‘53 z l; i . 1.: , . Andrew Keir and Wilma Duncan in the 1974
production of The Sash. Photo by Denis Straughan.
BELOW THE SASH
The new look 7:84 Scotland (now under the artistic directorship of David Hayman) bounce back into business this month with a tour of Hector MacMillan‘s play, The Sash. Focusing on dyed-in-the-wool Drangeman, Bill MacWilliam, the play still packs a fairly hefty punch with its satire of religious bigotry — but it is doubtful whether any production will quite achieve the impact of the 1974 performances in Glasgow‘s big commercial Pavilion Theatre.
‘l‘d neverseen anything like it before in my life,‘ remembers Trevor Royle, author and critic, of the Pavilion experience. ‘It was worth going almost for the audience reaction alone -which is not to belittle the play in any way. It was roughly divided into whether you cheered or booed when The Sash was played. Some people actually stood to attention. I remember being slightly frightened by it- I was younger then.
’There was a certain atmosphere, and there was definitely a sense of boundaries being broken. The play was dealing with a subject which was supposed to be kept under wraps, that wasn‘t supposed to be there —though as the reaction showed, obviously was. There were fierce bouncers too, and I think it was partly the curious mixture of theatre and music hall that gave the play its energy.‘
In some ways too, he feels, the play‘s daring reflects the energy and optimism of the Seventies. ‘It was a period of history when people were able to take more chances. That was when 7:84 got together, for instance. The Seventies didn‘t have this stultifying Thatcherism which clamps down on any free expression. There was more energy about.‘
The Sash starts touring this month, reaching Edinburgh in February and
l returning to Glasgow Pavilion in
March. Hector MacMillan‘s new translation into Scots of Moliere‘s Le
Bourgeois Gentilhomme is also
premieredthisfortnight at the Lyceum, Edinburgh. See Listings.
7 THE ALCHEMISTAT WORK
Schiller‘s Joan of Arc, set in a wartime basement; Bridie‘s DoctorAngelus, staged in a doctor‘s surgery flanked by huge pillars, and Pinocchio, a kids‘ show told in a series of picture-book- like scenes - these three hugely different productions at the Citizens’
Theatre all had one thing in common:
: the designer, Stewart Laing.
Laing is now at work on the opening production of the new season — Ben Jonson’s 17th century comedy, The Alchemist, set in Depression America. 3 ‘The play‘s about confidence tricksters and we thought it would come over best that way,‘ he explains. He and Robert David Macdonald, who directs the production, arrived at this setting of the play together— ‘1930s New York. Dark and very bold‘ — and this is one of the aspects of working at the Citizens‘ that 5 he most enjoys. ‘I think it‘s probably the only theatre in the country where design’s taken seriously.’
The Citizens‘ reputation for design — many productions have been stunningly designed—has set it apart from most other British theatres and for Laing, it is difficultto think of another theatre in the country where he would currently ratherwork. Neither does he feel that the emphasis has really shifted towards more visual theatre in Britain.
‘I think there’s this imagined upsurgence of design. But precious little of it‘s any good. then it‘s people doing copies of European design - which is good. But an upsurgence in British design doesn‘t mean copying I what Peter Stein did years ago.‘
The swing to dazzlineg technical,
l expensive sets he also sees as a hollow
victory torthe designer. ‘I thinkthese 1 things detract from the fact that you ( haven’t come to terms with the play. i It‘s a designer’s place to take the words ; as seriously as the actors and develop 'l an understanding of the play.‘ . Each of Laing‘s sets for the Citizens‘ have been very different, dictated by the mood, interpretation and practical restrictions of the play. Pinocchio, for instance, changed like a picture book, one memorable scene being a close-up of Benjamin the Cricket in a coachman‘s pocket. ‘That was a whim that came to Giles and me,‘ says Laing. ‘The thing about Pinocchio was that it was a journey. So you had to keep that
idea running through it— and kids‘ shows are different, you‘ve got to keep the attention of three year olds, so you have to keep changing.‘
Laing, born in Blairgowrie, now lives in Glasgow, though he spent a while in London ‘l’m not at all unhappy not to be living in London. lthink it‘s terrible at the moment.‘ How does he feel though about the new Glasgow and the 1990 lever? ‘Well it‘s much pleasanter than it used to be, in many ways. I like living in Glasgow. And ifyou're working in the arts it is exciting. But I think ityou live on a scheme in Castlemilk it’s not going to help you much.‘ (S.H.)
The Alchemist previews at the Citizens‘ on 26 Jan and runs from 27 Jan. See Listings.
FROM PATCHES T0 CUSHIONS
‘I wanted to do something exploring why women are attracted to the hard man, to that sort of image,‘ explains Aileen Ritchie of hertirst play. ‘Can Ye Sew Cushions?‘ , which metwith considerable success when shown at this year‘s Edinburgh Festival, tells the story of a 1930s Glasgow girl from a strict religious family, who falls for a Glasgow wide-boy. Things go wrong, the glamourwears off, her husband turns his habitual violence in on the marriage and the girl runs home to her mother—who sends her back.
