v NEW PLAY I
Back to the front
How To Kill. Angus Reid‘s one man show based on the wartime experience of Keith Douglas. nearly failed to appear during the Edinburgh Fringe. ‘I got in on the last ten minutes of the programme. before it went ofro the printers. I was literally the last entry.’ As it was. the show went from last entry to Fringe First and garnered some impressive reviews.
The brief. dynamic distillation of Douglas‘ brief. dynamic life is to be performed again in Remembrance Week at the Tramway. ‘I wanted to do it then. especially as it‘s fifty years since the outbreak ofwar. ldon't think it‘ll make the play more solemn or less entertaining. but it‘ll add bite. parody and satire.‘ The hour-long solo-show blends exerts from the poet‘s biography Remember Me When I'm Dead with some of his poems and centres on three months in the North African Campaign. The ‘deadly farce' of the battlefield is conveyed by using around five
hundred planes and fifty tanks, all models. Reid insists ‘lt‘s not like John Sessions stomping around on a map of Europe. The tanks are set out like a child setting up a game, a sort oflet‘s pretend. then these things get broken up. twisted and disorganised.‘
The bold, impetuous. Douglas was to have sat out the war behind a desk. miles from the front lines. However, having little truck with army regulations. he stole a lorry and drove off to the battle of El Alamein Something ofthe same spirit has been shown by Reid in his determination to get the play performed in Glasgow. ‘I tried the Third Eye and the Tron but they were fully booked so 1 spoke to the Tramway and they said My God that week is free.‘
On the subject ofone man shows he has a very apposite philosophy. ‘It creates a great pressure for writing— you‘re not going to write crap if you‘ve got to stand up and say it.‘ And he didn't. (Ross Parsons)
Tramway Theatre, Glasgow, 8—12 Nov, 7.30pm. &10—12 Nov, 9.30pm. Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, 2—5 Nov, 7.30pm.
usrmcsso CABABET 52 one: 53
Alien in Stookbridge
Squeezing past an assortment of young actors, fidgeting and gossiping in suppressed tones, l was instantly thrown back several years to interminable rehearsals spent in theatre productions in my youth, the only difference being that some of these kids can banter away in sign language without being screamed at, until things get too excited anyway. I say interminable, but realy we all loved the comradeship and the thrill of witnessing the production come together.
Adapted from the American Science Fiction classic, The Day The Earth Stood Still, this stage version sets the action in Edinburgh. The year is 1951: an alien being from an advanced civilisation that has totally eliminated war is sent to earth on an inter-galactic peace mission. Greeted with suspicion and ignorance, the alien’s efforts are frustrated; the only effective form of communication, it seems, is a dramatic display of superiority.
This production takes the bare plot from the original, replacing the cool, black and white style with home-spun caricatures and live Fifties music. Uncluttered by props and fussy costumes, there is some imaginative acting and mime, a refreshing
improvement on the usual style of youth theatre. Most of the cast have picked up sign language from the pupils of Donaldson’s school for the deal, which has been incorporated into the production, creating an expressive l dimension inthe drama.
One of the most rewarding aspects of the project for director Andy Cannon is that those involved enjoy the process for its own sake, as a sociable activity. ‘I take a pride in the fact that only a handful of these kids want to go on to drama college,’ he remarks. Although he avoids the role of teacher it is obvious he commands respect: performers berated for being lazy or sloppy take it without a blink. But then everyone concerned has got involved of their own accord and it’s amazing what can be achieved in such an environment. (Jo Roe)
l The Day The Earth Stood Still is on at Theatre Workshop from Wed 25—Sat 28 I September.
‘ 7 WORLD
As we prepare to be bowled over by an onslaught of exciting Eastern Bloc theatre in the New Beginnings festival, it is pleasing to be told that our native theatre has something to offer in return. Piotr Cieslak of the Zelweowicz State Academy Theatre in Warsaw is over here as guest director at the RSAMD and has been taking the opportunity to catch shows at places like the Citizens and the Tron.
‘It's a very modern theatre,’ he says. ‘Some productions are good, some very bad, but it's a very interesting theatre. In Poland censorship was — it’s not now - but it was very strong. We had to use a lot of masks to talk to the
, audience. One of these masks was
Absurd Theatre. In Britain it’s more open and it’s not necessary to use so many kinds of artistic mask. Polish directors and actors have to learn how to speak in an open way with the audience, which is very difficult for us now. The main thing is to teach our Polish authors to write a good realistic play as a basis for a higher kind of art. Here you have a lot of competitions for authors -there are a lot of systems to find the good authors.’
Cieslak is working with final year students at the Academy on a series of plays by 8.1. Witkiewicz, little-known in this country, but celebrated in France, America, Scandinavia and Poland. ‘He committed suicide in 1939,’ explains Cieslak. ‘It was on 18 September when the Russian Red Army
' crossed the border into Poland. It was
the end of the world for him. He started to be well-known afterthe Second World War when Europe discovered lonesco and Absurd Theatre and they realised that the real father of Absurd Theatre was Witkiewicz.’
Educated at home by his father, himself a famous realist painter, Witkiewicz was already writing plays at the age of eight. ‘When he was eight years old he wrote between seven and ten plays - not all of them survived - and in this production we're using four of these,’ says Cieslak. ‘Tbat is the first part of my production. In the second half we use a play that he wrote when he was 35. I want to show how the avant-garde language he used as a grown-up has its origin in his very childish look at the world around. The early plays are much more comedies. : The second part, ‘The New Deliverance', as in all Absurd Theatre, i uses the language of comedy, but it is a kind of tragedy because there is a dead : man and social powers coming on to the stage.’ (Mark Fisher).
Multiple Self Portrait is at the RSAMD, I
Glasgow Tue 7-Fri 10 Nov at 7.15pm.
I Inverse SaverCards Taking their lead from the Royal Lyceum. Edinburgh‘s Traverse Theatre has introduced a £5 Saver Card open to people who normally qualify for a concession. Having bought the card you can claim an extra£1 off every performance you see at the theatre fora year. After only five shows the card will have paid for itself.
I Barclays New Stages All professional small to middle-scale theatre companies who have been trading for at least a year are eligible to apply for an award from Barclays New Stages- a three-year project which should benefit at least eight companicsa year by an overall total of£().5 million. One ofthe three people assessing applications will be Scottish Theatre critic. Joyce McMillan.
Entry forms can be obtained from Barclays New Stages. Kallaway Limited. 2 Portland Road. Holland Park. London W114LA(Te1:(11221 7883).
V IN PRINT
I The Mahabharata: Peter Brook's Epic In The Making llodder & Stoughton. £14.95(11ardback). Published on 2 Nov to anticipate Channel 4‘s screening on 9 and 10 Dec of Peter Brook‘s 9-hour Indian epic, this lavishly illustrated book by Gary O‘Connor traces the history of the production from stage to film. Some ofthe writing is a little pedestrian. but the book has been thoroughly researched and provides a great behind-the-scenes look at the creation of perhaps the most important theatrical event ofthe decade.
l'l likilloNlMIl'll A fit: \iwv. (aim (illilllllltll‘
I Laugh Lines llodder & Stoughton. £12.95 (Hardback). Actor and caricaturist, (‘live Francis. has put together a witty
coffee-table cartoon Collection of some sixty big-name actors in performance. Everyone from Alec Guiness to
Joanna Lumley gctsa look-in and each sketch
comes complete with a comment from the victim.
The List 27 October — 9 November 1989 49