Perhaps the first thing to be said about theatre at Mayfest is that the net is cast pretty wide. So wide in fact that. from a cursory glance over the Mayfest Programme. a fair sprinkling of names hit the eye that might not readily be dubbed ‘theatre‘ — certainly not conventional theatre. anyhow. ls this cheating on Mayfest‘s part'.’l don‘t think so; I think it neatly illustrates that ‘theatre‘ at its best is a pretty catholic church. Philip Glass‘s l()()() Airplanes on the Roof. the
British premiere of an extraordinary piece of music theatre opera. seems to defy categorising by anybody. even the writer himself (see Feature). Peta Lily more usually just about comes in under Dance — she brings her Fringe-First—winning. daring alternative to Peter Pan. Wendy Darling to Mayfest ( 16—17 May. not suitable for children). Maya Angelou. one might normally expect to find labelled as a ‘book reading‘ — but anyone who has seen this effervescent singer. writer. actress and Black activist on stage will testify to the fact that she is far more electrifying than that suggests. An Evening Willi Maya Angelou is her first Glasgow performance ( 196; 20 May). John l’ertwee surely inhabits a class of his own. appearing. complete with tardis. to save the world in Doctor Who (15-20 May) - as do 'l‘heatresports. 'l'heatresports. as their name suggests. take an acrobatic approach to theatre. Wonderfully unpredictable. they will improvise drama to audience command. and went down a storm at the Edinburgh Festival ( 13—1-1 May).
South African theatre. which enjoyed a period ofgreat interest in Britain. has more recently been somewhat overshadowed by other ‘fashionable‘ things. But the problems do not go away. neither does the drama. and The Mamu Players remind us of this with their acclaimed. powerful musical protest play. Township Boy. about a young poet killed by a policeman during a township funeral (2—7 May). From Chicago. Free Street Theater bring their exuberant musical about life on the tough Cabrini-Green housing estate (see separate Panel). and Tarragon Theatre from Canada arrive with the British premiere of Michel 'l‘remblay‘s The Real World." (See separate Feature).
Work of a more experimental nature from abroad can also be seen. Teatro del Sur. in a rare visit to Britain from an Argentinian company. bring the British premiere of Tango Varsoviano (Warsaw Tango). A dance-like. dark and fantastic piece of theatre. it comes to Glasgow (17—20 May) before making for London‘s National Theatre. The wonderfully funny Georgian Film Actors‘ Studio. from the USSR. treat Glasgow to their irreverent version of Molicre‘s Don Juan. a hit at last year‘s Edinburgh Festival (9—13 May). and Gardzience. from Poland. bring A i-vakum (see separate panel).
()f the English companies. the Royal Shakespeare Company come up from South of the Border with a production of The Conversation by Vaclav Havel. currently in prison in Czechoslovakia for his dissident work. (6 6’; 7 May) and the Royal Court Theatre Company bring American Bagpipes by lain Heggie. best known for Wholly Healthy Glasgow (11Lle May). Hull Truck Theatre Company. always a sell-out at the Edinburgh Festival. call in
briefly with John Godber‘s Teechers. a sharp comedy about school life. (2—6 May).
The Mamu Players: Township Boy (2—7 May)
From much—maligned ‘popular theatre‘ to much-maligned ‘performance art‘. Do not miss Bobby Baker. whose delightful. hilarious show was a hit at the National Review of Live Art. This time she‘s in Glasgow with her comic attack on capitalism. Chocolate Money (3 & 4 May). Ralf Ralf. too. are wonderfully funny: their The Summit is a wizardly sharp satire of political non-speak ( 18—20 May). Derek Derek premiere their new adaptation of The Sweet Shop Owner. Graham Swift‘s novel ( 1 1—13 May) and the popular Mime Theatre Project give their successful 'I‘hunderhirds FA 8 show a quick outing on 7 May. and perform their new show. The Thirst from 8— 10 May.
