Neil Bartlett talks to Mark Fisher about a new Misanthrope. Plus a sprinkling ofother classics round
Last time I saw Neil Bartlett he was parading naked -v and without pubic hair — in A Vision of Love Revealed In Sleep. a one-man show at the
Traverse. His return to Edinburgh this Festival : will be less conspicuous. but just as much a
challenge to theatre audiences. In a surprising partnership. Bartlett has been commissioned by Red Shift Theatre (‘ompany to translate and update Moliere's Le Misanthrope for their three week stint at the Assembly Rooms.
‘One ofmy qualifications for doing it .’ says Bartlett. 'Was that I knew nothing about Moliere. l have an understanding that what you need is a piece of theatre and not a literary translation of a literary piece.’
Bartlett's many other qualifications lie amongst the impressive amount of work he has produced since the early eighties including a translation of The Magic Flute and a piece based on an extract from Little Dorrit. Red Shift had heard of his work in 1985 ’6 with Theatre de (‘omplicite and approached him on the strength of that.
Their specifications were that it should be
written in contemporary English verse and adapted for six actors (where the original needs eleven). Bartlett's penchant for making new work out of historical material coupled with his previous lack of knowledge about Moliere fired him with a tremendous enthusiasm. ‘It was the perfect way to get right in there. I started
dreaming in rhyming couplets!‘
At the suggestion of Red Shift. he updated Moliere‘s original from a world ofwig-wearing courtiers to a contemporary media-land of telephones and taxis. Where Molicre’s characters are summoned to the court. Bartlett's get a call to see the editor. But while the social graces have changed. Bartlett sees a strong connecting thread. ‘What remains is the terrible emotional carelessness ofrich people. It doesn't matter to them and they have nothing better to do.‘
Despite the radical shift in locale. the play is not going to lose its foreignness. It is a neo-classical French comedy with dramatic and rhythmic structures particular to that form. l.'nlike other translators. Bartlett has taken the bold step of keeping to the alexandrine meter of the original. ‘In the English speaking theatre your mind goes naturally. “To be or not to be. that is the
question". Here the form is “To be or not to be. that ts the question oh yes“. It should be like going to a foreign country or to the zoo. You see I
something you‘ve never seen before.’ It is that same raw emotional edge that Bartlett
attempts to bring out in his own work and which '
excites him so much about Le Misanthrope. ‘Moliere sets up situations that are so painful and
so delicious to watch. The ending of Le
Misanthrope is like a piece of music where you
don’t know whether to laugh or cry. bttt it just hits
a perfect note.‘
Red Shift‘s distinctively rich theatrical style has previously been applied to a diverse range of
material — from Jacobean Tragedy. Brecht and murder mystery to science fiction — so a French
neo-classical comedy is really quite in keeping. But in the end. as Bartlett points out. seeing rich people make fools of themselves is a great way to spend the evening. (Mark Fisher).
I Le Misanthrope Red Shift Theatre Company. Assembly Rooms (venue 3) 226 2-127 8. I2 Aug—3 Sept (not Mons 22 dc 29). 4pm (not 6pm). £4.5()(£3.75). [Fr].
After last year's Fringe success with The Very 'I'ragical History of .II a ry Shelley. Tattycorum. an innovative women‘s theatre company based in Oxford. bring a show this year inspired by Chekhov's masterpiece The Three Sisters and called 0 I Want To (in lo MoscowAs the title
suggests this originally devised performance isan exploration of the desires and needs of women ; whose characters are developed from the (‘hekhovian blue-print. Vicky Worslcy . one of the company ‘s performers explains ‘We are not interested in the original play because it‘s a classic
but becatise it's relevant to:
now. We like the tone of the piece. with three very strong female characters to work around. The show is absolutely not an adaptation of the original. nor is it a narration. but it is clearly rooted in performance and itttprovisation, We are interested in the idea of time running out and the urge to leave an occupied
space to discover what‘s beyond the rainbow '
The company stress that they are strongly influenced by a European tradition of physical and experimental theatre. ‘In all our work we are very conscious ofthe performer and the performer's relation to the audience.‘ say s Worsley ‘We aim to produce a show that is energetic and vital. with a sensual and i imaginative edge.‘
Tattycorum are not alone in developing. innovatively. on (‘hekhov‘scharacters. At Theatre Workshop. Word for Word present TM (2 Sisters. a two-hander that returns to the sisters' provincial Russian town after the Revolution has taken place to see what might have become of them and their dreams (Nicola Robertson)
I Three Sisters Tattycoram. Mandela Theatre (venue 79). I5 Aug-3 Sept (not Suns). 7pm £3.5(l(£2.75).[I-‘r]. I TWO Sisters Word for Word. Theatre Workshop. (venue 2”) l4 Aug—.3 Sept (not Suns). midnight £2.5(l(£2). [Fr]
BLOOD WEDDING l Sixty years ago this July Federico (iarcia Lorca read the newspaper report ofthe violent and tragic
es cnts w hich followed a young bride's abandoning her hUsband on their wedding day in order to run away with hcrformer lover. Fascinated by the story. Lorca mulled it over for five years before creating from it his masterpiece. Blood Wedding.
