JOCK TAMSON’S BAIRNS
Tramway, Glasgow. Until 24 Feb.
Communicado‘s Jock Tamson's Bairns, there was a recurring unanswered question. The ideas and images described by Gerry Mulgrew and Liz Lochhead were all very interesting, but what exactly was the piece about? I suspect that lor some members at the lirst night audience
what makes Jock Tamson's Bairns so
special, so vital, so inspiring, is that it is not ‘about' anything worth summing up in a lew sentences. Jock Tamson's
Bairns just is.
In this creation — not drama, not dance, not lolk, not painting- Communicado stretches itsell ever beyond the expectations ol its audience. Mulgrew and his company
leaden and inadequate —cannot equal.
You can talk olvisual daring, dramatic surprises or a lightness ol touch, in much the same way as Mulgrew and Lochhead themselves struggle to explain their non-literary venture. But tar as long as you cling to such a bookish means of interpretation, your experience at the whole—subjective, emotional and abstract—will be proloundly inadequate.
For me, Jock Tamson’s Bairns is an intense, captivating and mesmeric experience. In its sadness, in its humour, in its song, in its movement, this bold and ambitious perlormance is a perlect expression at lile‘s vigorous contradictions. Reclaiming the traditions, cliches and oddball humanity at a nation, Jock Tamson‘s Bairns lollows a pattern used by other cultural groups whose theatre operates outwith the mainstream. Quoted in New Theatre Quarterly last year, the Andalusian theatre director, Salvador Tavora, spoke of his early 70s' productions that aimed to restore the strength of Gypsy-Andalusian culture. ‘We created a theatre lrom the cries ol Andalusian songs and lrom the kicks at its dances; without speaking a word,
I we discovered a theatre that went way I beyond words. . . We used the same ; lights that we used to illuminate our
In the several major media previews ol
neighbourhoods, the same songs that we had known since we were kids, the same dances with which we had been lamiliar ever since we were born... we wanted to restore our lost dignity.’ Communicado does the same. From
' tartan shortbread tins to rusting
shopping trollies, a shared culture is upturned and examined, not so much
as an easy condemnation ol the twee
this question remained unresolved. But 3
and the tacky, but rather as a statement at identity. Whatever your attitude to this cultural memorabilia-and lor many people it will be ambivalent— it is part at a common experience that can
’ only lind its true expression in the j multi-texturedlragments olan ensemble perlormance.
There's no need to waste words praising the excellence ol the acting, music, singing, design and dance. Go
and see this show. It’s better than
; anyone can tell you. (Mark Fisher)
paint in a language which mere words- 5
Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh.
ll you buy an ice-cream or a poke ol chips in Hamilton, the chances are you‘re buying lrom a Di Mambro. Though lar lrom autobiographical, Ann Marie Di Mambro’s new play is a dynastic tale ol the lives and loves of Scotland's Italian immigrants lrom the mid-1930s to the mid-19503. It embraces the waryears, when persecution llared alter Italy entered the conllict, and adult males were imprisoned by the authorities. And it centres on the long-running romance between Scots-Irish Hughie Devlin and Scots-Italian Lucia lanelli.
Like most lictional lovers, Hughie and Lucia are thwarted by lamin disapproval, and there is even a balcony scene, which looks like a sly
. allusion to Shakespeare, but becomes
: a source at bathetic comedy. This is
just one example of Di Mambro's wit, which, as in herearlierwork, isthe driving torce behind this allectionately conceived tragi-comedy. Her dialogue
is llawless and sure-looted, and carves 5 out believable and solid characters.
Ian Brown’s neat, economical
production keeps things moving at a brisk pace, and the acting is at a very
, high standard, with Stewart Preston
and Blythe Dull outstanding. What the
play lacks is real guts. The Tally‘s Blood ol the title, though it reters to raspberry sauce Ior ice-cream cones, suggests a violence or a passion which doesn’t materialise.
