Andrew Burnet examines the Fringe’s response to racism.
Pieter-Dirk Uys may not be a household name, but as South Africa’s most prominent white anti-apartheid performer, he’s an internationally important figure. ‘l’m only unusual in that I’m self-employed,’ he says. contracts to tie me down, and I can say what I want. But there’s a lot of white opposition to apartheid in South Africa. It’s a very ordinary disease that we have, and it‘s awful when people in other countries can sit back and feel themselves clean. I always try to offer hope for a free society throughout the world.’ This year, he’s back with last year’s Adapt 0r Dye, but is also writer/director of Just Like Home, a painfully funny play set in London, which Uys says is ‘about the concept of home and roots‘. lts central character is a coloured (racially mixed, in South African parlance) woman, who came to Britain as a servant and stayed, but now plans a return to Capetown, which she has nostalgically idealised. Neither white liberals nor unthinkineg aggressive blacks are spared in the
‘I don’t have baggages of
play: Uys refuses to align with any faction. ‘1 could never divorce myself from the problems of South Africa,’ he says. ‘That‘s not politics — that‘s
As if to prove Uys correct, white South African Andrew Buckland is also performing an anti-apartheid one-hander, The Ugly N00 N00, an extremely funny but merciless satire, in which a loathed, harmless and clearly allegorical insect strikes a blow against the oppression of its
Sabikwa Players’ So Where To?, in which three black teenagers give birth in adversity (one to a white man’s child) is this year’s only show by black South Africans. The country has, however, also inspired Michele Celeste, a London-based Italian whose play Hanging The President is set in 3 Pretoria jail. ‘South Africa,’ he says, ‘is not of concern only to people living there. As long as there is an apartheid system there, we’ll always have a symbol of recognized, legal racism, which directly or indirectly will support racism in other
The play centres on two condemned white prisoners who have committed murder fuelled by their belief in apartheid, and are seeking reprieve on the grounds of justiﬁed killing. When they are joined by a black political prisoner, the situation becomes explosive. ‘The play is very strong,’ says Celeste. ‘Everything that happens happens onstage — nothing is hidden away.‘
Hanging The President, which won the 1988 Royal Exchange/Mobil award for new writing is Celeste’s first to be professionally performed,
though he has won other awards in the past. It will be directed by the Traverse‘s Ian Brown, whom Celeste chose after receiving several offers. ‘He gave me a lot of confidence.‘ says Celeste. ‘He said he would do it fully, all the way - he wouldn’t try to mask it any way.‘
South Africa being the international focal point
for racism, it also features in Homeland by
Antioch Theater from the States. a black comedy
in more ways than one. focusing on the culture shock of a South African maidservant visiting
Lest we become complacent. however, one show. Black Theatre Co-Operative’s 65 With A Bullet is concerned in part with racism in Britain. Billed as a ‘live Caribbean musical’, it should certainly offer some joy to counteract a nasty.
often gloomy subject.
I Just Litre Home and Adapt 0t Dye Pieter-Dirk Uys, (Fringe) Assembly Rooms (Venue 3), 226 2428. 11 Aug-2 Sept, 8pm and 10pm respectively, both £5.50 (£4.50).
I The Ugly N00 N00 Traverse (Fringe) Traverse
Theatre (Venue 15) 226 2633. 22 Aug—2 Sept (not
Mon), times vary, £5 (£3). I Hanging The President Traverse (Fringe)
Traverse Theatre (Venue 15) 226 2633. 10 Aug—2
Sept (not Mons), times vary, £5 (£3).
I Homeland Antioch Theater, (Fringe) Wee Red
Bar (Venue 79), 2291003.21—26 Aug, 1pm, £3
I 65 With A Bullet Black Theatre Co-Op (Fringe)
Gilded Balloon (Venue 38) 226 2151. 22 Aug—2 Sept (not Mon), 5pm, £4 (£3).
mind for years,‘ she says. ‘I was at Edinburgh University and did Greek. The myth came up several times in poems. lt seemd like a good idea havinga hunger, abusing nature and all the rest ofit.‘
Zeal has earned herself two Fringe Firsts in previous years - for NightmareAbbey in 1987 and The Tainted Honey of Homicidal Bees in l988— and she‘ll be hoping for the hat-trick this time. To increase the odds in her favour. another ofher plays. The White Witches of Balham. is being premiered by Raptus Theatre at the Bedlam. (Johanna Hall).
I Eric (Fringe) Theatre Caddis. Gilded Balloon Theatre (Venue 38) 226 2l51. ll Aug—2 Sept.
4. 15pm. £4 (£3).
