Y A baker‘s dozen of the best so far.
In a happy return to form after last year's empty-headed playschool sci-fi. Red Shift inject new life into Moliere's bitter-sweet comedy of manners. L‘pdated three centuries into an upwardly mobile Docklands flat. Neil Bartlett's witty adaptation of Le .llisuntlimpe captures the essence ofthe original without suffocating beneath the stuffiness of 17th century stage convention.
Written in rhytning couplets. the script bounces merrily from self-parody to poetic insight and the actors enter into the spirit with gusto. piling deceit onto double deceit with an enthusiasm matched only by their indignation at hearing the truth. One by one the characters— played by a uniformly strong cast - expose their emotional vulnerabilities only to be taken advantage of and humiliated by those they choose to call their friends.
Jonathan Ilolloway's direction holds our attention on what is an unusually wordy script for Red Shift and at the same time it manages to avoid much of the tricksiness that has characterised the company's work in the past. Full of wry human observations. the production takes us from laughter to anger to pity in an interpretation faithful to the provocative spirit of one of France's greatest playwrights. (Mark Fisher).
? I Le Misanthrope Red
' Shift. Assembly Rooms (Venue 3). 2262-127 8. Until 3 Sept (not 22. 29
THE SUICIDE The Scottish premiere of Nikolai Erdman‘s The Suicide. and the city centre debut of the Hilltop Theatre Company. is a double bonus not to be missed.
Firstly the company — the Hilltop is made up of
who normally perform in Corstorphine. further away than the average fringe-goer is prepared to venture. This is a fine production. slick and professional. with
excellentensemble acting. V particularly in the banquet '
scene. Mark McDonnell as the unfortunate Semyon is a particularly promising comic actor. This is also a first class play. which is not something which can be said about a lot ofthe plays currently on at the Fringe. and which is really the essential factor. Erdman only wrote three plays. none of which has been published in the Soviet Union. but Brecht
admired his work. and Gorkyproclaimed him
‘our new Gogol'. The Suicide was written in 1928. but banned when it went into production in 1932. According to Stalin. ‘it calumnied Soviet
A reality.'A|though very
much a play of its time.
of the Party. and the disenchanted intelligensia. it is alsoa play for our time —the protagonist contemplates suicide because he is unemployed— and perhaps for any time in which individual lives are discounted. Such a sparkling intelligent play is unjustly neglected. (Kasia Boddy)
IThe Suicide Hilltop
Theatre Company. Lyceum Studio(venue ' 35). 2299697,"). Until 20 Aug.5pm.£3(£2).
Julie Forsyth. all cropped hair and scruffy knickerbockers. is a young boy desperate to know the world. with neither embarrassment nor fear. A peeping'l‘om
iu the LISI 19—23 August 1988
on adult life she scrunches tip her face to catch any forbidden glimpse ofolder people. a key-hole. a crack in a wall. anything becomes her way in: but the boy‘s view is always partially obscured or distorted by inexperience. A slice of French provincial life. this one woman show gives us mercenary butcher‘s wife. portly policeman. apoplectic teacher. toothless. wheezy grandmother; the boy‘s hopes and fears are seen through the sexual appetite of Marcel's sister. the rivalry bgtween the butcher's apprentices. the undertakers‘ mysterious business. Julie Forsyth picks out every adult foible with a laser: through superb comic timing. a whole town converses about copulating dogs. death. ignorance. whilst the boy makes the labyrinth more ofa maze by his endless questions and explanations. A tour de force celebrating the richness of human life with Jean-Pierre Mignon's direction catching every nuance ofindividuality. (Tinch Minter) I Kid’s Sill" Assembly Rooms (venue 3) 226 2427.8. Until 3 Sept.8pm. £4.50(£3.50)
TH EATRESPO RTS Unpredictability is what this particular piece of inspired lunacy is all about. Two teams of actors challenge each other in a sporting contest — complete with judges. scorers and referee — to spontaneously produce the most original and amusing improvisations based on audience suggestions. Inventor Keith Johnstone is most widely known for the
THE LIST'S TOP SHOWS '
improviser‘s bible ‘lmpro‘ and the show provides a hilarious demonstration of its techniques for unfreezing even the most petrified imagination. The first contest produced several classic moments: a conceptual music piece set in a steelworks that miraculously transformed into a raunchy blues number and a blank verse Shakesperian scene in which Cordelia mutated into a moose. (Simon Baily) I Theatresports Assembly Rooms (venue 3). 226 2427 8. Until 27 Aug. 11.45am. £4.50 (£3.50).
