Lo Bourgeois Gentilhommo, Lyceum, Edinburgh
LE BOURGEOIS GENTILHOMME
Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh.
In a promising return to nearform after a patchy Autumn season, the Lyceum gives Moliere's Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme afresh and reasonably faithful translation into Scots (Hector MacMillan) and fixes it firmly in 18th Century Edinburgh—give ortake the odd liberty in Iain Johnstone’s lively, but not strictly period, musical arrangement. Recognising Moliere’s strengths as a writer who thinks and works in visual terms just as much as literary ones, Hamish Glen turns the play into a colourful cartoon caper where sharply defined character-types do battle to achieve their devious and not so devious ends. He is aided in this in no small part by Philippe Cherbonnier whose costume designs are outrageous and witty, although in
contrast his stage set is only functional and rather shabby.
The story revolves around Maister Jourdain, a not so young upwardly-mobile pretender to upper class society, who has considerably more money than sense and who is an ideal victim of the sharp professionals whose services he demands. Played with endearing gullibllity by Robert
;. Carr, Jordain becomes a witless enthusiast for any proposition that
might transform him into one of the ‘quality’. Moliere’s comic logic sees that he is soon dressed to the nines, spouting pseudo-educated clap-trap and inadvertently giving everyone else whatthey want.
Hamish Glen’s penchant for cross-casting should be called into question-he tried it in As You Like It and just about got away with it, but there seems to be little reason for casting Una Ailsa Macnab as the Dancing Masterwithout making it a female teacher. She handles the role adequately enough, but it is an unnecessary distraction. The play could be faster and the caricatures could be painted even bigger, but strong performances by the supporting cast ensure that it moves on at a fair pace with few lulls and plenty to hold the attention.
The notion of people aspiring to a
class above their own has a
contemporary relevance that the production does not develop, but nonetheless it is staged with an
entertaining vigour that forthose of us
still punch drunk from the panto season provides an ideal hair of the dog hang-over cure. (Mark Fisher).
Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh. It is tempting to get on a high horse and question the Brunton’s motives for bothering with 31950s’ English upper-class Whodunnit, but their reasoning is made clear by a first night performance with not an empty seat in the house. Agatha Christie may be irrelevant, dated and of no importance to modern theatre, but there is no denying that come the end of the Second Act there is not a soul in the audience who isn’t laying bets— invariably wrong—on who did that foul deed. Reviewing Agatha Christie is more like reviewing a game of Cluedo.
The play trundles along confidently somehow holding the attention without ever demanding too much in return. You know the story already: a selection of guests arrive at a Home Counties house for a weekend break, one of them gets shot by an off-stage killer and it transpires that most of them have a motive for killing him. The Police Inspector arrives to sus out the murderer. And he does. Attimes I had the perverse hope that one of the actors would fluff their lines and accidentally give the game away thereby leading the cast into a wild and exciting improvisation. But alas, the actors remain true to the text and with all the professional energy they can muster they work through the ground work of the early scenes, the to-ing and fro-ing of the middle sections and the melodrama of the climax.
But predictability is notthe problem. It’s not what you do it’s the way that yot
The Hollow, Brunton, Musselburgh
do if and Jeffrey Daunton's production
is little more than ordinary. Much of the
staging seems forced and bound down to the script which despite its necessary explicitness need not be delivered in so stilted a style. Jane Nelson Peebles as Lady Angatell makes a good attempt at injecting life into her self-consciously batty part and there are several not bad performances, but on the whole the play is given a perfunctory, even unconvincing reading. A touch of
charisma would have made the humour
less heavy handed and the characters less wooden.
But I said I wasn’t going to get on my high horse and I don't want to sound like a bad laser at Cluedo. liyou like
Agatha Christie you'll probably like this show. And I‘ll tell you who dunnit. It was the Brunton Theatre. (Mark Fisher).
CAN YE SEW CUSHIONS?
Clyde Unity Theatre, On Tour.
You get a cosmopolitan audience at Drumchapel Unemployed Workers Centre. Amongst the local audience— who packed the place out, leaving standing room only— I sat next to a German student. The elderly lady one along from him was concerned as to whether he would understand the play, but assured him that he would enjoy the atmosphere of the evening, whatever. She was right on the second count and needed to have had few worries on the first. A warm, appreciative reception greeted Aileen Ritchie's play, which though written in 1930s Glasgow vernacular, tells its story of a family divided by a violent marriage, with sensitive, immediate directness.
Ina, the gentle younger daughter of a family hard-pressed by poverty, falls for Danny— local hard man and as sweet as he is sharp. Against everyone’s betterjudgement, she marries him, and when things get rough and Danny begins to batter Ina, her devoted brothertakes the law into his own hands with terrible consequences. Put like that, it perhaps sounds melodramatic—the fact is that this is an all too common story, and the success of Ritchie's play lies in bringing this home. Hercharacters are subtly drawn — Danny is no two-dimensional hard man, you believe him when he says he loves Ina; Ina is sweet but not marshmallow. Ritchie also suggests well the social pressures that don't exonerate, but perhaps explain, Danny’s recourse to violence and ms mother‘s apparent heartlessness— most of them to do with poverty and disillusionment, then as now.
