Boyd's prodttction does not always titeet its awkward demands. with the result that the ‘ordinary' dialogue sometimes seems stilted — though it must be said that manoeuvring a cast of fifteen on a small set is tio easy task.
The set itselfraises another problem. Boyd and eo-designer Marek ()btulowicz have chosen tostress the play's staginess by leaving it tattily unfinished. witlt ttibs of paint.sackcloth and ladders visible in the witigs. This serves also to emphasise the poverty of tfie play's environment. bttt bollt effects could hay e beeii achieved without tlte set looking ugly and tacky.
But the show is by no means a failure. l‘rom the simple story ofatt ungenerous woman betrayed and robbed by her envious friends and family. it develops into a piercing if slightly patchy satire on a w ide range of ltutnan weaknesses. with some niary ellous moments. suclt as the ‘Bingo I)aft' routine at cltatit accompanied by percussion with kitchen utensils-- and the women's litatiy of drudgery ‘Ah‘m seek of this empty. scunncrin' life.‘ Despite some flaws. this is a witty. painfully moving and lovingly adapted performance. (Andrew Burtiet)
THE SWEET SHOP OWNER
Adapted from a rim el by (iraham Swift. this isa surprisingly straight piece of theatre frotii a company who have been labelled by some as ‘a performance art oufit.‘ l)esignerJulia Bardsley and director l’fielim McDermott (aka l)ereck l)ereck Productions) have in the past had considerable success itt translating literary source material ittto viable theatrical images. but here it seems that the w rititig has defeated them.
The Sweet Shop ()wner tells the story of Willy (‘hapman and his family as they struggle through life during the war years up to the mid-seveties. The strength of Swift's writing lies iii its ability to catch the nuances of Willy's fragile hopes and dreams arid of the bonds that tie him to fiis family atid to his shop. Lovineg re-creating the wooden counter and shelving of the shop and using dreamily romantic music
The Guid Sisters. See review.
by l)elitts atid l’ercy (irainger. the production tries ltard to capture something of the book's feel. Though the performances are by attd large excelletit. the novel. possessed of the thinnest of plots. simply does not offer much for a stage adaptation to get its teetlt irtto and the liberal use of flashback only reinforces the overall feel of time standing still. That may well be a rewarding reading experience. but iii the theatre it makes for a disappointingly soporific arid static two hours. (Simon Bayly)
Seen at King‘s Theatre. Glasgow. Touring.
.A tnore bleak and chilling indictment of the Thatcher decade than Jim ('artwriglit's Road eatt scarcely be imagined. l'nlike most socialist theatre. it does not look at the causes of poverty. nor treat it as an understood evil. but stares hard into the spiritual vacuum induced by unemployment and inner city decay.
The script is abrasive and uncompromising. rttade tolerable only by ﬂashes of humour and tenderness. and by the aching black poetry of the language. Through a series of short scenes arid monologues played out among a community whose members are either losersor grizzled survivors. it develops the central thesis that ‘Britain's iii pieces'.
The play wasorigirially set iii Liverpool. and first performed at the Royal ('ourt in London. where David Hayman —— who directed this production for 7:84 — is an Associate Director. But the picture ofdespair on the wrong side of the north south
l divide translates vividlyto the ( ilaswegiatt idiom. Haytnan fias enlisted an extremely able east. led in ati inspired. sinister performance streets away from ('ity Lights by (ierard Kelly as the amiable but dangerous Scullery. ()ii art angular. split-level set tlte ensemble assumes a succession of different roles. by turns violent. miserable. callous arid blindly optimistic. and creates a society whose culminating wish is ‘Somehow. I somehow, I somehow might escape'.
This is ttot an easy play to watch. It proved too offensive to bear for several members of the audience when l.saw it.
But it offers a humane and
bitter critique of the way our culture has neglected its underdogs. Moreover. it is very good theatre. (Andrew Burnet)
Seen at Clydebank Town Hall. Touring community venues.
It's not the packed house
or the spontaneous cheers
attd applause that tell you Wildcat have got the audience behind them all the way. You catt feel it. This time one can't deny they are preaching to the
converted: no-one present
is going to disagree with
Harmony Row's anti-Poll
But it‘s not quite as simple as that. Tlte play is not about w antittg to resist. but about getting on with it. It followsa community's struggle to unite against a common threat. and takes an honest look at the pressures it has to confront. These are not
simply external pressures.
btit insidious. internal ones. The tttaitt conflict is between taking pride itt one‘s environment
(Harmony Row having
beeti nominated not untopically fora liuropean ‘best neighbourhood' award) arid sustaining energy for the important issues, however tltose with vested interests may try to distract.
