Heaven of Invention
Alan Bates tells Andrew Burnet about the inspirational ﬂames behind A Muse OfFire.
The International and Book Festivals are accustomed to visiting luminaries. but it is not often that the Fringe plays host to a star as well known as Alan Bates. Although he recently played the title role in Peter Shaffer‘s Yonadab. and toured to Edinburgh‘s King‘s (which he describes as ‘a small theatre. where I thought it worked better than anywhere else‘) his first visit at Festival time was ‘very. very early on. I did
Long Day '5 Journey Into Night there years and years ago. I haven‘t been since. and I‘m glad to
A Muse OfFire. the one-man show in which he appears this year. is not entirely new. but has not yet been performed in its present guise. ‘It began a year and a halfago in Salisbury,’ he explains. ‘At least the idea did. and we did a performance in the Cathedral there in September. We then did it at the Playhouse in London and it changed. and now it‘s changed again for Edinburgh. It‘s a show that you can keep turning round, because there are so many angles and lines you can take on it.
You can never get everything you want to say into it.‘
As its name suggests, the show concerns itself with fire. ‘lt‘s about man‘s history with it. really,‘ says Bates. ‘How he‘s used it creatively and abused it; and how he controls it or doesn‘t. It‘s historic. it‘s a bit scientific and it‘s funny— which was quite a hard thing to get into it.‘
The show‘s sources are many. including
Dickens. Donne. Blake. Pepys and (unsurprisingly. given Bates‘ past career) Lawrence and Shakespeare. ‘The first two shows were very kaleidescopic; they had a kind of maverick quality.‘ he says. ‘This one I hope has a line running through it — which is either better or worse,‘ he adds with a gruff chuckle. ‘we‘ll see.‘ Bates cherishes happy memories of his past career. which includes central film roles in A Kind OfLoving and Women In Love. and some memorable television. such as Alan Bennett‘s An Englishman Abroad. Over the past few years. however. he has concentrated mostly on stage work. ‘I‘ve been very lucky.‘ he says. ‘I‘ve been able to work in all three mediums and I don‘t like to let them go. But theatre.‘ he concludes. ‘is the most stimulating and the most rewarding.‘ I A Muse Of Fire (Fringe) Alan Bates (sponsored by Glenmorangie). Assembly Rooms (Venue 3) 226 2428. 22 Aug—2 Sept (not 28. 29 Aug).
6.30pm, £8.50 (£6.50).
Aug. 9.30pm. £3.25 (£2.25).
— THE MIND FOREST
Richard Steadman-Jones is Questors Theatre‘s Student Playwright ofthe year. On this showing it‘s hard to imagine a better choice. The author takes us on a fascinatingjourney — from the provincial life
of Edwardian England. into the uncharted depths ofthe dark continent.
His play tells the tale of Mary Kingsley. an intrepid explorer and anthropologist in an era when the most exciting struggle a woman could expect was with a whale bone corset. Despite the potentially wordy plot. her adventures are portrayed with strong dramatic unity. directed with flair. and ably assisted by Rupert Wates‘ haunting music.
The cast are uniformly strong. excelling at mask work. and creatingan abundance of comic cameos around Phoebe Taplin‘s consciencious central performance. Despite a certain excess of reported speech. Oxford bring Africa to life. To watch these performers build a jungle out of nothing is a treat indeed. (William Cook)
I the Mind Forest (Fringe) Oxford Theatre Group. Overseas House (Venue 19). 225 5105.11Aug—2 Sept. 1.30pm. £3.50 (£3)
A FAMILY AFFAIR
A Family Affair is a tense. gritty tale of the tragic effects. both direct and indirect. of heroin abuse. That the audience become totally involved. and leave emotionally spent. is a tribute to the writing talents of Stuart Blackburn and the character portrayals of the
cast .The confidence ofa production that has no need ofelaborate props. ensures that the half explanations and snatches of conversation transforms this from a piece of storytelling to a ﬂy-on-the-wall type experience.
Effortleessly spanning some ten years. A Family Affair portrays how the helping hand of support can also be the clausstrophobic iron fist of demandThe family cautiously approach communication and then quickly draws away. All relevant emotions are explored: anger. guilt. recriminations (‘What happened. where did we go wrong‘).and the contradictions ofthinly vieled mistrust and blind faith. The harsh reality of the situation is successfully blended with
an undercurrent of humour to create a drama that never becomes unnecessarily melodramatic.
For those with a cosy. romantic ideal of Scotland as castle. kilts. and city of culture. A Family Affair will produce a ( much needed ) slap around the face. See it. (Vicky Senior).
