Figaro speech

Love him or loathe him. you could never say that Kenneth Branagh was lacking in precocious selfbelief. So it’s hardly surprising that as the first generation of Branagh prote’ge’s descend on an unsuspecting public. ambitious projects that would have made Larry and John's hair curl are being tackled as never before. One such project is The Marriage of Figaro which is currently touring the country under the direction of ex-Renriaissance man Dominic Cooke. With his Pan Optic Theatre Company, Cooke has casually dispensed with Mozart‘s music in order that Beaumarchais‘ original text can be rediscovered. I asked the show’s producer, Briony Hegorty. how audiences were reacting to a Marriage ofFigaro stripped of the music with which it has been associated for two centuries.

‘The title is so well known because of Mozart‘s music.‘ she says, ‘but we believe that the play is a very good one and deserves to be seen in its original form. We‘ve tried to make the look of the production young and eye-catching and have been trying to appeal to as youthful an audience as possible and have generally had a very good response. Obviously it‘s not everybody‘s cup of tea. but we weren‘t aiming for the traditional opera-goers.’

Pan Optic‘s targeting of teenagers for their audience may have something to do with the fact that The Marriage ofFigaro is a set text for several exam boards this year. Not able to resist the temptation to pull in some more punters, Pan Optic are running a series of workshops in Waterstone‘s book shops where members of the public are invited to meet the cast (who appear in full period costume) and discuss the play.

‘The workshops,‘ says Hegorty, ‘have shocked a few people. When you walk pasta book shop and see what you think is a dummy in the window in 18th-century costume suddenly start moving it can be a bit disconcerting.‘ (Philip pan)

The Marriage ofFigaro will be at The Mitchell Theatre, Glasgow on 19 and ZOJanuary. Workshops at Waterstones, Glasgow.


j jThe right fit

, g This preview business is a dangerous ' game. The idea - simple enough at the

time —was that I’d have a quick chat alter work with the Royal Lyceum’s

guestdesigner, Kenny Miller.lthink

the mistake was meeting in the theatre’s Stalls Bar. Joined by Head ol Design, Gregory Smith, we’d got through four pints and my tape had long since linished, belore we hit the street. Needless to say, all the best talk got done later in the evening, but I couldn’t swear it had anything to do with Feydeau’s Fitting For Ladies which is just opening at the theatre.

It's illuminating to take a look at a play lrom the designer’s point at view. Gregory Smith admits that he can’t enjoy a good production it it’s on a bad set, and he and Kenny Miller spend much time discussing their ditlerent approaches to the use ol colour, texture and the creation ol atmosphere. ‘The best thing to drag people into the play,’ says Miller, ‘is theirlirst impression oi it. The mood and atmosphere will either set them on the right track for the rest at the evening or put them oll completely.’

‘You’re not designing the play,’ agrees Smith, ‘you're designing the production. It‘s as it you’re designing the air the actors are going to breathe.‘

Miller’s design lor Georges Feydeau's French larce has consequently got to breathe the air at comedy. ‘I think as soon as people get


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Fitting For Ladies by Kenny Miller.


colourtul.‘ (MarkFisher).

their lirst look at the stage, Miller, ‘they’ll know they’re in tor a good time. It is a very lunny play. A lot at the jokes and double entendres still seem new, I don’t think it’s old lashioned at all. We wanted a look ol tour dilterent periods-30$, 40s, Victorian and Edwardian - and it should look very French. it will look like a 40s Hollywood photographer’s version at the Victorian period. All the costumes are pink, black, red or orange quite


Fitting For Ladies is at the Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh, 12 Jan—3 Feb.

5 A new ; direction

Donna Orla'ol-IA'rtsConnection

i Amidst images ol gloom and economic l decay (so characteristically Scottish over the past ten years), one

consideration at least gives reason tor pride and luture optimism: national culture is on the up-and-up. This revival has been lelt throughout the arts world, but perhaps its presence has been most strongly tell in the theatre. A whole spectrum ol new companies has emerged to challenge decades ol establishment complacency.

Such expansion, however, is not without its problems. Theatre in Scotland is not simply ollering a greater number ol productions: new visual styles are emerging —styles which sit uncomlortany beside the

breaking the mould.


traditional teaching methods ol voice production and text. All at which serves to highlight the potential importance oi two recently established drama workshops, groups which claim to be

The lirst at these, ‘Perlormance Exchange’, is a Glasgow based company, which locuses its attention upon the turther needs at prolessional actors. ‘We operate on a very lnlormal basis,‘ explains administrator Floyd Kennedy. ‘The group ollers specialist seminars on the various elements at perlormance, and we invite anybody who is suitably equipped to come along. The idea, as our name might suggest, is to provide a common lund of experience, which members can call upon as and when the occasion

The second group is based in Edinburgh, and covers a more basic level ol perlormance technique. Donna Orlando, co-lounder ol the Arts Connection, explains: ‘We set the group up in orderto till the gap between lull-time drama school and casual involvement in amateur theatre. Students enrol tor a ten week course, which introduces them to a wide range ol acting techniques lrom a variety ol teachers. My husband and l hail lrom New York, so the American emphasis on characterisation is given more prominence than might be the case in British colleges.’ (Philip Kingsley)

See Blacktriars and Tramway, Glasgow, and Theatre Arts Centre, Edinburgh, in Listings tor details at

I Cumbemauld Prize The Cumbernauld Theatre has won the £14.0(Xlihird prize in LWT‘s Plays On Stage competition for Stephen Greenhorn‘s The Tokyo Trip. The annual competition puts money into productions on the basis of proposals submitted by professional theatre companies. The play will be performed from 22 Feb in Cumbernauld and will also tour throughout Scotland. The play won the prize despite tough competition from the likes of Check By Jowl.The English Stage Company and Shared Experience Theatre.

I Edinburgh lntemational Festival This year‘s Festival runs 12 Aug—2 Sept and has two themes: Eastern Europe and the Pacific. Theatre highlights already announced include the return ofboth Ninagwa‘s company from Japan and last year‘s hit The Demons by Barcelona‘s Els Comedients. The ubiquitous Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson kick offa world tour with productions of King Lear and Midsummer Night's Dream. and Rudolf Nureyev appears with the Cleveland Ballet. The full programme will be published in the spring and is obtainable by sending your name and address with a first class stamp to Edinburgh Festival '90. 21 Market Street. Edinburgh Elll lBW.


I The Best oi Plays and Players 1959-1983 (Methucn ll/B £19.50) Bringing the selection closer up to date. thisis the second volume of articles taken from Plays and Players (the first volume is also available in paperback). Rocky Horror. Mike Leigh. the Edinburgh Traverse. Ian McKellen. Glenda Jackson and. inevitably. Cats are just a few ofthe many subjects covered by writers including Edward Bond. Cordelia Oliver and Max Stafford-Clark. An excellent way to sharpen up your knowledge of contemporary British theatre.

46 The List 12 25 January 1990