VDRAMA ’ '
0n the Brus
Theatre PKF are a guerrilla group. They band together for only short periods. and conduct a hit and run campaign agin the enemy. Like any guerrilla group worth their assault. they are hard to track down. Fortunately they didn't regard me as a foe and dispensed with the blindfold when I was guided to their current lair in Edinburgh. There, they are busy preparing for the next encounter with the enemy.
In bellicose vein they outlined their forthcoming strike at the Tron Theatre: The Bras. The tale follows the course of Robert the Bruce’s life, which in modern parlance was a game of two halves, defeat and despair overcome by a stirring victory. The inspiration and the title for the play comes. they explained, from the epic poem penned in 1375 by John Barbour. A mere sixty years after ‘Brus‘s‘ great victory at Bannockburn. According to the contemporary author, George Byatt, ‘lt shows that repression breeds resentment. Edward I thought he’d crushed the Scottish peOple with the sacking of Berwick, when in fact it was the genesis ofthe resistance.‘ There is therefore an obvious metaphor in it for a modern Scottish audience as well as a wider meaning: a worldwide struggle.
The play fuses Scots and English into a blank verse form that has been structured to sound as much like common speech as possible. Whilst at Bannockburn the Scots were few in numbers, it does seem extremely ambitious to attempt to re-create the battles of the period in the Tron with such a small group. So how do they plan to stage it? ‘Brilliantly.’ They chorused. The cast of seven will re-create history dressed in contemporary garb and brandishing a pair of sticks each.
Originally, Byatt had hoped to perform a version of The Bras at the Edinburgh Festival, on the Castle Esplanade. ‘Perhaps with a few regiments participating,‘ he added, and it's hard to know whether he’s serious or not. He sent off an outline of the play to the Festival Office. ‘Which was of course in London, but they didn‘t want to know. Now, the fact that the whole thing was anti-war may have had something to do with it.’ (Ross Parsons)
Bras, (Berwick to Bannockburn) Tron Theatre, Glasgow on 27 Feb—I] March, 7.30pm. [5 (£2.50).
[1113mm- Reel life
While Wildcat rests on the success of The Celtic Story and TAG gets ever more ambitious about its plans for City — both big plays about a big place — it seems at first sight a little presumptuous for The Brunton Theatre to respond with a play about Musselburgh. I put it to playwright Donald Campbell that the East Lothian town is perhaps not the most naturally dramatic of places. ‘My play isn’t about Musselburgh in the same sense,’ he corrects me. ‘It isn’t about a particular town. It is set in Musselburgh and it uses some things that are particularly important to it like the Honest Lad and the Honest Lass and the Fisherman’s Walk.’
Quiet coastal town it may be, but Musselburgh is unusually rich in local tradition. Each year at the Honest Toun Festival, the citizens gather to elect a couple in their late teens to become the Honest Lad and Lass whose duties include a round of civic speeches and
‘The Riding ofthe Marches’ — a reinstatement of the town boundaries on horseback. On another occasion the local fishermen gather for a grand celebration (a hinge to you and me) which proceeds a march into town -the Fisherman’s Walk— and later a grand ball.
But Campbell hasn’t allowed himself to get bound up with the particular detail, howeverfascinaling, of the town. ‘lf it was a love story about the Honest Lass and the Honest Lad, set in Musselburgh and it used all the imagery of the Honest Toun Festival,’ he says, ‘it would be first of all pointless and also rather patronising. I really did go for a universality. I'm not writing a documentary. The play is mainly about continuity. How things
- recur generation after generation and ' the reasons why these things take
To this end, The Fisher Boy and The Honest Lass, is a love story which follows the lives of eight friends born during the warthrough the coffee bar Fifties, the swinging Sixties, the Vietnam war, the three-day week and so on up until about ten years ago. The whole piece tries to capture the movement of the Musselburgh Reel, but looks beyond to the world outside. ‘These things are not central to the play,’ says Campbell, ‘but they inform the characters. It’s basically a play about my generation.‘ (Mark Fisher) The Fisher Boy and the Honest Lass, The Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh, 28 Feb—17 March.
The Cholmondeley dance group (pronounced as above) are probably best known to Scottish audiences for their successful run at last year’s Mayfest, where their performance of ‘Flag’, an allegorical piece depicting the physical nature of patriotism, served to reinforce the notion of dance as a springboard for gesture and symbolism. This year they’re back, with a piece entitled ‘Flesh and Blood’: a more introspective work, which deals with the idea of female spirituality and self-denial.
‘A lot of the movements have been taken from the lives of female saints,’ explains choreographer Lea Anderson, ‘where you’ve got an obsession with death and the value of physical suffering. For example, we found one characterwho, having been delivered from the arms of her heathen suitor, promised to spend the rest of her life on
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her knees. It‘s that sort of thing that we’re looking at: the idea that pain is a way of focusing your eyes on higher things. Masochism, ifyou like.’
So can we expect the same sort of style as last year? ‘Well, because of the inward-looking nature of the theme, the movements are more subdued. A lot of attention is given to facial expression and hand movement -the subconcious movements that people make when they're drawn into personal and inward-looking emotions. It's not a specific narrative and, although a story does develop, it’s really a collage of images, revolving around a series of related themes.‘
The piece lasts for approximately one hour, and comes as a part of the Traverse Theatre’s ‘Feet First' festival of dance. (Philip Kingsley)
Feet First, Assembly Rooms, George Street, Fri 2, Sat 3 March, 7.30pm.
7 CABARET '
UP FOR GRABS
()nc ofthe most striking features of ‘l9‘)()-so-far'. has been the overnight appearance ofa city-centre cabaret scene. The Shelteropened its doors to the Comedy Shop in December. Blackfriars pub consolidated its relationship with the Funny Farm in January. other bars like Bonhams and ()‘l lcnry‘s have been hosting the occasional comic. and now a new venue. The Cavern. has announced its intention to follow suit.
The venture comes under the title of ‘Cavcrn Comics‘, and is being orchestrated by the combined talents of Up For Grabs. a jugglingtrio whose reputation rests on their prize-winning act at last years Streetbiz festival.
Cavern Comics describes itselfas a new live comedy club. and hangs its appeal on the promise ofgoing beyond the usual stand-up routines. Improvisation from Theatre Ncpotism. live music and. ofcourse, a regular juggling act. combine to provide an evening which. at first glance. should come nearer than most to the original cabaret spirit. The Cavern is licensed until midnight. and about an hour of the evening will be filled by the proferred livc offerings. (Philip Kingsley).
Cavern Comics. Clyde Cavern, Clyde Place. Every second Saturday at 9pm. [I admission.
I Arts A-Z SAC Director. Timothy Mason has edited a new Directory of Common wealth A r15 containing information on the cultural activites of almost 60 countries. It includes contacts for government and other funding agencies. details of principal arts organisations. information on major arts events and centres, and details ofcultural exchanges. It is available for £3 plus postage from the Scottish Arts Council. 12 Manor Place.
4—6 The List 23 February— 8 March 1990