That (‘ommunicado Theatre (‘ompany should have commissioned a new translation of the play for their Fringe contribution this year. comes as no surprise. The group hav e a number of affinities with Lorca. Both excel at theatre which is. says director Gerry Mulgrew'. ‘strong. lush and emotional'. Both place - great emphasis on incorporating music into their work — in this production (.‘ommunicado' are using two trained operasingers- and both have attempted to draw on and revive the folk traditions of their native countries.
This is the first time they 'll be performing a play that hasn't been specially written for them. They will. however. as Mulgrew points out. have the reassuring presence of ‘a live and tame translator (DavidJohnston of Strathclyde University) close at hand.‘
The playw right's brother dubbed Blood Wedding ‘poetic in conception and symbolic in essence'. Mulgrew |
refutesanysuggesttons that the play"s intensity ! I
(one-and-a-halfhours for a 3 act tragedy )could possibly turn the plot to melodrama. "There's a gritty humour. about the questionofsurvival. underlying all the grieving.‘ But w hen he promises that the audience ‘will have their souls w'renched out. pasted on the back w all. then back in again'. he is. one suspects. only half joking. (llelen Davidson).
I Blood Wedding (‘ommunicado. Lyceum Studio (venue 35) 22‘) 9697 I). 15 Aug— 3 Sept (not Suns). 9pm. £4 (£2.50) Free Preview 13 Aug. [Fr].
A DAY IN HOLLYWOOD/A NIGHTIN THE UKRAINE
Michael Roberts. is wrny self-deprecatingabout his I suitability for the role of (iroucho Marx in
Borderline scomedy t
double-billA Day in Hollywood A Night in the L'kruine. ‘It's all like some horrible inversion ofthe Cinderella story. Last time I played the part (Fringe 83) they hada £200 wig made specially for me. so they had to have me back this year.‘
Whilst he feels completely at home as (iroucho. he's mildly apprehensive about the tap dancing which director Morag Fullerton has dragooned the cast into learning. lle's quick. however. to realize the need for versatility. ‘Any actor wants anythingthat might ensure work for him' The need for work led him last year to take the part in Brookside of the Dirty Dentist. would-be seducer of Doreen.
lle returns to the part of Groucho. needless to say. with some relief'l've had a great affection for American comics from very early on.‘ His optician father created a pair of spectacles specially so that the infant Michael's impersonations of Bilko would carry the necessary edge of conviction. He believes the years of indoctrination have left their mark. Id like to think that l wasthc best ("iroucho in Britain. if not in the States.‘
(Ilelen Davidson) I A Day in Hollywood/A Nightin the Ukraine Borderline. Moray House Theatre (Venue 61) 16 Aug—3 Sept (not Suns) 7.30pm. (Weds and Sats) 20. 24. 31. 3 at 2.3(lpm. £5 (£4) [Fr]
I THE WHITE DEVIL: Oxford College Players. Festival Club (venue 36). 220 2278. 13Au94 Sept. 6pm. £3 (£2.50).
I DON JUAN: Georgian Film Actors Studio. Assembly Rooms (venue 3). 226 2427/8 15—27 Aug. 6.30pm & 3.45pm (check times). £5 (£4).
I SHADOW OF A GUNMAN: AM Theatre Productions. Canongate Lodge (venue 5) 5561388.14-20Aug, 2.10pm. £3 (£2)
I DON OUIXOTE: Jacques Bourgaux. Chaplaincy Centre (venue 23) 15-27 Aug (not Sun) 12.30pm; 29 Aug4 Sept. 6.30pm. £3 (£2.50).
I THE DUBLINEHS: Cambridge Floodlight Theatre Co.. Canongate Lodge (venue 5) 15Aug—2 Sept. 4.30pm. £2.50.
I WUTHERING HEIGHTS: Import Theatre Co. Rifle Lodge (venue 101). 557 1785.16 Aug—3 Sept. 8pm. £3 (£2).
The List 12 — 18 August 1988 29