Iinough has probably been said about Ileatheote Williams‘ fascinating and moving poem. recently pttblished and broadcast on television. to make any further accolades a ntere formality. But in the tiny downstairs space at the Traverse. relieved of the glossy images of book or sereett. Roy I lutchins prov cs that the theatre is the poems ideal medium.

In payittg tribute to the largest living animal on the planet. Williams gently turns a human-centred universe upside-down. (‘rammed ftill with information. the poem plays off the revered mythic status ofthe leviathan against its role as so much flesh. blood and bone with which humanity sustains and destroys itself ~ the source of both life-giving drugs and of the oil that lubricates nuclear missiles. The final impression is of the whale as the living foundation upon which the rotten edifice of civilisation rests precariously.

lit a sell-effacing arid unadorned fashion. llutchinsdelivers the poem faultlessly and regulates a flowing gamut of emotions with great sensitivity. It is both a relief arid a rare pleasure to discover that the spoken word in the theatre cart still entrance the imagination so completely. (Simon Bayly) I Whale Nation. Roy I Iutchins. Traverse 'I'lteatre(\'enue 15)22ti 2th3. l 'ntil 3 Sept. 9.30pm (23-2SAug). l2 noon(30 Aug-3 Sept). £5 (£2.50).


The (irupa (‘hwilowa represent a continuing tradition of Polish experimental theatre at the Fringe and A Miraculous Story. although first performed over 4 years ago. once more provides a vision of theatre that is at once a challenge and an

inspiration to British audiences. directors and actors alike.

In a series ofcompact. almost soundless scenes. the performers create vivid and original images ofsuffering and hope. Symbolism proliferates stones rolled around the stage. sand thrown in the eyes. burning wax drippet onto a toy house * but is never obscure. With the gallows as an over-riding presence. the sense of crushed humanity struggling against oppression is communicated with an unnerving clarity. A beguiling absence of the trappings of virtuoso theatrical technique or shock tactics lends the piece a deadly intensity that. in the final moments. quite literally overwhelms the audience.

Despite the obvious unsttitability of Assembly"s Edinburgh Suite for this kind of performance and the various strictures of Fringe safety regulations. the impact ofA Miraculous Story remains undiminished. Sparse and economical but ominously resonant. it sets a style and a standard that is crucial to the imaginative life of fringe theatre everywhere. (Simon Bayly)

I A Miraculous Story (irupa (‘hwilowa. Assembly (Ventie 3) 226 2427/8. ITntil 3 Sept. noon. £4.50 (£3.50)


To completely engage an audience's attention within the first five minutes of a play is no mean feat. Astatic Theatre have set themselves quite a challenge in presenting eight plays. one following hard upon the other. each of about five minutes duration. I.ike short stories. these dramatic distillations can only hint at character. sketch in a mood. but. ifsuccessful. they will create and communicate a whole world of their own.

On a bare stage. with minimal props. the cast of three attack their audience head on with a disturbing glimpse ofa


woman tormented by nightmares. swiftly followed by a clever and revealing playlet set in a singles bar. A (‘owhoy '3 Song. skilfully evokes the skin deep intimacy ofthe truck-driver and his one-night-stand. while It'. Rita 3' Birthday collapses; lifetime into three hundred seconds. Kay a MCUregor skilfully giving life to the seven agesof woman in the space of a speech apiece. She is a delight to watch. Miriant ()‘Meara‘s play. Five .Iltnutt's. effectively juxtaposes five ntinutes ir. the lives of two women. one abused by her brutish husband. the other delighted by an over-attentive suitor. Thi bitter little play represents extraordinarily powerful use of the short timespan. with its frightening comparison of the two sides of an obsessive relationship.

Particularly strong performances from the two female actors make this a lunch hour well spent. (.lulie Morrice)

I Octave Eight Astatic Theatre Company. The Arter Theatre. 32a Broughton Street (venue I01 ) 557 1785. Ifntil .3 Sept (not Stilts) 1.05pm £3 (£2).