()f the home team. the Citizens Theatre unveil their new-look building with a new production of A Tale of Two (‘ities (see separate Panel) and the Tron Theatre premiere Michel 'I‘remblay‘s The (:‘uid Sisters (See Feature). 7:84 Theatre Company offer you a chance to see two powerful plays: Eduardo Pavlovsky‘s l’otestad. Tom Watson giving an exceptional performance as a doctor struggling under the military regime in Buenos Aires ( 1 1—1-1 May); and Road. Jim (‘artwright‘s sharp. funny. but bitter portrayal of a working class community. This new production is directed by David Hayman and stars Gerard Kelly as Scullery (2—6 May). Borderline Theatre Company have a new musical comedy by Morag Fullarton. (ilasvegas. following the fall and rise of some Glasgow no—hopers (2—6 May) and Winged Horse. another touring company. present Robin Munro‘s new play about Glencoe: (:‘lencoe ( Three Faces of a ( ‘rime) ( 1—3 May).
Kids are catered for: Brunton Theatre Company bring back theirJungle Book (2—6 May); the National Theatre offer a chance to see the spectacular musical production of Adrian Mitchell‘s The Pied Piper and TAG Theatre Company are touring the premiere of The Secret Voice. a new play about going to secondary school. by the fine playwright. Stuart Paterson (8—13 May). Wildcat tour communities with their new poll-tax play (see separate panel). as do Cumbernauld Theatre Compny with Them Through The Wall by Liz Lochhead and Agnes Owens. and the talented Clyde Unity Theatre with When The World Was Young a play about growing up. by John Binnie.
MAGIC RABBIT ‘None of it is based on autobiography; my life is really too boring.‘ explains the genial Donal O’Kelly. of his play Bat the Father. Rabbit the Son. O‘Kelly. who wrote the play. portrays Rabbit. the middle-aged businessman haunted by memories of his dead father. Though it comes from Dublin to Mayfest for its British premiere. this humorous and incisive probe into father/son relationships has already won critical acclaim in Ireland and New York.
Being lrish. the production was inevitably ‘Joycean‘ or ‘Beckettian‘ in American eyes(‘a brilliant Joycean stream-of-consciousness‘. they decided). The respect was not reciprocated: ‘I hated New York.‘ says ()‘Kelly. ‘Stardom has reached such an obsession there; you're treated like a commodity. like the latest brand of shampoo. frotn lreland.‘
Although he is both writer and actor. O‘Kclly does not direct the play. That is handled by Declan Hughes (who is. by way of a tenuous link with Glasgow. the nephew of Celtic FC‘s legendary Jim Craig). a member of Dublin‘s seven-strong Rough Magic Theatre Company. ‘Rehearsals were often rather schizo.‘ says O‘Kelly. ‘Declan had the difficulty of distinguishing whether he was addressing the actor or writer. but it was fun. and I enjoy performing in my own play.‘
On the Emerald Isle. any play produced under the auspices of the Royal Magic Theatre Company would be presaged with reverence. This tiny company. formed in 198-1. have premiered no fewer than 14 plays. including some by Howard Barker and Howard Brenton. as well as introducing Ireland to works from the Royal Court and successfully staging several classics.
I asked O‘Kelly. whose down-to-earth attitude has enabled him. in his nine-year career. to blossom into one of Dublin‘s finest writers. about the scope for fresh talent in Eire.
‘The Rough Magic Theatre Company are increasingly moving towards new Irish writing. which is excellent.‘ he says. ‘There is more to Ireland than Joyce and Beckett. though I love them both. I was in a piece
of monologue by Beckett.‘
Which one‘.’ I enquire. ‘A piece of monologue.‘ Yes. you‘ve already said that
. . . ‘That‘s why I love him! He called it A Piece of Monologue so that people like us would have this conversation!‘ (Stewart Hennessy)
Bat the Father. Rabbit the Son. 6 & 7May. ( ‘handler Theatre. See Listings.
Fielding Alphonse Capone as its most famous short-stop. Chicago is a city with a tough reputation. The gang warfare of the 'l‘wenties has. with time. taken on a rosy glow. but contemporary violence is still blood-red. Cabrini-Green. a housing estate (or project. as the Americans say). is named after the first American saint and a property developer. It is notorious. having one of the highest rates of violent and drug-related crime in America. Trouble starts at an early age: the gangs recruit new blood amongst the local six and
Rough Magic: Bat the Father (6. 7!
22 The List 21 April—4 May 1989