Some people die in tragic circumstances and an abortion is explicitly described, but though these deaths inlorm the play’s action, they are not part of it. The problem, I think,
lies in Di Mambro’s undisguised love lor her characters. They may behave sellishly or loolishly, but none at them is malicious, and most make good in the end. In short, there is nothing to give the heartstrings a real wrench, and a love story needs that.
Tally’s Blood is the work at a highly competent and very enjoyable writer, but it Di Mambro is to progress beyond that, she must tackle darker subject matter. (Andrew Burnet)
Citizens Theatre, Glasgow. Until 3 March.
Luigi Pirandello had a mid 20th-century mind operating in a 19th-centurytradition. His ideas and theatrical conceits still strike us as radical, but his packaging is sadly out-moded. Philip Prowse recognises this and, in his production of Enrico Four at the Citizens, goes some way towards jumping the time-gap between 1922 and the present.
Populating the stage with characters who could have had bit parts in Belly at an Architect, Prowse up-dates the play to modern-day Italy. Maintaining the upper-class milieu olthe original, the setting is the shadowy interior ol some grand Italian mansion where the anachronistic sound at pounding House
music locates us in time. Sharp suits, l extravagant Latin gestures, digital watches and tape-recorders bring us
closerto a recognisable world.
This is no idle stab at populism. The
I theme at Pirandello’s play is the nature ' ot pretence, dressing up, play acting and madness. Enrico Four is a man who I thinks he is an 11th-century Holy j Roman Emperor, and his cronies are , hired to maintain his illusion. A
modern audience has to cope not only with the layers at liction in the play, but A also the additional leap in time and ; theatrical tradition. I'm not convinced though, that , Prowse's setting makes it very much j easierlorus. Robert David MacDonald's lively translation drops in ‘ snatches ot Italian at emotive moments and the cast delivers the lines with an
. Alan Spence'slanguage. ltis,
appropriately bouncing rhythm, but this is just something else to cope with In an already complex plot. The use ol a tape-recorderto justify the long, dense passages ol exposition is a neat, but insulllcient theatrical trick where more work needs to be done on clarifying the text. Too olten we leel as battled as Colin Wells’ Bertoldo, the new initiate in the play’s game at make-believe.
Greg Hicks is a splendidly erratic Enrico— romping about the stage in his own little dream world, distorting his words as it to keep amused with his tired old script-within-a-script— and Prowse's design for Enrico’s chapel captures pertectly the compellingly claustrophobic atmosphere at an Italian place of worship. But these are the only compensations in an otherwise inpenetrable production. The Citizens makes the leap to the present well enough, but it doesn't manage the leap back to the 11th century. (Mark Fisher)
Seen at Cumbernauld Theatre. On Tour.
Dne ol the more encouraging aspects ol Scottish theatre is that many companies are willing to acknowledge children as a legitimate target audience. TAG are one such company, and theiryears ol involvementon the schools circuit has lent them a largely justilied reputation as a reliable and imaginative outlit. It was therelore something at a surprise to discover that their latest venture was to be Sailmaker: Alan Spence‘s remembrance ol childhood Govan.
The play looks back to the 1950s, and in doing so revives the lacts of tile lor those who were themselves children at the time. This in itsell should not be a problem: there is no reason why the universal themes ol unemployment, bereavement and growing up should necessarily be lixed in a present day setting. Nor, lorthat matter, should the illustrations ol the period be any more prohibitive. Religious bigotry and the Boy’s Brigade may not command so much attention as they did thirty years ago, but it would be reasonable to suppose that most teenagers had at least heard ol them.
The real dilliculty lies in the play‘s style. Sailmaker is based on a very lucid and sell-explanatory script. Beyond the text itsell, there is very little that a director need do in order to present the play on stage. This is line for an adult audience. A play which is deliberately aimed at children ought to include some sort ol visual content as well. TAG’s production lacked that latter ingredient, and it showed. Most ol the kids lost interest at an early stage, and the play ended in a state at near-bedlam.
This is an excellent production tor those who need no introduction to the themes on otter, and lor those who simply like to appreciate the beauty of
however, an adult play. Whether or not it is suitable lor children has yet to be
seen. (Philip Kingsley)
The List 9 -- 22 February 199051