PLAYS IN PRINT
I Bloomsbury Theatre Guide Bloomsbury. £9.99. Quite the best theatre reference book currently available is put together by Trevor Griffiths (not the playwright) and Carole Woodis (ex-theatre editor of London‘s City Limits) and is now available in paperback. Entries are detailed and authoritive and. unlike many similar guides. it is pretty much up to date. It gives details of over 300 playwrights amongst its 3000 plus references and there isa very thorough and helpful cross-refe rencing system. An ideal source of background facts.
I Things Change Methuen. £4.99. You inevitably miss the charming niavity of Don Ameche‘s performance as the shoe-maker mistaken for an underworld godfather in this screenplay of David Mamet‘s movie. but there‘s still much to enjoy in the terse. snappy. Mafioso dialogue and the compelling drive ofthe plot.
I Interior: Boom Exterior: Clty Methuen. £4.99. An absorbing trio of plays by Anthony Minghella — one for radio. one for stage and one for TV. His writing is perceptive. comic and often poetic. and his characters are real and instantly recognisable. The plays included are Cigarettes and Chocolate. Hang Up and What Iflt's Raining?
r— Itz Sadowitz
Sightings of Sadowitz on TV are about as frequent these days as supermarket openings by Salman Rushdie, and just as likely to cause an uproar. He (Sadowitz) explains. ‘I did four minutes live on Acropolis How, very professionally. Then next year I wondered if they wanted me back and they said no. My reputation had just got so over the top, so silly. You know, people were saying don’t work with Gerry he’ll set fire to your studio and sleep with your children that kinda thing.’
In reality, the rigorous control that TV exerts on performers, such as the militant Glaswegian comedian, has handicapped him in a profession where the yardstick of success is commonly taken as the amount of appearances you have had on the box.
Yet the very premise that a comedian’s ability should be judged by the number of times they have been seen on the small screen is anathema to any fan of live performers, such as Sadowitz. ‘lsn’t it a wonderful thing that one of the last vestiges of enjoyment that you can have is a live performance on stage where you can
say and do what you want? I'm goin’ to see Alexei Sayle and I know it’ll be worth the effort of leaving the house and actually getting on a bus and travelling to see him do his stuff live.’
As Ben Elton is also appearing in Scotland in October, it seemed appropriate to find out what Sadowitz thought of the southern comic who can talk the back legs off a whole field of donkeys, and who is so at home in the medium of TV. ‘l've always hated him. I said he was shite before he was born. I mean, doing Wogan, who is the epitome of the cosy, British, sell-out star, not what you’d expect from someone with pretensions to having a serious point of view. Still, his mother loves him, little bastard!‘
Unlike Elton, Sadowitz’s vitriolic invective bites and savages life, which he describes as ‘shite’. Does it bother him if people take offence? ‘Yeah I get extremely upset when people get upset. lget sick with worry about it. It means We failed in myjob. I know there’s a lot of anger and a lot of ranting and raving, but if they ever lose sight of the fact that I’m a comedian and take it seriously then partly I’ve failed and partly they’ve falled.’
His wayward genius for hating everything means he will probably never make it as a TV star, but, surely for that very reason, all the more worth catching live. When the two comedians converge on Scotland, the better known
3 Ben Elton may find he'll have to prove
; he’s not becoming acceptable, cosy,
fireside entertainment—something Sadowitz will never be. (Boss Parsons) Gerry Sadowitz is at the Glasgow College of Technology, 4 Oct, phone 041 332 0681 for details and at Moray House College, 7 Oct, 9pm, 24.
Ben Elton is at Glasgow's Pavilion Theatre, 9 a12-15 Oct, 7pm, £5—£7.
On the evidence ofeleven year-old Christian Shaw. in Paisley. 1697. seven people were found guilty of witchcraft. ()ne ofthcm commited suicide and the other six were strangled. Even for those times. this is an extraordinary story. Christian Shaw. who went on to found the Paisley thread weaving industry. secured the convictions entirely on the strenglh of herown testimony: ‘She began her l convulsive fits some
months before the I warrants were issued. As
surgeons and ministers wrestled with her illness. she began to tell offcllow villagers appearing to her in visions; witches. who tormented her in body and
Liz Gardner. director and co-author of the play. is unwilling to enforce a particular message from the macabre incident. "The obvious risk in presentingthis kind of play is that people might come in expecting a (‘aledonian version of The (’rttcihle. But that’s not it at all. Arthur Miller made certain assumptions about the Salem witch-trials in order to suit his own, very specific purposes. I think
that we are more concerned with the question: why did she do it'."
