SEALED WITH A LOVING KISS
Witch Theatre Group, Run finished.
As Witch Theatre Group's pageant of womanhood progresses, a bookcase at the back of the stage gradually fills with feminine clutter: a rag doll, a make-up bag, a framed photograph of a dead husband. This accumulation suggests both the changing and sometimes conflicting concerns of the various women portrayed, and their ability to find significance in the small things of every day.
The extended all-female family round whom the play is created are a believable and attractive bunch, and it is a pleasure to find so many carefully dilineated female characters on the stage at one time. Men, though invisible, are ever-present in the hearts and minds of the besotted teenager, the divorced mother, the widowed grandmother, yet it is the safe, supportive and stimulating relationships between women which the play stresses above all.
The episodic nature of the piece is an easy and effective way to observe and enjoy the ties that hold the family together, although the frequent and pernickety scene-changes become rather tiresome. Developed through improvisation, the play has little new light to shed on the feminine condition, but strong acting and occasional biting turns of phrase keep the whole thing rolling along. (Julie Morrice)
Transparent lies flit across the Traverse stage between translucent curtains and overthe dull mirror of the galvanised metal floor. Prickly Heat is an opaque, slippery play dealing in things half-glimpsed, perhaps understood.
Four people (or perhaps twice that number) collide and coalesce in a hot empty warehouse within a city oppressed by an uncharacteristic heatwave. Lennox (Robert McIntosh), a janitor with aspirations, rents a camp-bed to the warm and vulnerable Brenda (Hilary Maclean), while upstairs Danny and Duvalier (Tom Mannion, Simon Donald) prepare for a
Writer, Simon Donald allows his characters extraordinary freedoms. Untrammelled by verifiable personal histories and without confirmation of either their personalities or indeed their independent existence, they inhabit a beguiling dream world woven from pretence and suggestion. Somehow, despite all this, they fascinate; their humanity is intact.
The play survives its first half on its nerves. Anything, one feels, could happen. The build-up of sexual static and pregnant references to the hidden past leave the audience panting for a denouement which, inevitably, never comes. Instead, the slim threads of belief which have held the play aloft part gently, and the whole thing slips quietly into the absurd.
Donald writes sinewy dialogue and has a light hand with visual and verbal jokes. Convincing direction from Jenny Killick and strikingly good performances from all four actors, make this a worrying, frustrating but highly attractive play. (Julie Morrice)
Citizens' Theatre, Glasgow There is a scene near the start of this play that is so impossibly creaky, that doubts set in about the dramatic merits of Bridie’s melodrama. The young DoctorJonson is all but propositioned by a blousy patient. He ends up in an embrace and is caught in the act by the his senior partner’s wife. Its a pretty implausable, and to today's audience embarrasing, encounterwhich is soon revealed to be necessary only forthe plot.
Armed with knowledge of this embrace, DrAngelus is able to gently blackmail his younger colleague into turning a professional blind eye to the strange way medicine is being practised in the Angelus household. (Angelus is slowly poisoning his wife and mother-in-law, while having an affairwith the maid.)
However, we are drawn into the play and the events that make Jonson an unwilling accomplice, as he begins to see himself, to the killings. Partly we’re lured in by the play's absurdities and partly by the author's wit. Dr Angelus, a man given to outrageous
r ’ l (3’53, 5-:
remarks, is a wonderful caricature with which actors of the quality of Alastair Sim (the play’s original Angelus) and Robert David MacDonald can have great fun.
The play does, however, have a serious and disturbing core. In a drunken dream sequence, effectively staged in Giles Havergal‘s production, Jonson dreams he is on trial for his part in the murder of the doctor’s wife. Suddenly what has seemed nearerto the farce of a black comedy, becomes a real concern. Bridie cleverly hammers it home in the following scene where Angelus is transformed, as if by Jonson’s final drunken inaction, into a raving, homicidal monster.
If the play had left it there, the point would have been memorably made. Unfortunately, Bridie drags out the elements of popularmelodrama, introducing a ludicrous policeman who absolves the young doctor of guilt, and turning Angelus, by his capture, into just a sad mental psychiatric case. (Nigel Billen).
NO SEX PLEASE WE’RE BRITISH
Kings Theatre, Edinburgh
If only I‘d listened to my mother it might never have happened. Instead of standing here with my illusions round my ankles, I could have hung onto the notion that popular theatre is an important institution, enticing people away from their television sets to experience the thrill of drama, the unforgettable power of live entertainment. But one gin too many and I'm anybody‘s, which must be how I found myself in the King‘s Theatre watching the longest-running joke in the world.
Why? Why should such unleavened, dried-up fare keep them coming back for more? Who were the hilarious crew aged eight to eighty, but mainly fifty-fivelsh, who crowded into the King’s to subsist through this ‘good family entertainment'? There is no sex in No Sex Please We're British, but it is about as suitable forthe children as Page Three and about as insidious.
A terribly happy young couple, married for three and a half weeks, accidentally subscribe to a barrage of pornographic material, which has, of course, to be hidden from his mother, his boss, the local constabulary and anyone else who crashes onto the
stage, slamming the door behind them. Contrived mayhem ensues and as the sound and fury spiral towards an ending, in a tired display the cardboard characters turn to show the true colours we recognised all along.
The cast do what they can. Andrew Sachs is appealing and often very
nearly funny as the ill-used hanger-on
Brian, and the whole production is extremely slick and tight-knit. There is a limit, however, to what you can do with a script which expects laughs for the simple enunciation of the word shuttlecocks. The one line of any originality, blurted out by Mr Needham, the crumbly accountant (Norman Vaughan), as he flees the advances of two Amazonian call-girls, was unfortunately hijacked for the title of the play and is thus reduced to the hackneyed level of the rest. (Julie Morrice)
Cacciatore Fabbro, On Tour
Jock is back. Crackling with his own brand of dapper energy and casual rapport, Russell Hunter brings us ‘MisterJock', latest in a long line of one-man plays written for him by W. Gordon Smith, and sequel to the first of all, the highly successful ‘Jock‘.
One can understand the success, for while ‘MisterJock‘ can make no claims to aesthetic grandeur, it bubbles and flows (like the whisky still demonstrated by Mister Jock) with thought provoking insights into the elusive qualities of Scottish-ness; with ironical enthusiasm for Scotland’s history; and, above all, with humour.
If the sight of Russell Hunter naked but for shirt-tails and underpants is not sufficient stimulation, take heed of Jack’s analysis of the aphrodisiac properties of the kilt. If you thought Scottish prisons were uncomfortable, remember they offer ‘three square meals and a roof under your feet.’ And if you see the show, bear in mind that Russell Hunter never drinks tea off-stage.
‘MisterJock’ is more of an animated lecture than a character study—Jock is by turns scathing, witty, scurrilous and earnest, but his personality is swamped by the military mantle he has been unable to discard, and we leave him much as we find him. But after two hours' lively banter, one can only describe Mr Hunter's performance as virtuoso. (Andrew Burnet).
22 The List 24 June — 7 July 1988