A tramp's pram stands on a bare stage. a shoddy symbol of two tattered

lives. The two dypsos are hard pttt to keep up their own frail egos. let alone to bolster each other tip in time of need. Yet the piece abounds with pathos. fun. invention and fantasy as the two try to find reasons for going on. Buffoonery. hurt dignity. misunderstanding and slteer tenacity seep through their facades as these derelicts collect food. beg for money for the biggest baby ofall time. cltase each other to get warm enough tosleep. Their voices are cries in the tyy in w ildernesses of town and Attstralian btish as they drown in the seaof complacency attd material comforts that cart ignore their presence.

Patricia (‘ornelius's great big May is easily frightened. slow and cumbersome. whilst delicate Stisic I)ec smears lipstick across her mouth. a gaping gain of pain. The twoehallenge their audience to reject their needs. their cries of misery . their undying hope of love and warmth by the direct honesty of their performances. And alyyaysthey holdour respect with their simple dreams. incorrigible . optimism. self-delusions. A crttcl topic treated with compassion by Patricia ('ornelius and with

boisterous energy in her electric duo with Susie I)ee. (Tinch Minter)

I Lilly and May Pleasance Tent. (venue 33) 5566550. I'ntil 3 Sept. 5pm. £3(£2)

Lllly and May


Nikolai (iogol's short story. on which this play is based. is a surreal tale ofa Major Who wakesone morning to find that his nose is missing. The fottr members of the cast in The Oxford Theatre (iroup's innovative interpretation have remained faithful not only to the spirit but also, in a number ofscenes. to the letter ofthe original.

The set is bare except for a table and three chairs. and the cast remain in a single costume throughout. Despite this. they succeed in evoking a waking St Petersburg superbly and breath life into a plethora of characters. All fouroffer excellent performances. though Fe rgus Flanagan's interpretation of the pompous. troubled Major is especially good. (Ron Aitken)

I The Nose St Mary‘s Hall. Venue 19557-1829. [Intil 3 Sept (not Motts). 12 noon. £3 (£2.50).


The Tunnel Soldiers focuses on a little-publicised aspect of the Vietnam War. Set in one of the cramped. airless tunnels from which many of the Vietcong continued to wage war against the Americans. it stages a contrived confrontation between two US soldiers. and two teenage girls working for the Communists.

Robin Brockman has achieved the near-impossible by writing about Vietnam. and yet avoiding banality. or worse still. melodrama. The usual issues of the US presence in South-East Asia are raised. and thoroughly thrashed out. but the drama rarely descends into a pure dialectic between the two sides.

There's a very real sense of claustrophobia. fear and tension as the

incongruous group. who all give excellent performances. struggle not only to survive in the ntidst of booby-traps. gas-attacks and cave-ins. but to justify the ideologies they‘re fighting for. The attempted excttlpations of guilt found in every I lollywood film on the subject are present. but subdued. Perhaps because less has been written and said about the Vietcong tttnnels it‘s easier for this play to keep the interest. A fascinating. deeply-felt study of man at war which remains eompttlsive to the end. (Helen Davidson) IThe Tunnel Soldiers Rose Theatre. Institut I’rancais d'Iicosse. 8 pm. [Intil 3 Sept. £3.50(£2.50)


At this stage of the I‘estival. it's very refreshing to discover a well written. intelligent. genuinely fttnny and sharply presented piece like Love And Truffles. Taking on board the not inconsiderable theme of heterosexual relations. this play approaches it from several angles at once: the central couple‘s awkward but ultimately touching ingenuousness is contrasted tellingly with the unthinking stibservience to traditional roles of typical young couple ('arol and Des. Meanwhile a historical perspective is supplied by middle-aged Mabel. who relives her past marriages to a variety of archetypal oafs. while demonstrating her failure to learn from experience. There is evidence of

sortie inexperience among botlt actors and director. bttt one warms to play and production alike as their humane wisdom beComes apparent. and many lines and whole scenes are irresistable. Adam I-‘urman's [)es is perhaps tttnnicst. reassuring (‘arol he's ‘not one of those whip it in whip it--out~ wipe it merchants'. while Anne ('asey‘s Ada speaks most sense. refusing to talk simply to fill silence. and resisting sex because ‘you don't have to be cleverto do that... I've seen my gerbil do it.‘ (Andrew Burnet)

I Love And Truffles. ('rumpet Theatre (‘ompanyu Buster Brown's(Venue ()0) 226 4224. llntil 3 Sept. 3pm. £2.50(£2)

12 The List 2 ~ 15 September 1988