JUAN FOR ALL
It’s not every day that a fledgeling theatre company gets the chance to premiere an unknown play by Bertolt Brecht, but Glasgow’s
Pen-Name have done just that. MARK FISHER finds out how it‘s done from their director.
Pen-Name in Brecht's Don Juan
The universities‘ extramural courses are soon to begin their new terms and there are several interesting drama courses available. Listed below are those at the University ofGlasgow and the University of Edinburgh. Prices for courses in Glasgow are included in brackets. but pensioners can enrol at three-quarters of the full price and unemployed people at halfprice. More details on 041 3304394. Courses at Edinburgh cost £18 for 9 weeks and £35 for 18 weeks — students halfprice and unemployed people pay £2 a term. More details on 0316671011ext6246.
I Drama Workshops (£15 per day or £65 for series of 5). Glasgow. A series of ﬁve all-day classes taking place on specified Saturdays between November and March. Rhona Mitchell leads the workshops through exercises on voice. improvisation. acting. singing. movement. choreography and directing. It is a practical course designed to discover and develop the talent of students.
I Drama and Society (£21 for 10 meetings). Glasgow. This Tuesday afternoon course (1.30—3.30pm) begining 10 October is repeated on Thursday evenings from 1 1 Jan. Patrick Reilly takes a look at some
. classic European dramatists and considers their relationship with society.
. / 1 l’rriyrrsity of (.lusguw
I Theatre In Glasgow (£21 for 10 meetings). Glasgow. Tuesday evenings from 10 October provide a splendid chance to study the development oftheatre in Glasgow from medieval times to the present day. Alasdair Cameron will also be thinking about the portrayal of Glasgow and Glaswegians on the stage. I Theatre Workshop (£21 for 10 meetings). A very practical Wednesday evening course with Alan Black starting on 4 Oct
When the Georgian Film Actors Studio took their production of Moliere‘s Don Juan to the RSAMD last Mayfest, it rather dashed Pen-Name’s plans to stage the play themselves. ‘We couldn‘t see any point in trying to emulate them.‘ says director, David McVicar. ‘We‘re very concerned with technique and style. What they did was unique and we couldn‘t hope to do that.‘
Returning to the depths of Glasgow University library, Pen-Name were surprised to uncover a French edition of Bertolt Brecht‘s Don Juan — one of a series of adaptations of classical plays that the German dramaturge completed late on in his career. ‘We eventually managed to track down an American translation of it,’ McVicar continues. ‘We had never heard of it so we
' covers improvisation.
voice, script-work. directing. lighting and terminology with an emphasis on language and
I Plays In Perlonnance (£21 for 10 meetings). A fortnightly Wednesday evening class starting in January discusses the plays on show in Mayfest and City of Culture in 1990.
I Historical Dance (£21 for 10 meetings). June McKay studies the popular dances of Shakespeare‘s time on Tuesday evenings from 10 October. Then from 9Jan she has a look at the history ofdance in Glasgow.
I Drama Therapy (£37 for 10 meetings). Monday evenings from 9 Oct provide a chance to explore drama therapy for physically and mentally handicapped people in a series ofpractical workshops with Anne Fordyce.
I Shakespeare's Europe Edinburgh. Richard MacKenney leads a 9-week Wednesday evening course beginning in January to study the Renaissance. the
Reformation and the wars
of religion in the light of Shakespeare‘s plays.
I The Family At Play Edinburgh. An 18-week Monday morning course
phoned the archives of the British Theatre Institiute and they had never heard ofit either. It‘s a real find.‘
So out of necessity, Pen-Name find themselves in the privileged position of being able to mount the first production outside Germany of a play by a master of European theatre. No small opportunity for a company which includes students still to graduate from the RSAMD and which has only two (well received) productions to its credit. Up till now only the Berliner Ensemble have performed the piece and then only in their native country.
