At Mavfest last year. the Maly Theatre of Leningrad stunned audiences and critics with their brave production of Stars in the
Morning Sky. Now a second production comes to Glasgow. this time I
at the hands ofyoung RSC director. Katie Mitchell. I
She has wanted to do the play ever since seeing it in Leningrad. ‘I met a student at the Moscow Arts Theatre and she told me that ill liked theatre there was only one place to go and one play to see. I was lucky to see it — people were fighting for tickets.‘ Alexander (ialin's play could never have been staged in Russia a few years ago. Set in a former mental institution. temporary home to a group of prostitutes ordered out of Moscow for the duration of the Olympic Games. it focuses on them and their dreatns. and combines graphic. painful realism with a beautiful. highly charged poeticism — so painting the girls‘ plight but also
according them great dignity. The subject matter is clearly one factor in T its huge popularity. but so too is the passionate. uncompromising bravery ofthe performances. ‘It was a very different production in Russia.‘ says Mitchell. ‘At the end. when the women stretched their arms out. the audiences stretched theirs out in return.‘
Finding an equal. but different style was a problem for her. ‘The Russian production was very generous and at a high emotional pitch. very physical and vulnerable — and the play demands that emotional pitch. It changes frotn moment to moment. so you can't use that subtle.
Cherry Morris in Stars of the Morning Sky televisual naturalism you usually get in British new plays. We explored it very physically. which is unusual at the RSC. because we tend to look at things intellectually. We started with the naturalism ofthe Russian production. but then moved away towards a more stylised. surreal production that focused on the women‘s dreams.’
The production was shown at the Winter Festival in Stratford. an intensive session of plays and workshops. put on by young RSC actors and directors on their own initiative. Rehearsalsand performances have to be fitted in around the main-house productions.
and the management don't quite fall over themselves to help. The production was invited to Glasgow‘s Tron. as part of a double bill. by Michael Boyd. but Mitchell was surprised that none of the RSC directors came to see it — ‘it seems a strange way to deal with your young directors' — particularly given the importance ofthe text. ‘I think the RSC should be doing more non-British work.‘ she points out. (Sarah Hemming)
Stars in the Morning Sky and The Dutchman: Tron Theatre. Glasgow. See Listings.
NEW VISIT ‘We didn't want people to think of ('omplicite as being jttst one thing — a bunch of funny characters and funny furniture doing funny things.‘ says Annabel Arden. explaining the motives behind the extensive season that Theatre dc (‘omplicite have just finished at London's Almeida Theatre. The season contained all their past work and four new. rather different shows -— most notably ‘l‘he I'isit. the first text-based production that the company have ex er done. Their previous shows — usually involving funny characters and funny furniture. to funny eflect . have toured with much success round Scotland and established Complicite amongst the frontrunncrsofcotnpanies working in movement- based theatre. Beginning from improvisation around an idea. they usually continue to develop throughout the performance run. so doing a text might seem alien to what they stand for — but Arden. who was one of the co-founders of (‘omplicitd points out that it is just another step in a continual process.
‘In a sense we‘ve always thought of ourselves as doing plays — only we concentrated more on what w as happening than w hat was said. It is a very different exercise in one
sense. when somebody has created a structure and your job is to bring it to life. But there are similarities: when you work from zero you face a structural problem. you can create material ad infinitum. but then you have to find the clearline. When you work from a text you have to understand in great depth what the. essential shape of the text is so you don't get distracted from it. In a way it's the same thing.‘
To find the backbone of The Visit. the company were able to use their improvisation and movement techniques. 'We learned the story very well and then improvised it.‘ explains Arden. ‘We would do it round a giant table. or in a heapof clothes. or in miniature. or with three actors.‘
The play. Durrenmatt‘s story of what happens when a rich old lady returns to her native village. seems admirably suited to (‘omplicite's use of grotesque comedy. Arden is wary. though. of the notion ofjumping readily on the current bandwagon for wild. grotesque productions of
Theatre de Complchte
playwrights like (iogol and ()strovsky. ‘I think this marks the end of a line for us of Dickensian grotesues. We have to find a larger scale.‘
‘I think you have to be stringent and keep looking for new modes of expression or else you become mechanical. When you begin thinking of yourself as a bagof tricks you start going wrong. It‘s better totry something new that fails. I think it is harder as you get older. always starting again always feeling as if you know nothing. But a lot of painters paint the same landscape or same woman over and over again. You know there's something you‘re trying to get and you‘re always trying to get it. It's a condition oflife.‘
'I'he Visit: Tron, Glasgow and St Brides. Edinburgh. Complicite’ also tour My A rmy and A ve Maria to Theatre Workshop. Edinburgh and the Highlands. See next issue.
ALIVE AND KICKING
There are a cheering number of drama groups specially tailored to younger people. but precious few conceived with the not so young in mind. Springwell House in Edinburgh. however. have just launched a drama project for people aged 55 and over. where
people can discuss and do theatre. aiming towards a show in April this year. The project meets on Tuesdays. starting 24 Jan. and sessions are free. .\'o experience necessary. anyone is welcome to just come along. For more details call ()31 337 1971.
BIRDS OF PASSAGE
Theatre Workshop‘s latest performance project opens this fortnight. with a new play by eight writers. looking at the fate ofScotswomen forced to emigrate over the last two centuries. Performed and produced by members of the local community. the play opens on Weds 8 Feb. See Listings.
SOMETHING TO BRAGG ABOUT
Students of the RSA MD give the Scottish premiere this fortnight of a musical by Melvyn Bra yg- better known for bringing hope to thousands of adenoidal sufferers. by making it big as the South Bank Show‘s front man. Melv's 'I‘he Hired Man is adapted from his novel of the same name. and. based on his own grandfather's life. tells how the lives of working men changed.
See RSAMD Listings.
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Next Issue: Borderwariare
COMING UP FOR
The theatre company
()xygen I louse have achieved a firm following with their seasons of lunchtime theatre in Edinburgh's Netherbow' Theatre. They've dusted off rarely seen short plays and given premieres to new work. Now those who don‘t stop for lunch can see them in the eveningin a brief repeat season at the Traverse Theatre. Edinburgh. See Listings.
I JUNO AND THE PAYCOCK, Glasgow, Theatre Royal, 6—11 Mar. 7.30pm. Sat mat2.30pm. 2350411150. (041 331 1234). Selling now forthe NationalTheatre's annual tourto Scotland.
I SWAN LAKE. Glasgow. Theatre Royal. 3—8Apr. 7.30pm. Sat mat 2.30pm. 234120. (041 331 1234). Booking opensforthe Festival Ballet production.
A new service run in conjunction with the Scottish Council For Disability starts in this issue ofThe List. Overthe coming months we will be expanding on venue information of relevance to disabled people. The project begins with the Theatre section and it’s hoped that over the nextfew issues all the venues listed in this section will jointhe nine Edinburgh venues encoded this time. During the change-over period. the existing disability codes ( forfacilities forthe disabled, and [E] for facilities forthe hard of hearing) will be run alongside the new system. We're keen to hearyour views and suggestions on what information is most useful and how it should be presented.
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22 The List 27 January -- 9 February