There is clearly more to be written here- Ritchie only begins to explore why wives continue to love husbands who batter them, why husbands seem to continue to love wives they batter; she only begins to unravel the social and personal knot that makes for violence in marriage, and in places the play Is a touch sentimental. But she handles her themes and material well, writes witty, believable dialogue and
has a good sense of dramatic structure.
The cast, Clyde Unity Theatre, don't quite meet the tragedy of the ending, but otherwise their production is intelligent, moving and funny. There is a lovely relationship between the two sisters (Mari Binnie and Susan Cubie), John Binnie is funny and endearing as Hughie, growing up before your eyes, Aileen Ritchie herself plays a mother worn stony-eyed by getting by and Stephen Docherty’s Danny manages to bring a steel glint to the twinkle in his eye even from the outset. Finally, all strength to Clyde Unity, and other groups like them, who take the time to go to Drumchapel and spend a day doing theatre with people there who are interested, and to the Centre itself for offering great hospitality to cast and audience alike. (Sarah Hemming).
teatime. not lunchtime: Stations. David Ashton‘s play about an old man relivinga wartime trauma; The Eagle. focussing on an extraordinary. gutsy old lady remembering sexual encounters in ‘The Eagle’ (also by David Ashton) and Rent, Patricia Morris‘s powerful story about a prostitute encountering a strange situation.
Beyond Zero Tue 7—Sun 12 Feb. 7.30pm. Laurie Booth — see Dance.
Traverse Workshop Theatre: Acting and
' Directing Wed 1 Feb. 7pm. The third inthe
current batch of four workshops for people interested in finding out more about all aspects of writing and working in theatre. This one. on acting and directing. is taken by Artistic Director of the theatre. Ian Brown. Workshops get booked up pretty quickly. and run in series offour. but you are warmly invited to get in touch with the theatre and get your name on the list for the next block.
Traverse Workshop Theatre: Informal Performance Wed 8 Feb. 7pm. Fourth in this series of workshops. today‘s. on informal performance. is taken by the Artistic Director ofthe theatre. Ian Brown. For more detail about the series. see above. Wed 1 Feb.
I TRIANGLE ARTS CENTRE West l’ilton Bank. Pilton. 332 ()877.
Can Ye Sew Cushions? (.‘lyde Unity Theatre in Aileen Ritchie's play. See Touringand Review.
I This section lists shows that are touring Scotland. We give detailed listings onlyfor periods when they are in the Central Belt area. There is a phone number for each company. however, should you require more information. Unless otherwise specified, the
number after each venue listed isthe telephone number forticket enquiriesfor that particular evening (please note, this is not always the venue number).
I Can Ye Sew Cushions ('lyde Unity Theatre tour their production ofAileen Ritchie's play. that met with considerable success when it was staged duringthe Edinburgh Festival last year. See Review. ('rawfurd Theatre. Jordan/till. Glasgow Thurs 26 & Fri 27 Jan. 7.30pm. ()41 950 3438: Denny ('ivic Centre, St Mary's Way. Dumbarton Sat 28 Jan, 7.30pm; Barlanark Community Centre, 33 Burnmouth Road. Barlanark Tue 31 Jan. 8pm. ()41 7731812: Eastfield Community Centre. Dukes Road. ('ambuslang Wed 1 Feb. 7.30pm. ()41 641 8319; Bannerman Community Education Centre. Glasgow Road. Baillieston. Glasgow Thurs 2 Jan. 7.30pm. ()41 773 2887. Victoria Halls. Sinclair Street. Helens‘burgh Fri 3 Jan. 8pm; Southside Community Centre, I] 7 .‘v'icolson Street. Edinburgh Wed 8.! an. 1.30pm. ()31 667 7365; Triangle/iris ('entre. Pilton. Edinburgh Wed 8Jan. 7.30pm. ()41 3320877. .‘\'etherbowArts Centre. High Street, Edinburgh. Thurs ‘)~Sat 11 Feb. 7.30pm. ()31 556 9579. End oftour.
I The Sash 7:84 Scotland. now under the new artistic directorship of David Hayman. starts the new year with a production of Hector MacMillan's hugely popular comedy about religious bigotry— very controversial when first staged. MacMillan's play centres on the dyed-in-the-wool Loyalist Bill MacWilliam. as he prepares for the ()range Walk — and recently MacMillan's sequel. The Funeral. was premiered at the Tron Theatre. Glasgow. recently. To be reviewed.
Magnum Theatre. Irvine Tue 24~Thurs 26 Jan. 7.30pm; Adam Smith Theatre. Kirkcaldy Fri 27 & Sat 28 Jan: Bonar Hall. Dundee Mon 3() Jan & Tue 1 Feb: Palace Theatre. Kilmarnock Wed 2—Fri 4 Feb; Arts Guild Theatre. Kilmarnock Wed 8 & Thurs 9 Feb. Tour continues.
I Visitors TAG Theatre Company start a tour of a new play by Michael Duke. written particularly with 12— 14 year oldsin
26 The List 27 January — 9 February