A CASE FOR MICKEY SLAIN
Ifyou‘re a detective story glutton and mad about parody. Slain will have you glued to your seat and rolling in the aisles. A spoof on trench-coat and trilby films. complete with newsreel voice-overs of a Britain glorious but rationed. with soft-shoe routines in Rod Anderson's clever close harmonies for girly trios and the blackest blues. Set in Slain‘s sleasy office and an even sleasier night-club we meet the dregs of London's underworld. where of course virtue survives. Paul Prescott assembles a gallery of period types. brilliantly played by a small cast juggling lots ofcameo
roles. Be dumbfounded by
Joanna Monro‘s dizzy blonde lvy. a breathless cockney; get drunk in her coffee-coloured tones as she sings of her alter ego. Rosita from Brasil. Take a trip down memory lane as all that jolly slang comes gushing at you: relax in the banality of the cod characters. the cliched situations. the see-through disguises. the chauvinism and the naive morality. Hopeless case Slain may be. but of course all loose ends get safely tied. (Tinch Minter) I A Case for Mickey Slain Camellia Productions.Festival Club. (venue 36) 220 2278. Until 3 Sept. 6.30pm. £3.50 (£3)
For their third visit to the Fringe. this eccentric and unassuming Yugoslav experimental group have created an intimate and deceptively simple piece that hovers in many ways between the margins of performance and real life. Oddly enough. it is this very absence of theatrical illusionism that gives the show a moving and compassionate appeal. Progressing from courtyard to the Pleasance tent. from circus clowing to expressionistic shadow play. Daska illuminate the invisible barriers that separate the worlds ofthe adult and the child. ofthe individual and the state and finally ofdream and reality. Father. mother and their 5 year old son are among the performers. a family unit which sustains the fragile hopes of learning and education against the brash violence and indoctrination of authority. Behind
Aquarium‘s rough edges a light ofwarmth and generous humanity appears fitfully in a performance that is obviously developing continuously.
I Aquarium Daska. Pleasance (Venue 33). Until 3 Sept. 8.30pm.£4 (£2.50)
AS THE PIANO PLAYS
The Israeli Tmu-Na and their idiosyncratic director Nava Zukerman appeared at the tail-end of the 1986 Fringe with the exhilarating5 Screams. a splendidly controlled piece ofexperimental movement theatre loosely based upon Milan Kundera‘s The Unbearable Lightness of Being. The group‘s aims remain unequivocally ambitious — ‘to create and perform original plays on universal dilemmas from the point of view ofJews living in lsrael‘ usinga complete theatrical language of text. music. dance. images and light.
Yet As The Piano Plays fails significantly to fulfil its potential. Ostensibly exploring themes of relationships developed in a novella written by Zukerman. the piece abandons the deft. Pina Baush-style choreography and stylish eroticism of the earlier show for a self-indulgent and ultimately tawdry exercise in empty formalism.
The well-worn cliches of so much self-appointed avant-garde theatre are rolled out laboriously — the red carnations. ripped dresses. lipstick slashes on naked ﬂesh. boutsof nihilistic spoken text. lugubrious musical collage — and combined with a meaningless number of intense embraces. running
positiveimagesof relationships to which the
production lays claim. dissolve into a structureless mush in which women come off especially badly. Despite the obvious skill. committment and passion of the performers. there is an emotional and imaginative redundancy in the work which undercuts the group‘s asserted attempt to present the felt bleakness
There is a line of thought that would claim that work of this kind is not to be understood rationally but intuitively. directly accessing the emotional world of the
. audience. Unfortunately.
that response too has become a cliche. a cop-out: experimental means can no longer be paraded as a guarantee of the worthiness. artistically or politically. of experimental ends. This makes As The Piano Plays all the more disappointing in its lack of sensitivity— perhaps because there remains a feeling that it could so easily have been very different. (Simon Bayly)
I A: The Piano Plays Tmu-Na. Assembly Rooms. (Venue 3) 226 2427/8. Until 3 Sept. 1.45pm. £4.50 (£3.50).
At the Fringe one is accustomed to the embarassment of being outnumbered by the cast. and ofunder-rehearsal. but it is unusual to witness the company‘s ﬂight from the theatre during one‘s meagre applause. Embarassment. sadly. is the principal ingredient of this show. whose theme is the redemption of lost integrity. The playwright Spenser Frearson can write quite cohesive dialogue. though the jokes fall ﬂat and the politics are naive; but his characters have no personalities: they are merely foils and mouthpieces for rather pointless discussion. Nor can Frearson direct very effectively. Harry Dalmeny. who agonizes most unconvincingly in the title role. is clearly uncomfortable on stage. and his ill-fitting suit is no advantage. Another character. it is worth observing. wears a tattered suit to indicate that he is mentally retarded. The three actresses contrive somehow to redeem certain scenes. but l‘m afraid my departure was almost as hasty as the cast‘s. (Andrew Burnet) I Benjamin Wonderland Central Touring Company. Acoustic Music Centre. (Venue 25) 220 2462. Until 20Aug. 4.30pm. £2.50 (£2)
The combination of a setting in a derelict ballroom of a grand European hotel. inspiration provided by the great German talent Botho Strauss and two ex-Lecoq mime school performers promises some style and sparkle. However. this brand of Blue Champagne appears to have lost not a little of
its fizz during its journey from Paris. What we are served up is more like a rather irksome couple engaged in a tetchy rehersal for Come Dancing with snatches of French. English and German scattered randomly throughout. For the most part. the choreOgraphy is dull and uninventive and the overall performance dwindles into tedium. One redeeming feature is the evocative 30's dance hall music. to which one member of the audience was tapping his foot so hard. it seemed he might get up and show them how its really done.
