Frank McGuinness talks to Helen Davidson about the British premiere of Bag/ady. Plus a sprinkling of other new shows likely to make a mark.
Frank McGuinness views Bug/adv. as in many ways the crystallization and the favourite of his work to date. Not that his previous work hasn‘t met with success. Observe the Sons of Ulster .llurcliing Towards the Somme won him a clutch of awards.
The Baglady. played by Irish actress Sorcha (‘usack. is a solitary figure who walks the streets trying to piece together the story of the violation that has ruined her life. "l‘he play.‘ explains McUuinness. 'sprang from a very specific incident. A nurse. normally a very reserved person. told me the story of a woman who had been impregnated by her own father. I wouldn‘t usually follow that kind ofstory. but the only way to release our terror and horror was to put something down on paper about it.‘
All McGuinness‘ characters have a compulsive need to assert their real identities and resolve the divisions in their natures. Asked if the troubled figures in The Factory Girls and Bag/adv can be taken as symbols of his native Ireland.
McGuinness shies away from any easy answers. ‘ ‘In one sense both those plays are highly
polemical. but ultimately plays make their own 1 politics. and work by their own logic.‘
()ne of the projects McGuinness has been working on this year is a new version of Ibsen‘s Peer (:‘ynr. which he‘s translated using the Northern Irish dialect. Ile enjoys the task of
; translating. the feeling. as he puts it. ‘ofone
playwright confronting another. . . ‘ IIe‘salso full of praise for Liz Lochhead‘s ‘braid Scots‘ translation of Moliere‘s 'l‘artuffe. seen a couple of years ago at the Lyceum.
Bugludy is an attempt to deal with an event
which McGuinness doesn‘t scruple to call ‘the ultimate tragic experience‘. the kind of subject which calls for harsh and unrelenting drama.
Strangely McGuinness seems to illuminate his own work most tellineg when talking ofanother
writer. Federico Garcia Lorca. whose play Yerma he translated for the Abbey Theatre. ‘I Ie
- was a poet who understood the theatre. Despite
the fact his work is highly allegorical he reaches
out to examine the dark. intense side of humanity
and succeeds in presenting a very practical. very moving portrait.‘ (llelen Davidson) I BagLady Bristol Old Vic. Traverse Theatre. (venue 15) 226 2633. 16 Aug—3 Sept. Times vary. ; £5 (£2.50 from Traverse only). [Fr]. l 12'l‘he List 12— 18 August 1988
THE TAINTED HONEY 0F HOMICIDAL BEES
Theatre (‘addis had planned to bring an adaptation of (ias/ig/u. Patrick Hamilton‘s suspenseful drama. to the Fringe this year. Then. in the grand tradition of spontaneous about-turns. they decided. ‘two day s before the Fringe ()ffice got to 'l‘ in the Fringe programme‘ that they couldn‘t afford the performing rights.
And so it fell to lileanor Zeal. founder and keeper of Theatre (‘addis. to come up with something else. ‘I found thisbook called (‘apital Punishment for Animals.‘ she said. Where. I wondered. were such volumes to be lound'.’ ‘()h. lurking about.‘ she replied. 'l.urkingalmut.‘ Anyway . ( 'addis had decided the play should be a thriller and knew the sort ofthing they wanted to include in it. ‘madness. dark things and murder‘ all they needed was a hook on which to hang the drama. Which is w here the unfortunate animals come in. ‘I found this chapter heading -- The Tainted l loney ol Ilomicidal Bees and read it out. and it went down quite yy cll.‘ explains Ms Zeal. The story was a (ireek myth involving honey liable tocause diabolical possession and a man stung to death by bees. Attracted by the way in which one murder uncovered a hornet's nest. so to speak. ofancient feud and past misdemeanour. the company decided to use the piece as a basis for their play.