So why did she do it? ‘Christian Shaw shows all the classical symptoms of clinical paranoia; bending double. vomiting. that sort ofthing. Given this. it‘s easy to see her as a malicious fake. or a troubled little girl. but . . .‘ But? ‘Strange things have happened. Contact with relics from the Paisley witch-hunt has invariably brought about bizarre effects and accidents. And they‘re still going on.‘ (Philip Kingsley)
Fable Vision will run atthe Tron Theatre. 63 'I'rongate. Glasgow, 10—15 October at 7. 30pm.
DRAM DRAMA ‘Theatre companies are like The Old Firm without the bigotry. Some. like Rangers. try to buy a good team whilst those like Celtic work with each other and for each other.‘ There's little doubt that Charles Nowosielski sees the Brunton Theatre Company, which has been under his artistic control
for the last four years. as Celtic rather than the ‘Gers. ‘The Arts Council Grant has been laughable. For this season‘s shows we‘ve had to adapt the set from Rising to suit Whisky Galore and then adapt that forAnimal Farm.‘ Nowosielski claims that the prospect of transposing to the theatre a story which is as much a part of Scottish folklore as neeps ‘n‘ tatties hasn‘t given him any sleepless nights. ‘What the film gained in locations and costumes. we can counter with realism. That‘s the great attraction ofthis piece. the characters are real people with whom we can all associate.‘ (Philip Parr) Whisky Galore is at the Brunton Theatre. Musselburgh, Wed 4—Sat 21 Oct at 7.30pm.
THIRTY YEARS WHORE
‘Lock up your daughters—
the English actors‘re in town!‘ Thus (or similarly) went the cry around 17th-century Europe when any of several English troupes went out on tour. Their style of performance — a sort of souped-up commedia dell 'arte with social satire thrown in — has been adopted by the Medieval Players for their current production of Courage. written by Julian Hilton from the same source as Brecht‘s Mother Courage.
‘Bye-laws would be passed to stop young girls from joining their loyal following.‘ says llilton. But fame. sex and money are not exactly what the Medieval Players are after. In what llilton describes as a ‘slight change ofdirection‘. they‘re producing his adaptation of Grimmelshausen‘s novel about the Thirty Years’ War to articulate strictly modern concerns.
‘lt‘s about people on the margins ofa war.‘ explains Hilton. ‘a war that stripped down morality. leaving just greed and indifference to other people‘s needs. And the central character is a woman facing pressures generated by a male-dominated situation. ller strategy for survival eventually corrupts her. She faces quite a stark choice between money and children. and it seems to me there was a connection in Grimmelshausen‘s mind between greed and infertility. or lack of creativity. It's strange how universal it is, because some scenes are direct translations, and people assume they‘re the new
‘It‘s not a didactic play
though — in that sense it's different from Brecht — the Medieval Players want to give a Good Night Out, and they have a simple. “show not tell" style. The characters are cartoon-like and graphic. and I think that strong element of black humour was what led Brecht to the same source.‘ (Andrew Burnet)
Courage is at the Palace Theatre. Kilmarnock Tue 10; MacRobertArts Centre. Stirling Wed [1 . Thurs 12 and Paisley Arts Centre Fri 13.
THATCHERISM ACCORDING TO IBSEN
llenrik lbsen‘s Ghosts offers roughly as much hope for future success against adversity as a Scottish Tory‘s electoral campaign. At the close of the play. one is left wondering what chance the individual has against the swamping conventions of society. But this was in 19th Century Norway. I asked director Robert Carson what role lbsen's tome had to play in the new, improved. freer society ofThatcher‘s Britain.
‘The play stresses the fight of the individual against society. In order to function as a social animal you must adapt to the environment you‘re in — and that has a cost.‘That cost is one of individual liberty but Carson believes that our glorious leader has exacerbated the limits which the ghosts of convention place on us mere mortals.
‘Thatcher has recreated the values where the family is the basic social unit. There‘s been a swing back to ideals which have no relevance. Often. the mother. father and two kids ideal doesn't work and yet the Tories have introduced laws which define ‘the family" in those terms. lbsen is against such hypocrisy. lies. illusions and false ideals.’
With the other. much more obvious. analogy — Oswald‘s inherited syphilis could be seen as a metaphor for AIDS — the play's power should be undiminished.
(Philip Parr) Ghosts will be at The Lyceum 'l'h eatre from Thurs 5 ()ct (free preview) until Sat 21 Oct (except Sundays).
46 The List 29 September — 12 ()etober 1989