.Aitd iii the absence of true. personal commitment and. yes. love it proves ittipossible. The leadership becomes draconian. the support splits into factions arid hope begins to crumble. ()rily when rock bottom is struck and solidarity re-established can resistance regain strength.
Harmony Row is more complex than most \Vildcat ntaterial. lts authors Peter Artiott and Peter Mullen hay e taken risks; the latter not least by takittg on the dangerous but ultitnately moving role ol a mentally handicapped tttatt. But a half-baked treatment of a subject like this jttst wouldn't do. The atiti-l’oll-Tax ittoyettteltt will itself fail if problems like those depicted in the play aren't anticipated. People need solid guidance.
Harmony Row will help
16'I‘he List 1‘) May— 1 June
galvanise support for the non-payment lobby. It's not always great theatre (the songs. for example. though they are unusual and interesting. tend to interrupt the script‘s flow of ideas) btit it hasenougli going for it in warmth. sincerity. ftumourand guts to make its audience hear the argument through; arid that istlie purpose of political theatre. (Andrew Burnet)
RSAMD. Glasgow. Hun iinistied. ()tte oftlie most remarkable things about the black South African ettlttTTC'Witssettseot innocent joy in the face of struggle and oppression. This show by the Mamu l’layers ol (‘row n .‘ylines. near Johannesburg. is no exception. In spite of the fact that it begins attdettds with the funeral of Shepherd .‘ylaubane. a young black activist killed at the funeral of an AN(' leader. tlte re is an undeniable optimism behind the pain. Township Boy takes the form ofacollage ofshort scenes depicting the arguments. political discussions. laughter arid love which constitute life iii a racially mixed tow risltip. The acceptance offered to Martin. w ho is of Asian origin. becomesa mirror in which the intolerance of the Boers as the Alrikaaners are still known to many blacks is plainly reflected. The picture of a fertile. open society oppressed by a harsh. blnike red regime is inescapable. though it does culminate in a call to arms tocrush the degrading effectsol apartheid. which in some quarters w ill be seen as incitement to terrorism. 'liltesc scenes are linked by vibrant. happy music played live and w itlt great enthusiasm. which is
7:84 in ‘Road'. See review
certainly the show‘s most enjoyable ingredient. and may also be its most positive.
This is not the best South African theatre to have y isited Scotland. depending more upon its vigour and the performers' commitment than on solid theatrical structure. but the atmosphere of exhilaration is infectious. (Andrew Burnet)
Seen at Renfrevv Ferry. Run finished.
4Ule miles is a long way to come for fill-minute slots in two comedy bills starting at (ipni. These three comedians from ('atiada also played itt London and lidinburgh last week. but Ron Vaudry at least ntust feel a bit cheated. Appearing first on the bill to aslender and sober audience. he had something of a hard ride. Drawing attention to poor response just doesn't seem to work. and iii this he persisted.
His jokes aren't bad. containing as they do healthy streaksof anti-Americanism attd bitterness. but they're not quite what we're used to. ()ur fashionable comics are lor tlte most part anti-sexist. anti-racist — right on. in short - and by British standards \';itttlry"s humour (arid to a lesser extent that ofhis two colleagues) isn't.
Marla Lukofsky did rather better. with an act comprising folk sotig parodies. pulled faces and otf-tlie-wall ittipersottations. Her material is iii the tradition of North American absurdism. which ftas always appealed iii Britain. It isalso —like most Jewish humour personal arid self-deprecating: the size of her nose. for example. is a major point of reference.
But the most successful performer by some distance was large. bluff (ilenn l-oster. whose reflections on the great social evil of the shopping mall. Tinglish accents (somewhere between (‘ockney and Brummie ). and comments on ('anada's international standing went down very well. Of course. there was a hint ol mysogeny in his work too. but by then we‘d all had a beer or two, we'd been w armed tip by two otltcr contedians. and w bus to say we weren't (list that little bit readier to hay e our expectations
challetiged'.’ (Andrew Burnett