This production of Shakespeare's popular comedy at the small I’leasance 2 venue is a clean. well-paced and entertaining piece of theatre. Moreover it attempts to explore the difficult. half-submerged subtext of sexuality that simmers beneath the surface of the play. and which every now and then rises out of the darkness and threatens to overwhelm the hilarious world of lIyria.
()rsino‘s mobster government and his blindness to Viola‘s devotion. introduce the cruelty of a society closed to its own feelings; a brutality which is usurped by the raucous. anarchic Sir Toby Belch. looking more like George Michael than a caricature ofa dissipated mediaeval knight. Malvolio— whose parting words at the end of the play. ‘I'll be revenged on the pack of you'. seem more fitting than an awkward reconciliation and marriage scene — is brilliantly conceived by Jack Nightingale as a humourless puritan. looking like a mixture between AdoIintler. with a clipped moustache and cowslick parting. and John Cleese's Basil Fawlty. His madness is incipient. born ofpride and ambition. as he kneels and implores fate to better his fortune.
The piece is played with assured professionalism
and slickness: and there is careful attention to the spoken text. which make it enjoyable to listen to as well as to watch. The set by Jon Kellet is economical and cleverly designed; the blues and whites of simple squares and columns. changing into a mass of colour as the action spins to its climax. (Nicola Robertson)
I Twelfth Night Cambridge Touring Theatre. The Pleasance (venue 33). 5566550. 12. 15. l7. 19. 22 Aug-1pm. £3 (£2)
A MAN WITH CONNECTIONS
It‘s not difficult to see why Alexander Gelman is none too popular with the old guard of the Russian Communist party. The grotesque humour of his playA Man With Connections is blatantly. yet deeply shocking. Natasha and Andrei. the Russian exemplum of Yuppiedom. are happily complacent about their lifestyle. despite a few marital infidelities. until their only son. doing his work experience with Andrei's company. loses his hands. What on earth. they ask themselves. are they going to do with poor Alyosha's guitar? Might a push-button telephone be helpful?
At first the couple are united in their grief. but then Natasha learns from Andrei's mistress that Andrei was partly responsible for the catastrophe. taking uncalled for risks in his desperation to make enough money for the quarter. A bitter confrontation ensues
between the pair. in which 1
one‘s sympathies initially lie entirely with Natasha. beautifully played by Marty Cruikshank.
The play is a disturbing indictment of the lengths to which people will go to ensure a decent standard ofliving. In Jenny Killick's production. although the feel ofthe play is jokingly Russian— when Andrei promises to switch the kettle on he starts fiddling about with a set ofsilver samovars— Gelman‘s final point. that corruption is pervasive. comes over as universal. As Andrei shrewdly points out — ‘Deep down I believe that everybody is on the fiddle. and if they‘re not they‘re thick‘.(Helen Davidson). I A Man With Connections Traverse Theatre. Venue 15. Aug 12. 30—Sept 3 7.30pm; Aug 138.30pm; Aug 16—21 4.30pm. Aug
23—28 1.30pm. £6 (£3 at
THE SERPENT’S FALL
There always was something a bit suspect about the Adam and Eve story. Now. with just one hat. one chair and a bent Ionic column. Sarah Cathcart exposes the myth. She transports the audience from Knossos to Melbourne. digging up the lost glory of womankind and describing with her face. voice and her body an entire continent.
Bernice the whacky archaeologist pursues her Holy Grail — the symbol of the snake and the Goddess I Iera/Ishtar/Isis - and reconstructs the serpent's fall from mythical supremacy. She uncovers figurines. lost temples and inscriptions to the vulva.
Woven into this intricate tale are the lives ofthree Australian women and the narrator‘s involvement with them.
As each ofthcm. Cathcart is transfixing. This expose of convenient myth-making is brilliantly conceived and performed by Cathcart and. directed by Andrea Lemon. the production is taut and sharp. Cathcart slides from one character to another with the subtlety ofa snake. charming and captivating the audience. A good one for a Fringe First.
I The Serpent's Fall Sarah Cathcart. Assembly Rooms (venue 3) 226 2427/8. 12 Aug—3 Sep 6pm. £4.50 (£3.50). [Fr].