Whether or not it still has anything to do w ith bees. I couldn‘t be entirely sure. but according to .\Is Zeal ‘there are insects in it' and it takes place ‘\ cry recently in a village not unlike Sevenoaks.‘ It isa
whodunnit. populated by the kind ofover-the-top characters which look like becoming a (‘addis speciality — ‘a gardener with a (‘ornish accent. a cook. a nurse with aglint in her eye' — and they keep doing suspicious things like digging holesand baking pies.
Last year‘s Fringe First has. apparently. done nothing to tame the idiosyncratic Caddis. ‘lt‘s different.‘ says Zeal. ‘It's playing about with a new genre.‘ But the small. all-female cast will again be playing several roles. dressing up as men. and creating a piece of theatre which is clever. energetic and. above all. fun. For my money. the title alone is worth a second Fringe First. (Julie Morrice)
I The Tainted Honey oi Homicidal Bees Theatre (‘addis. (‘anongate Lodge. Royal Mile (venue 5).5561388.14Aug—3 Sept (not Suns 21 . 28). suspm. £3.50(£2.50). [Fr].
Iiric Prince takes a little time to come to the phone when 1 ring him. ‘l'm sorry. I was tip a ladder decorating.‘ he says. llome improvements notwithstanding. he is able to launch into an enthusiastic discussion of inspiration for his play. H '11 dseu- Wildseu . which comes to the Fringe wreathed in superlatives from the critics who saw it at the National Student Drama Festival this year. Both in title and style. the play pays tribute to H'ielupule- Wielupo/e by 'I‘adeusz Kantor that Prince saw several years ago at the Fringe and that had a great impact on him ‘lt was tremendously exciting. I realised just how much more powerful Polish theatre can be than British theatre. making us
pay far more attention to visual things.‘
The subject of Prince's own play. however. is based on a true incident. ‘A woman threw herself offthe cliff near here. That is the starting point for an exploration ofthe way men and women relate to one another. But it‘s not an ordinary narrative build-up. It‘s cl0ser to a poem — layers and layers that reveal themselvesin the end. At the heart of the poem is what it means to be totally honest about ourselves. But the way I overheard the story comes into it too. because partly it‘s about the impact on you created by the way you hear anything. It is tryingto present quite deep ideas. but yet be entertaining—l hope this doesn‘t sound too pretentious.‘ he says. suddenly laughing at himself.
Reviewers have clearly found it equally difficult to explain why the play has affected them. and in a sense. rightly so. "I‘he nature of theatre is also what it's about.‘ says Prince. ‘When Isaw Wielepole-Wielopu/e. it seemed to me like a big orchestra that Kantor was conducting. And I saw this play as a string quartet in theatre terms.‘ (Sarah llemming).
I Wildsea-Wildsea. National Student Theatre Company. Calton Studios (venue 71 ) 556 7066. 15—27 Aug (not Sun). 6.30pm. £3 (£2.50) [Fr].
In recent years Yugoslav theatre on the Fringe has provided the imagination and energy which many home-grown theatre companies have lacked. The controversial performances by the Red Pilot group in 1986 and last year‘s successful debut for Tetovirano
The tainted Honey oi Homicidal Boas
I new PLAYS .
j Pozoriste. mark a growing
awareness in Britain of Yugoslavia‘s alternative theatre tradition. This year a small. but impressive. Yugoslav theatre company. [)aska. bring the premiere oftheir show. Aquarium.
Performer Nebojsa Borojevic describes the company‘s approaches to theatre. which have earned them awards and a reputation as one of Y ugoslavia‘s most exciting experimental groups. "Twelve years ago a group of friends from Sisak in (‘roatia came together and began with recitals of poetry on stage. and from there the company grew. until we began to play at festivals all over Yugoslavia and tour to Czechoslovakia. Germany and Poland.
‘1 like the situation in Polish alternative theatre because the people there really live for theatre. They work together in their groups for many years. which is the major difference between them and official. professional theatre. In the professional theatre in Yugoslavia we do not have risk. but in ourown theatre risk is exciting; it is beautiful. In our performances we are always changing and