Edinburgh Playhouse, until 2 February 1990.
The reason ‘Memories’ is the best-known song from Andrew Lloyd Webber's hit musical Cats is that it is one of only two memorable songs in the show (the other being ‘Magical Mr Mistoffelees’). Cats strives hard to avoid being cute or coy and instead ends up being rather charmless-the
cats in queston looking like Spiderman in a lrightwig. '
The show is saved from being little more than transatlantic tourist fodder by some excellent dancing, although the choreography is somewhat hackneyed. The cats slink and slither across the stage or leap acrobatically amid a garish over-sized junkyard lit in lurid red and yellow.
The overall effect can best be described as a chunder vivant. No visual trick is left untried: strobes flash, string of lightbulbs blink, dry ice blows in from the wings. It all helps bamboozle the audience into thinking there is some plot at work here.
When the set pieces work- Gus the theatre cat’s pirate reverie, Mistoffelees’s magic tricks, and the truly spectacular finale -the show is lifted out of the realm of mere musical stage show. This is panto for adults on a grand scale. Half-remembered childhood magic is recaptured and gilt-wrapped to boot. But at least pantomime has some message or moral.
Judging by the opening night’s standing ovation, however, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s catnip is sure to pack them in overthe hols. (Kennedy Wilson)
Tron Theatre, Glasgow. Until 26 Nov. In Cinzano, a collaboration between the Tron Theatre and the Moscow Chelovyek Studio Theatre, the combination of a Soviet director and Scottish actors produces a performance perhaps not of noticably different intent or even achievement, but of a substantially different texture than what we are used to.
Something has liberated these three actors— Forbes Masson, Peter Mullan and Paul Samson- and it’s not just the copious amount of Cinzano consumed on stage. Ludmilla Petrushevskaya’s script is less interested in telling a story than it is in exposing the more downbeat side of ordinary domestic life as seen through the eyes of three pals
getting drunk. They are three individuals relaxed and at home with each other. They have their private jokes- often impenetrable to the audience—and they are comfortable enough to indulge their more idiosyncratic characteristics. One cuts a salami with the tip of an umbrella; another sticks his knees up his jumper and londles his ‘breasts’; later on two of them dance a wild, uncontrollable, spiralling jig.
it is an eccentrically amusing production that seems almost improvised, so free is it with its blend of music, movement and comic invention. The cast work tightly together, yet still manage to give the impression of emotional distance — buoyant male camaraderie underscored with a streak of uncommunicable unhappiness. The pace is at times uneven as they slip from the reverential, near religious opening of the Cinzano, through carefree inebriation, to melancholy moments silhouetted against a beautiful stained glass window in the Tron’s back wall. But the performances are absorbing and endearing, avoiding all the standard traps of the stage drunk and creating a performance of liberating charm. (Mark Fisher)
Seen at Paisley Arts Centre. On tour until 12 Dec.
One of the most significant political developments of recent years has been the rise to prominence of environmental issues: the Greens polled a sizeable proportion of the vote at the most recent Euro-Elections, and even Mrs Thatcher has made some sort of commitment to the ecological bandwagon. The media, always quick to recognise a saleable issue, have responded with alacrity; hardly a day goes past without the glossy depiction of planetary vandalism.
To what effect? As the Greens have consistently warned us, it is not enough simply to shed a tear overthe plight of furry animals. The real problem lies in the inability of Western society to curb its appetite for raw materials. Without a profound understanding of the roller-coaster effects of consumerism, little can be done to redress the balance.
One means of achieving the necessary change in attitudes, may well lie in the hands of plays such as ‘The Middleman'. Rupert McOougall is a businessman, specialising in land and timber speculation in the Brazilian rainforest. Reluctant daughter in hand, he travels the world, buying and selling commodities which, as be freely admits, he has neverseen. Butthen comes a trip to the scene of the crime; Brazil, where, in the sterile atmosphere of a five-star hotel, his daughter begins to unravel the effects of her father’s activities.
This is an excellent and highly emotive piece of theatre, with Victoria Nairn particularly effective as the sceptical and disgruntled daughter. It has a strong emphasis upon the need to educate, but don’t let that put you off;
I there’s a lesson here for all of us.
who adopt human traits as the tale unfolds, until, looking from man to pig, it is difficult to tell them apart.