‘Glamour. love. jealousy. success— the decadent world of fashion.'Jackie Collins coming to Edinburgh? No. it's the Hull Truck Theatre Company premiering Jane Thornton‘s Catwalk. ‘lt‘s about ordinary people .' says Thornton. ‘not at all Jackie Collins.‘ Thornton already has several plays to her name including Handle With ( ‘are which played at last year's ladinburgh Fringe. and Shakers w hich she wrote in conjunction with .iohn ( iodber. Her new
play carries on her philosophy of writing which has meaning for ordinary people. ‘1 write plays which have a universal theme - always about people.‘ she explains. ‘l felt fashion was a part of everybody‘s life and becoming more accessible. 1 was also interested in the whole theatricality of the fashion business and the parallels it draws with theatre. ‘ The research involved called for Thornton to delve into the murky. sequined world of fashion. ‘1 did loads of research going to local fashion shows in Hull . . . the British Designer Show. . . had dinner with Zandra Rhodes. . .‘
But the main character in Catwalk. Lisa. begins far from the glamorous world of Ms Rhodes. She is a young girl from up north.‘ Thornton
explains. ‘Shc and her friend want to be models. they are looking for more in their lives. Lisa's chance comes when she strtkcs up a relationship
.s ith a local fashion designer.“ And although
fashion is the subject matter of the play. its real interest lies elsewhere. ‘lt‘s about people more than the subject matter,’ says Thornton. ‘You can‘t take a fashion show, put it on stage and call it a play!‘ (Johanna Hall).
I Catwalk (Fringe) Hull Truck Theatre, George Square Theatre (Venue 37) 667 3704. 11 Aug—2 Sept (not Suns), 10pm. £6 (£5).
— CLYDE NOUVEAU
‘l‘ve always found it such a congenial setting for my writing,‘ says lain Hcggie about his native Glasgow. ‘lt‘s inspiring on a personality level because the people are so direct; even as a child I was fascinated by the sharp articulacy around me.‘ Heggie is loquacious and quick-witted in conversation and his ear for dialogue and fast-paced comedy has been widely praised. but with the flattery comes the flak. Critic Joe Farrell in a recent edition of Plays And Players contends that Heggie ‘plays around with speech patterns. but in reality says very little
Hcggie grins good-naturedly at the accusation. ‘lt depends what you mean by something to say. what you mean by significance.‘ he replies. ‘For me. theatre is about testing
your dreams and all those tricky unsolved problems. There's such a danger in journalism and political thought of dismissing the enormous significance of your moral dreams and anxieties because they‘re not newsworthy. l endeavour to dramatise those questions that do not have a ritual solution. If some people don‘t see that as an issue, then my plays will have nothingto say to tltem.‘
The earnestness and intensity of his delivery belies a deadpan humour and lurking irony. ‘1 pay more attention to consensus opinions than reviews.‘ he says. ‘but I appreciate the pressure on critics — all the hassles of the job. all the demands. . .‘ He sighs sympathetically. but there‘s a glint in his baby-blue eyes. ‘. . . all that necessary glibness.‘ (Sara Villicrs)
I Clyde Nouveau (Festival) See Hit List.
Weaned on Conan-Doyle and H. G. Wells. director Ivor Benjamin developed a love of science fiction
that lead him to create the ‘ultimate mindfuck‘ for this year's fringe. Mutants is the tale of Travis and Jackson released from jail to track down a new dangerous mind-affecting drug.
There are obvious parallels to many sci-fi books and movies. lvor confesses that the play is very like a certain movie. which be steadfastly refuses to name. However he claims this is unintentional; he was too absorbed in his theme to plagiarise.
‘The main theme is how close genetic engineering is to evolution itself. The idea being that when you start tampering with the structures of life you are causing evolution. The sub-theme is how we
r achieve a similar effect by
screwing up the environment.‘
‘Science fiction is always metaphorical.‘ he states flatly. ‘ET was a metaphor for hope.‘
Mutants is Benjamin‘s attempt to hold sci-fl ‘to a darker. stronger time and give it a filmic element‘ and to get away from the usual stage sci-fi shows like Rocky Horror or Little Shop of Horrors.
There are plans to turn the play into a comic strip. (Caroline Dunford)
I Mutants (Fringe) Mutant Productions. Southside international (Venue 82) 667 7365.14 Aug-2 Sept. 7.45pm. £5 (£3.50).
A GRAND SCAM
‘I feel that when people see plays they take with them a lot ofthcir preconceptions.‘ says Edinburgh playwright. actor and director
Andrew Dallmeyer. ‘and 1 think it has little to dowith
what‘s being done on stage and more to do with the mood of the receiver.‘ Author of over forty plays exploring concepts of reality. time. art and
Hello Dali. Opium Iz'ater (which Chris Letter To Brezhnev Barnard wants to film) and most recently Brainchild. Dallmeyer
turns to ‘the illusory
nature oftheatre‘ in his latest play. A Grand Scam.
The play is designed. he says. to ‘ask the audience to examine their role. There won‘t be any physical participation. but more than usual mental participation.‘
He waves a blank sheet of paper at me and tells me it‘sthe script. A compulsive performer (recent roles include Tartuffe and Shylock at the Lyceum). he clearly enjoys the enigma: the truth transpires to be a little more down to earth. ‘lt‘s mostly scripted. but the climactic moment — a monologue play within a play— is yet to be written.‘
Critical ofmost directors. he's taken the
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