Martin is contested in more psychologically subtle-though just as disturbing— ways by the two outsiders. As the play progresses and the characters vie for control, we learn about Robin's murky past and Martin‘s history of being deceived, while Kenny starts to crack underthe weight of his own obsession.

7.45pm. £2.5(l—i7. TheatreSaver holders £1 off. Sat mat l8June 3.15pm(allseats £3). FREE Previewon Thurs ZJune. (‘ommunieado Theatre ('ompuny‘s Mary. Queen ufSenrs by Liz [.oehheud wusuite ofthe hits of last year's lidinburgh Fringe. earning a Fringe l‘irst award for its witty.

In the end it is Dora who wins out, having no emotional stake in the proceedings and financial gain being heronly motivation.

Ultimately, however, the production is unsatisfying where it should be unsettling. From the opening strains of monastic music to the arrangement of furniture on the walls, it makes empty gestures to imply a meaning which is not made evident in the text. Martin's progression into sanity is paralleled by Kenny's decline into madness seemingly lorthe sake of a parallel. There is no obvious conclusion to be drawn. And the characters, though fairly well developed, are somehow rootless—a tendency thatwas only exaggerated by a rather imprecise use of space. Being slightly off locus makes The Way We Were seem as idiosyncratic as one of Merrytield’s characters and leaves a bit too much work to the audience. (Mark Fisher)


Lung Ha‘s Theatre Company, Theatre Workshop, Edinburgh. Run ended. The Selchie emerged from a series of improvisation and story-telling workshops undertaken by Lung Ha's Theatre Company, a mentally handicapped group. The production began with a high-spirited ceilidh, complete with fiddler and band. A woman narrator steps out, and reveals a landscape peopled by creatures from Scottish mythology: ethereal selchies, a helpful but suitably acid-tongued witch, a hideous sea-monster. and of course, the wee folk. Ewan, the fisherman-hero is married to a selchie, a seal-woman who has forsaken the sea for love (think back to The Little Mermaid and all will be clear). Selchie is swallowed by a sea-monster awakened by her seal-friends’ haunting lament. Ewan, being the hero. must needs rescue her, helped by the wee folk, of whom he is at first rather sceptical: ‘The wee folk. What does that mean —the bairns?‘ The wee folk, played with great gusto and humour, were divided in the production into four groups: the canny, dour and practical hoagies who bustled about chanting ‘Work! Work! Work‘; the fey water and air sprites romantically named the sidhe and michties; and the naughty, very thick-headed trowies who liked nothing better than clubbing each other over the head and devising hopelessly stupid plans to hinder Ewan’s quest. The happy ending is celebrated by the cast and audience with a rousing ceilidh.

lntelligently directed by Kate Baker, the production was an excellent mixture of imagination, wit and high spirits, and used a creative selection of mixed media: dance, song. slides, film, large puppets and mime. The cast and technical crew created a genuinely eerie twilight world of monsters and faeries, who speak in the rough, salty

guid Scots tongue. (Margaret Mallon)

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The List l()~— 23.]une 1688 23