For the most part, the direction and
YERMA design of the production complement Bedlam Theatre. Edinburgh. Until Nov "'8 themes: Masks hang at the back of 25. the stage, like prgs’ heads on butchers
hooks, and are taken up or discarded
I with unobtrusive ease, as we watch the actors transform through various
! guises. Similarly, the choreography is in the main, effortlessly pleasing.
Why is it then, that as the play unfolds the production slips more and more into the uneasy, over-zealous, realm of the musical, losing the seriously-entertaining stance of first half? Partly through a deluge of songs, which really begin to grate. The voices are fine, but the compositions are tediously mediocre. Partly because the production lasts too long and we don’t need the point hammered home. And partly because certain, well-observed, animal traits which entertain up to the interval, are not enough to carry the acting through to the close. (Jo Roe)
The direction of Yerma was unfortunately archetypally stamped with ‘student production’. There was the usual trick of giving all the actors as much stage time as possible by having none of them exit— all of those not involved in the central action standing around the periphery with commendable rigidity. Similarly, especially towards the end, the dialogue was accompanied by stamping of feet, sighing, and exercises in movement which are seen exclusively in student shows. All of this may be necessay in a play penned by one of the cast, but Frederico Garcia Lorca writes with such powerful intensity that the messsage would have hit home all the more effectively it delivered without the theatrical accompaniment.
So the performance had some of the
usual flaws but certainly made up for it THE BRONX JEW in several respects. Initially, of course, Seen at Nemeer Edinburgh there is Lorca’s script which eloquently touring. ’ ’
charts Yerma’s developing insanity. This was delivered with some passion and in fact it was difficult to fault a cast which when actually acting, as opposed to being directed, responded well to this challenging play. In particular Bebecca Saunders, imhe title role, displayed a great command and understanding of Yerma’s obsessions and conveyed this to the audience.
Ultimately, the skill of the cast led to an enjoyable evening which overcame both the predictable direction and my throbbing headache. (Philip Parr)
This show is of unusually variable quality. The writing, on the whole, is strong and convincing, though it is often repetitive and wordy, and sometimes clumsily tricksy.
The play’s theme is ambition, and is explored through all five characters. At the centre is Duncan, an under-achiever whose wife encourages him to create a cabaret character. The resulting Bronx Jew, however, becomes evil-minded and egocentric, and eventually claims Duncan’s spirit, leaving his identity dangerously confused. Meanwhile, his shop steward father-in-law, Billy, has become obsessed with the mindlessly assertive yuppie who, he feels, has usurped his rightful position in management. He is trapped (too easily, one feels) into taking a revenge which backfires on him. The second subplot tells how Billy’s mate Mickey becomes a losertoo, though his fault is lack of ambition.
Although there are believable and well judged performances from James Martin and Joe Mullaney as Billy and Mickey, the success of the piece really relies on the ability of the actor playing
Duncan to switch between two AMMAL FARM contrasted characters, and to succumb Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh. Until convincingly to the alter-ego’s Nov25.
possession. Unfortunately, Michael Ventisei lacks the technical ability to do justice to the part, so that one is neither shocked nor very concerned about Duncan’s downfall. It does, however, take a very skilled performer to absorb an audience with extracts from an act which— in the climactic cabaret scene — is found wanting.
With some cuts and re-casting, The Bronx Jew might achieve some of the Miller-esque symbolic realism it seems to be attempting. As it stands, it is only when the more skilled actors take the stage that it gathers any
dramatic momentum. (Andrew Burnet)
Orwell’s ingenious novel translates suprisingly well to the stage. Watching actors adopt animal characteristics creates a new symbolic dimension unique to the play.
The Brunton Theatre are successful in this exercise, though only up to a point. Some caricatures work better than others, partly through acting ability and because some animals are easier to copy. The hens are more convincing than the horses, whose noble forms are unsatisfyineg symbolised by a pair of walking sticks masquerading as a set of legs. Most successful are the pigs,
50 The List 24 November— 7 December 1989