I Blue Champagne Reﬂux. Chaplaincy Centre (Venue 23). Until 27 Aug. 8.30pm. £4 (£3.50).
This double bill of two new plays. ‘Only His Knees' by Edward Betz and ‘Van Gogh‘s Ear‘ by Matt Swan. uses two actors. Ray Vrazel and Cree Rankin. They make a good team.
Directed by David Dahlgreen. ‘Only His Knees‘ is a modern parable of loyalty and betrayal — and self-deception. Short of money and work. Joey (Ray Vrazel) and Murphy (Cree Rankin) are trying to find an easy way out by conning a mutual friend. Joey takes a moral line. a ‘new approach'. scorning cheating and ‘hustlcs‘. But when the reward is high enough. he changes horses and will resort to breaking legs instead of just double-dealing. Character and plot threads are hard to pick up initially. but the picture soon comes clear.
The flipside. ‘Van
Gogh‘s Ear‘ is a masterful scrutiny of Van Gogh‘s possible motives for cutting off his car. This time Cree Rankin as Van Gogh calls the shots. The artist‘s friend Dietzel (Ray Vrazel) belongs to the practical world of shop-keeping. The play rides on the gulfbetween the two men. which. as they attempt to understand each other. converges momentarily and then widens again. The interplay between the tortured. over-imaginative Van Gogh and cheery. of-this-world Dietzel is finely honed as Dietzel colours Van Gogh's intense soulfulness with a sidelong humour. Directed by the actors themselves. ‘Van Gogh's Ear‘ is a smart and card-sharp cameo.
I Body Parts New Orleans Theatre Showcase. Celtic Lodge. Brodie‘s Close (venue 6) 225 7097. 14 Aug—27 Aug (not 21) 10am. £3 (£2). [Fr].
BY THE PDDL
Stewart Conn‘s worthy play about South Africa is a timely and horrifying reminder of that country's notorious. yet accepted regime. Written in response to hisown experience of South Africa. it is not the spontaneous outburst one might expect. Like the unhappy country itself. it keeps its fury pent until it spills over into violence. The play begins like a sit-com. Viv and Ric sit by their pool. swilling gin and making middle-aged banter. their greatest concern the breakdown of the automatic pool-cleaner. The same scene. by the end ofthe piece. has become a
from MyiPolntolView page 17
bloody battle-ground. fought over by the unreconcilable forces which hold South Africa in painful. trembling stasis. Viv and Ric are fairly ordinary. fairly decent people. yet they sustain apartheid. They accept and survive. but the strain shows. Conn‘s drama brings to the perfect poolside the misery and cruelty which by rights belong there and which no quantity of gin. no landscape. however beautiful. can blot out. Conn has something serious to say. but this is an unnecessarily joylcss production. Jokes fall ﬂat. and the dialogue is often transparent. revealing the stressed machinery of the plot. That will probably improve as the run proceeds. this is after all the play‘s premiere. (Julie Morrice) I By the Pool (To-Producers. Lyceum Studio(venue 35). Until3 Sept(not Suns). llam.£4 (£2.50).
Devised by director. Lin Woodacrc. with the Bristol Revunions. (‘at/iarsis. explores schizophrenia — drama‘s favourite mental illness. The central impetus for the play is Eric Berne's conception of the three ego states (child. parent and adult) within every personality. The programme explains how this theory is intended to relate to schizophrenia. and without reading it. the play might be difficult to understand.
Cat/tarsis focuses on the visit of Kate to her sister Alison. a patient in a psychiatric hospital. and asks the question — which sister is really ill'.’ Six actresses take part. enacting scenes ofconflict between the different egos and between the sisters themselves and exploring the events which led to Alison‘s admission to hospital. At a time when the return ofpsychiatric patients to the community is being proposed. (.‘aI/zarsis argues the case for the hospital as a sanctuary from the pressures of society. and suggests that those who conform to society's norms may be the more genuinely ‘insane’.
As an exemplum of current psychiatric theory ('atharsis is not accurate. but as a piece ofdrama. modelled as much on the Passion Plays as on films such as Sybil. it succeeds in captivating our perennial fascination with all things mad. (Kasia
The List 19— 25 August 198815