‘I was always very aware at school that the men we were attracted to most were the dangerous ones,‘ says Ritchie. ’I suppose it was more of a challenge and an achievement to tame a wild man, than the homely wee guy with glasses at the back of the class. But I wanted to set it in the Thirties, because there was a much more hard-line morality then—this idea of “She‘s made her bed, she’ll have to lie" that must have happened to so many women.‘
There were other reasons too for the play‘s setting. Ritchie feels that in the depressed, widespread unemployment of the thirties, the macho image was one way for a man to prove himself—
m 6 ,’ x
Aileen Ritchie. Photo by Robin Mitchell.
and that there are clear parallels in today‘s Britain with that scale of demoralised poverty. Clyde Unity Theatre, who are touring the play, spend much of theirtime performing in the bleak schemes around Glasgow, where some aspects of the play will doubtless hit rather close to home this time.
Ritchie, a founder-member of Clyde j Unity Theatre, became a playwright by a somewhat circuitous route: after variously catering, working as a disco I cloakroom attendant, studying drama 5 at university and working as a j journalist at DC. Thompson (on Patches and The People‘s Friend - ’Not quite me! I felt very much like a round peg in a square hole’), she finally gave up her job to commit herself fully to Clyde Unity.
The theatre company— unfunded until this year, when they received a small grant from the SAC — set themselves up to try and break new ground. They have premiered two gay plays by John Binnie—‘Mum, Dad, There‘s Something I’ve Got To Tell You‘, focusing on a boy trying to tell his family that he is gay, and ‘Killing Me Softly', in which a boy discovers he is HIV positive. In the venues they tour to, the audience hasn‘t always started out appreciative of their material. ‘lt‘s one thing doing ‘Killing Me Softly‘ atthe Fringe, where everyone in the audience has a fairly liberal outlook, and quite another doing it in Drumchapel —suddenly you‘re being pressed against the tea urn. There was a very bad atmosphere when we started. Yet that was the best place we’ve ever played — what started out as absolute hostility completely turned around - people were even in tears by the end.‘
Though they have toured to much larger venues and established theatres, Ritchie feels the most important, and most rewarding, work they do is in outlying community centres, where they often spend the whole day doing workshops and socialising with the audience, as well as performing: ‘The best feedback that we‘ve had has been in the community context.‘
There is one improvement to their touring circuit that Ritchie would like to see, though: ‘I really wish there was a two/three hundred seatervenue in Glasgow city centre that groups like ourselves, and Annexe, and Fablevision could use. If something like that came out of the the European City of Culture celebrations, that would really be worthwhile.’ (S.H.)
Can Ye Sew Cushions? is on tour. See
older than that‘.’ Well. Walt Disney's World on Ice are celebrating fifty yearsof Donald. whateyer — and in extravagant style. with plenty of other WI) characters skating into the proceedings.
I GILOEO BALLOON (‘owgate. 225 ‘lll 3 225 4-163.
Gerry Sadowitz, Fred MacAuley and Martha McBriar Fri 21 & Sat 221an 8.30pm (doors open), 9.30pm (show starts). £4 (£3). Foul-mouthed and funny (ierry Sadowitz (see (iuestlist ) is joined by two Scottish contedians. Fred MacAuley and Martha MeBriar (winner of the ‘So You
Think You‘re Funny" contest at Mayfest). I KINGS THEATRE 2 Leyen Street. 22‘) 1201. Box Office Mon—Sat 10am—8pm. Bar. [1)]. [Ti].
Mother Goose Until Sat 18 Feb. 7pm. Matinees 2.15pm every Wed 6’; Sat and also 3. 4 8; b Feb. £4.75—£().75 (£2.75—£3.75). Walter (‘arr is Dame in the Kings' annual showbiz spectacular panto — a Mother Goose. Glasgow granny style. in tweeds and twinsets. Good comic twinning with Gregor Fisher as Mother Goose‘s hapless son. (iussie. and an icy baddie from Juliet (‘adzow as Dragonara.
I NETHERBOW ARTS CENTRE 43 i Iigh Street. 556 957‘). Box Office. “lam—4.30pm. 7--‘)pm perf. eygs. (’afe. [1)].
No theatre performances this issue.
I PLAYROUSE lS—22 (ireenside Place. 557 2590. Box Office Mon—Sat 10am—6pm (8pm on show nights). Bar.
No theatre performances this issue. I ROYAL LYCEUM (irindlay Street. 22‘) 9697. Box Office Mon—Sat 10am—6pm. 10am—8pm on perf. eygs. Bar. Rest/Cafe. [D]. [E]. (TheatreSaver Concession Cards cost £1 . last all year. give £1 offthe full
price each time you come for you and a friend —- available to ()Af’s. L'B-lUs, Students. Disabled and YTS scheme) Tickets for Lyceum productions are also available at the Ticket Centre, Waverley Bridge; branches of AT May's Travel and the Queen's Hall. ('lerk Street.
Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme Fri 13 Jan—Sat 4 Feb. 7.45pm. Sat mat 2SJan.3. 15pm. £2.5(L—£7. TheatreSayer holders £1 off. Sat mat all tickets £3. FREE Preview Thurs 12 Jan. The Lyceum have alreadyestablishcd
a tradition of Moliere comedies translated
22 The List 13 — 26 January