I FBIDA AND DIEGO -A LOVE STORY Polychrome portrait ol the revolutionary Mexican artists, Kahlo and Rivera. from the vital Red Shilt. See preview.
lied Shilt Theatre Co. Assembly Rooms (Fringe venue 3) 225 2428. 13 Aug-2 Sept (not 21 and 28) 4pm. £5 (£4).
Julie Morrice singles out the best biographies and previews them below.
I TOGETHER In solitary conﬁnement: the lirst Siamese Tvrins, Chang and Eng, lived lives extraordinary tor their normality. Strong Arm explore the men behind the phenomenon. See Preview. Pleasance (Fringe venue 33) 556 5550. 10-20 Aug (not 13) 7.35pm, £4.50 (£3.50).
I EDWARD LEAR - TO SEA Ill A SIEVE Set on the coast oi
pumpkins blow, a musical
the sad Victorian and his fantastic nonsense poetry. ADD Studio (Fringe Venue 114) 557 8100. “Aug-2 Sept (not Suns) 3.30pm, £3.50 (22).
Commandet vrhere the early two-handercounterpointing
Where’s the Circus?
The first time Frida Kahlo went to New York, children followed her down the street asking ‘where‘s the circus?’. The circus - the colour and energy - was in her life and art. Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera — artists, lovers, radicals, Stalinists, celebrities, reprobates - were central figures in Mexico during the first fifty years of this century. Ofﬂoading four hundred years ofcultural domination by Europe, they reinvented Mexican art, thrusting it into the public domain along with their scandalous life together and apart, and their role in the political upheavals which shuddered through Mexico with the regularity of
‘The last thing I wanted to write was an Arena
documentary brought to life‘, says Greg Cullen, writer of Red Shift’s latest production. Three months spent in Mexico and the US, talking to those who knew and worked with Frida and Diego left Cullen with more material than he knew what to do with. An extraordinary assortment of characters played bit-parts in the Frida and Diego drama: Trotsky, Andre and Jacqueline Breton, Eisenstein, Rockefeller, Ford. His play, says Cullen, could have become
just a list of names.
At the same time, Cullen was keen to avoid producing ‘just a historical romantic kind of
piece’ and the result is a play which is about art as much as it is about two artists: ‘The Left in particular get into this wrangle over what is legitimate art. Here were these two painters, whose work was absolutely, completely different, but in the end they were both discussing identity, Frida through the personal focus of her own face and Diego through the whole of Mexican history portrayed on public walls. In essence the play is a look at two artists, why they painted, why art is important and why the desecration of the arts has far more sinister and dangerous implications for us as a society and as individuals.‘ The play, says Cullen, ‘attempts to mirror the work of the two painters, mixing styles between a kind of naturalism, through to very stylised movement-orientated stuff, and into portrayals of Diego‘s murals which become quite
For a British audience. however. perhaps the most striking aspect of the play will be the evocation of Mexico, its bizarre, refreshing, opportunistic approach to life: ‘I hope it gives everybody a sense ofjoy. I think we‘re a bit short on that. We could do with a bit of moral fortitude
! For Venue details — see Hitlist.
MOTHER OF ALL THE BEHANS
Irish actress. Rosaleen Linehan tells a story about the first time she saw Kathleen Behan on television. Her interviewer was ‘terribly Oxbridge- I mean beyond Chariots of Fire' and they sat at either end of a BBC chaise-longue: ‘He started offto do this rather condescending interview with her and at the end of it he was falling offthe thing. roaring laughing— and I thought. oh God. this is a woman and a half.‘ With her devil‘s food cake of a voice and the ‘ferocious feel‘ she has for
her subject. Linehan should capture the courage and verve ofthe larger-than-life mother of the notorious Behan
family. Her most famous son was Brendan. the drink-sodden dramatist and lRA member. but she had. in all. seven children. and was herself a heartfelt republican, an avowed
: Communistandafervcnt Catholic.
‘When the script arrived I thought. Oh God lcan‘t touch this. because I knew what the family are like. they‘re not an easy bunch.‘ Linehan insisted on eight months in which to research her subject which she spent meeting all the family (one by one) and neighbours and friends who remembered Kathleen. ‘l‘ve a feeling that for a one-person show you must be desperately close to the material. It depends an awful lot on the actor and how their energy holds — and a good daub of comedy helps.‘ (Julie Morrice) I Mother OtAlt The Behans (Fringe) Abbey Theatre (Eire). Assembly Rooms. George Street (Venue 3) 226 2428. 12 Aug-2 Sept (not Mons). 8pm. £6 (£5).
A tubular band ofskin
three and a quarter inches long and one and a half inches in diameter connected the bodies and to some extent the souls of Chang and Eng the 19th century brothers who were the original Siamese Twins. ‘Two people who were so constricted and were so different from one another seemed to me like a really accentuated metaphor for relationships and marriage — when you‘re next to someone you can‘t get away from and you‘ve got to make it work.‘ Lyall Watson. writer and director of Together is not in the business of parading freaks. Chang and Eng may have made their fortune in the sideshows and circuses of the world. but this play emphasises their individuality and their success in living separate lives.
‘People change from initial revulsion to a curiosity about how people lived like that. People always ask. when they got married, how did they do it? ‘That‘s one of the early questions,‘ laughs Watson. The facts ofthe lives of Chang and Eng stretch credulity.
Settling in America. they married two sisters, maintained separate households a mile and a half apart and each fathered several children. Fully appreciating the situation of the twins is, Watson admits, impossible, but by ‘making the actors live together a lot of the time‘ he hopes something of the psychological claustrophobia will rub off. (Julie Morrice)
I Together (Fringe) Strong Arm Theatre Co, Pleasance (Venue 33) 556 6550. 10-20 Aug (not 13). 7.35pm. £4.50 (£3.50).
THE BAD BOHEMIAH
Good guys get to ride off into the sunset but they don‘t star in one-man shows: ‘lf you want an interesting play you don‘t want a saint. What the audience wants is a bit of conﬂict. a bit ofcruelty,‘ says Paul Cahill. His personal choice of bastard is Jaroslav Hasek, ‘a drunken bigamist coward who wandered through
life laughing at people’ and. incidentally. wrote The Good Soldier Svejk, the disturbing masterpiece of the First World War.
The biographical dictionary describes Hasek as ‘joker. anarchist and great novelist‘ in that order. Editor ofa magazine called The Animal World, Hasek would regularly invent new species within its pages. and tried to sell werewolves by mail order. He twice notified the authorities of his death,
and penned his own obituary entitled A Traitor. He ran a dog-stealing business and a political group known as the Party of Moderate Progress Within the Limits ofthe Law. Party funds mysteriously entered the coffers ofhis
local bar and voters were
bribed with promises ofa pocket aquarium.
It is difficult. says Paul Cahill. to draw watertight conclusions about such a man. ‘I haven‘t tried to see where he‘s really coming from. but I would like to make some ofthe things he does credible without losing the sympathy ofthe audience.‘ Stand-up comedy plus serious drama is Cahill‘s formula for capturing the essence of Hasek. lt soundsthe only plausible means of realising a character who managed to capture three hundred soldiers single-handed and wastoo drunk to remember how he did it. (Julie Morrice) I The Bad Bohemian (Fringe) Practical Cats Theatre Co. Theatre West End. St John's Church. West End Princes Street
(Venue 126). l4—l9Aug. 11.40pm. £3 (£2.50).
The List ll— 17 August 1989 35