Andrew Pulver takes his pick of the week’s best dramatic adaptations. Below —what‘s
I ROLLING THE STONE Sysipbus is a man in hell; condemed to spend eternity rolling a huge rock up a hill. he struggles against his late. This potent image trom six lines inthe Odyssey has inspired Crane and Williams to create ‘a comedy with a twist in the tail'.
Demarco Gallery (Fringe venue 22) 557 0707. 14—26 Aug. 9pm. £4 (£3).
I THE BATTLESHIP POTEMKIH An ambitious piece at adaptation. utilisingdance, mime and stylised gesture to bring the cinematic scope into an intimate space. Compelling.
Cambridge Mummers (Fringe venue 100) 225 518.104.22.168.18.20.
24. 26, 28, 31 Aug & ZSept.
I IHANHA Olderthanthe Red Sea Scrolls. inscribed 1750 DC. this tragment ol ancient literature has been worlred into a haunting perlonnance. using choral voice and verse to create a moving piece of theatre, which pays homage to the goddess ol fertility, lnanna. Company Theatre (Fringe
venue 36) 225 8283. 14-26 i Aug. 2.35pm. £3 (£2)
K. F. Cardie looks at two plays based on 18th-century novels.
Two plays this week offer alternative visions of 18th century society. Golem Theatre'slew Suss was originally a novel by radical German Lion Feuchtwanger. but their adaptation draws more on a 1935 film ofthc same name made in Britain. ‘We’re very aware of the political nature ofJew Suss.’ says designer Peter Barclay. ‘Although the story is basically true it was written and filmed as an anti-Nazi statement. The Nazis themselves later made their own film. portraying Suss as completely evil and demonic.‘ Jew Sass deals with an 18th-century Jew. burned to death after becoming Chancellor of a small German duchy. ‘Yes. the story is macabre. and intensely tragic.
We're stressing Suss‘ ambiguity — he‘s not just a passive victim. but actively embraces his fate.‘
The strong traditions oniddish melodrama and grotesque theatre are being consciously evoked in the production. ‘The early filmie style of acting is itselfan ideal model. in its use of gesture and stylised detail. Yiddish theatre is all dark and expressionistic - shadowy lighting and distorting make-up. The two go well together: the visual style of the play is very strong. Our name “golem” is derived from Yiddish myth: a clay monster given life by God to scourge oppressors. It's an appropriate name for theatre that is. in effect. an act ofcultural restitution.‘
In strong contrast is Stephen Oxley’s production of 'I'risrram Shandy. ‘It‘s as if Tristram Shandy has been propelled forward 200 years. and is doing a cabaret slot at the Festival Club.‘ Thus the ex-RSC actor. describing his own adaptation of Laurence Sterne‘s mammoth novel. Performed as a one-man-show. Oxley says: ‘1 think the most significant thing about it is the contact it has with the audience. In the novel Tristram Shandy develops a very strong relationship with the reader. We're going to use
this in the show — we don‘t humiliate the audience. but involve individuals in Tristram‘s
Sterne‘s rambling novel is unconventional by any standards — greeted with both praise and disgust on its publication. it was admired 200 ‘years later by modernist writers. Joyce. Woolf. ct al. ‘lt presented a challenge to find an equivalent theatrical style. We‘ve conceived of it as the play th‘at Sterne never wrote: he was friendly with David Garrick and hoped to write for the stage. but never actually managed it.‘ Directed by Brian (.‘roucher (Travis in Blake's 7. for those who remember). the set is confined to ‘a chest full of tricks — like Tristram‘s mind. full of rubbish. We‘re not pulling any punches. What we‘re trying to do is get the audience to experience fully this extraordinary story from the past.‘(Andrew
I Jew Suss (Fringe) Golem Theatre at Diverse Attractions. Riddles Court (Venue 11). 225 8961. 21-26 Aug. 4.15pm. £2.50(£1.25).
I Tristram Shandy (Fringe) Shandyhall Prods. Chaplaincy Centre (Venue 23) 22-27 Aug.
6. 15pm; 28 Aug—2 Sept. 4. 15pm. £3.50 (£3).
THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY
Oscar Wilde's prose I masterpiece. adapted by Michael ()liva and Stephen Sharkcy for the Oxford Theatre Group. is a curious mixture of conversation-piece and high melodrama. By opting to follow the earlier version of the novel. the production has allowed itself to become sedentary — lots of chat and cigarettes in an unvarying drawing-room setting. Potentially clever devices — home movies — are forced to appear clumsy and intrusive. Also. I'm afraid. the activity ofthc picture itself was almost completely submerged as the gothie tone was drained away.
Even so. Rupert Wickham and Nicholas Caldecott between them successfully capture the Wildean style «— dangerous and witty and the former manages a seamless transition from the innocent to the corrupt. Together they sustained the narrative and pulled off a tremendously effective climax. when the
drama finally got going. (Andrew Pulver)
I The Picture at Dorian Gray (Fringe) Oxford Theatre Group. Overseas llouse (Venue 19). 225
5105.unti128ept. 3pm.£3 i
DANSE OF THE SEVIN DEIDLY SYNNIS
In the lovely settingof Rosslyn Chapel. in 14th century gem of medieval architecture. the Glen Theatre Company presented their version of William Dunbar‘s poem. The cast. suffering from first night nerves and a noisy audience. danced and mimed their way through the seven stages ofvice.
The high point ofthc evening wasthe beautifully rendered Scots verse at the beginningof the piece. which was spoiled momentarily as the poet forgot his lines. but his rich recital of Dunbar's lyrical metre resonated fully in the carved roof of the chapel.
Jan Butler. playing the devil‘s side-kick. stole the show with her uninhibited
l i l |
dance. but (iluttony‘s memorable banana-munching performance gave the ‘Danse’ its fittest moment. This is an amateur dramatic piece. but it is performed with exuberance and imagination. Despite rather wooden acting. the troubles with lighting and sound. the loose direction. it is worth seeing for the chapel itself. and for its brave experimentation. (Nicola Robertson) I Sevin Deidly Synnis (Fringe) Glen Theatre Company. Rosslyn Chapel (Venue l ISM-10 2159.11.17—19.2-l»-2o. £4.50 (£3.50) (Buses to Rosslyn run regularly from St Andrew Square ).
The most appropriate activity while witnessing Eye Level Theatre‘s production ofTony Harrison's elegy upon elegy Vis to wait. Indeed this visionary statement on the spiritual life ofthc individual in urban Britain tells us to mourn our intellect and put a firm down-payment on the future and improper Use
ofour sense of humour. The production itselfis an artless one. and the belief that the actor alone can provide a sufficient dramatisation. is misplaced. In spite ofa technically superb performance from Andy Creed. bringing the narrator and the football hooligan to life. the play swiftly becomes academic. a production still lingering at the dinner table of the director and author. Neither isit ‘entertainment'. for it does not treat its audience
that way: first a well-placed kick in the groin. then a request for smiles all round.(Torn Phillips)
I V (Fringe) Eye Level Theatre. Gilded Balloon (Venue 38). 2262151. Until 2 Sept. 2.30pm. £4 (£3)
THE GREEN SHUTTEHS
George Douglas‘ classic of
: Scots literature. scripted
and directed by Gerard Mulgrew. is typically impressive — from its ramshackle set to the powerful and controlled acting and caricature work of the cast. They treated us to a display of razor-sharp theatre. faultlesst executed and enduringly effective. Robert Pickavance. the
5 Deacon. was the most
spectacular -— yet this was a
company performance of
the highest order. Sandy
Welch as Gourlay was a strong central presence. as was his son. The jazzy score laid over the top was surprisingly effective.
although it began uneasin : itsettled down.assisting
i THE HOUSE WITH
the action and parodying it simultaneously. It was the tight choreography though. in drinking.
7 fantasy and dcaththat . crystallised the superny
language that Communicado have made
their own. Don't miss it.(Andrew Pulver) I The House With the
I Green Shutters (Fringe)
Communicado. Lyceum Studio (Venue 7). 22‘) 9697. Until 2 Sept. 9pm.
£5(£3). -— 5 COOKING m A
' f; Asa wholc.the play
was feeble. unimaginativc
and irredeernably puerile. (Philip Lockett)
I Cooking in a Bedsitter (Fringe) Cambridge Mummers. Overseas llouse (Venue 19). 225 522.214.171.124.23.25. 27. 30Aug-l Sept. 5pm. £3.50(£3).
34'l'he List 18 - 24 August 198‘)