I See Hitlist for venue details.
NEW YORK: SEX, KILLING AND THE SHOPPING
Mention New York to anyone on this side ofthe
towards stripping down
Atlantic and. after a brief ﬂash of recognition. the enduring response is one of puzzlement. For most Europeans. New York is a skyline. a community shrouded by buildings. statistics and its own personal mythology.
In her one-woman show. Sheila Gordon introduces us to some of the inhabitants of New York - a cocaine-sniffing ‘Yuppie‘. the self-styled ‘Wang Woman‘. a manipulative wife by the name oers Melman. a convicted murderer and finally. and pointedly enough.‘No Blood‘ a lunatic fortune teller. With the aid of these and other characters. Sheila Gordon goes some way
the enigma of this city. only to reveal that the products of this most consumer orientated of societies are indeed preoccupied with sex. killing and the shopping. Her delivery is agressivel) humourous. her characters vivid and. although some travel better than others. they are always plausible. (Philip Kingsley)
I New York: Sex. Killing and the Shopping (Fringe). Sheila Gordon. Acoustic Music Centre (Venue 25) 2202462. until 2 Sept. 2.30pm £2.50 (£2).
Darkle is an excellent archaic word that Bill Gallagher has dug up.
' meaning ‘to grow dark’.
Its relevance to his play is slight. except that his new comedy is black. Very black.
The scene is a grubby shared flat. Its occupants claim to be a butcher. a nurse and a hairdresser. although you‘re only half convinced that they‘re anything more than wasted youth — bored and in need ofentertainment. They have a landlord. obsessed with gruesome items of news and pathologically incapable of collecting their rent. It is from him - and more significantly his dog— that his tenants decide to draw their cruel entertainment.
lfat times the pace wavers— there are too many quiet. low-key sequences— there are several splendid moments of hilariously chaotic farce. Gallagher is not afraid to follow an idea through to its extreme and it is a pleasure to see ‘all that imagination going on‘. The carnivorous conclusions are not for the squeamish and it‘s definitely Henderson '5 for lunch after this one. (Mark Fisher).
I Darkle (Fringe) National Student Theatre Company. Assembly Rooms (Venue 3). 226 2428. until 2 Sept (not 21). noon . £4.50 (£3.50).
. . 4 55H g . 4“
A swimming pool accident leaves 23-year-old Alan confined to a wheelchair and paralysed from the neck down. Stephen Greenhorn‘s new play is a light-weight look at the first six months outside hospital for a quadraplegic. in which he comes to terms with dependency. confinement and lack of sex-appeal. Like countless victims of similar accidents. Alan has to learn ‘to cry and not even be able to wipe your own eyes‘.
What sustains Greenhorn‘s play is a steady stream ofwitty one-liners. which keeps our minds offthe mundane domestic realism to which he confines himself. Halfan attempt is made at developing fantasy sequences to release Alan (Frank Mannion) from his wheelchair. but the idea isn‘t followed through and the production only reluctantly lets go ofits naturalistic roots. While the nature of handicap is an important subject to consider. it is a shame that the characters involved in this particular story are
not sutttCIently interesting to give it much ofa dramatic edge.
A pleasant performance. but a little inconsequential. (Mark Fisher).
I Heart And Bone (Fringe) Actual/Strathclyde Theatre Group. The Gilded Balloon Theatre (Venue 38) 226 2151 . until 20Aug.1.15pm.£4.50 (£2.50).
HOUSE THAT HENRY BUILT
‘Go for tea — stay forever.‘ Inside Out opt forthe perfect midnight Fringe formula— the Old Dark House movie parody. But John Simon MacDougall‘s scenario outgrows the formula. by tapping a raw vein ofnightmarish childhood fears.
In incisiver detailed mimes. the three-man team tell the macabre tale ofa family visit toa sinister uncle. who slobbers over his tea. and says to his brother. ‘I‘m decaying in here.‘ He has discovered the secret of eternal life. but this hasn‘t kept the maggots away. Martin Grant plays his Galatea. a terrifying. androgynous. flame-haired creature. who fulfils your worst nightmares about your mother. Anthony Bradnum shows pathos and vulnerability as the unfortunate young man caught between dream and reality; even his seemingly benevolent German psycho-analyst is not all he seems. The precision and physicality of the comedy. combined with the intensity ofthe terror. make this a unique addition to its genre. (Tom Johnstone)
I The House That Henry Built ( Fringe.) Inside ()ut Theatre Company. The Wee Red Bar (Venue 79). 229 1003. until ZSept. 12.30am. £3 (£2.50)
The List 18 — 24 August 1989 27