Brecht‘s version of the comedy makes some subtle structural changes, adding a character here and there, but his major shift is an unexpected one. ‘Moliere‘s Don Juan is a product of the worst excesses ofthe 17th century,‘ says
McVicar. ‘He‘s cynical, he‘s an aetheist, he‘s cruel and he‘s deliberately destructive. Brecht‘s is like a free spirit, raw sensuality— if you can imagine a male Carmen, that is the closest thing I can find. He‘s in the middle ofthis guilt-ridden society that takes itself very seriously. You have this crazy guy who doesn‘t play anything by the rules, who never tries to justify his position and who just exists for pleasure. Everyone else is deeply attracted to that kind of freedom, but feels so guilty, because oftheir upbringing, the church and the rules ofsociety. They can‘t cope with the
feelings he arouses in them.‘
Not exactly the dour, moralistic communist treatment you might expect, but then Brecht was always more interested in truth than dogma. ‘He examines a society that is rigidly divided into classes and codes of conduct and which is dominated by the church,‘ says McVicar. ‘He introduces this completely anarchic element to show how fragile these things are. He‘s trying to show a society that is about to fall in on itself.‘
As well as a playwright and a director. Brecht was a compulsive theoretician of theatrical practice, writing volumes of notes and essays on how he thought drama should function. His ideas are frequently misinterpreted, but there is a tremendous pressure to perform his work in a Brechtian way. For a premiere you would expect this pressure to be even greater, but Pen-Name are wisely being true to the demands of the play before any academic theory. ‘We didn‘t feel a Brechtian treatment was appropriate,‘ McVicar explains, ‘especially not for this text which is a very late work. It‘s not a very broad piece at all. We‘ve amalgamated Brechtian technique into the performance. but we‘re not aiming to present something that is Brechtian. We began rehearsing it as a burlesque comedy and as the work has developed, we‘ve begun to find more and more serious themes. If the audience finds it funny, that‘s the skill ofthe authors.‘
(10.30am) led by Elizabeth Hare. studies how many of the world‘s great plays have dealt with family relationships.
I Greek Drama in Translation Edinburgh. Wednesdays at 2pm gives a chance to have a look at classical Greek drama and to consider its influence on our contemporary stage.
I The Scottish People's Drama Edinburgh. Linda McKenney studies working-class Scottish plays between l920and 1950 on Wednesdays at 7pm.
I A Season at the Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh. An 18-week course on Thursday evenings to read. see and discuss the plays at the Royal Lyceum with Michael Ridings.
SON ENCHANTED EVENING
A Son et Lumiere, a brief extravaganza of sound and light. is. after several months preparation. about to illuminate the history of Linlithgow Palace. ‘The Continental tradition for these things is just to have light. sound and a narrator.‘ explained the technical brains behind the Linthligow light show. Ed Hall. ‘We
‘ want to get much more
action in it than that. to get the whole community involved.‘ To this end the cast of around 150,who will take to the ruins for the epic production. are all local people drawn from music and drama groups in the area. ‘The audience will be seated or standing in the courtyard with the action going on all round them. actors appearing at windows. in doorways. and right in their midst as characters from the palace‘s past.‘ The stone palace dates
back to 1426 and though it was only in use for 321) years (having burned down after a visit from the Duke of Cumberland in 1746) its history contains much for the Luminarists to get their teeth into.
Son et Lumiere at Linlithoo Palace
Such as the extravagent fountains of wine that Bonnie Prince Charlie was fond of: ‘unfortunately we couldn‘t get the fountains to work so that was ruled out.‘ Amongst the elaborately costumed interludes they will have on show are a lavish Christmas Day celebration from James lV‘s time and an excerpt from the Thrie Estaits written forJames V. There are. however. no plans to re-enact arguably the most famous event to occur there: the birth of Mary Queen ofScots. (Ross Parsons) Son er Lumiere a! Linlithgow Palace. 15—] 7 & 21-24 Sept. 8.3w10.30pm, £5.50 (£3.50).
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The List 15 — 28 September 1989 21