mam- MISTERO BUFFO
Seen at the King’s Theatre, Glasgow. Now on tour.
Dario Fo's Mistero Bullo is not a play in the conventional sense. His revival of the Medieval comic miracle plays has more in common with an illustrated lecture or a stand-up comedy act. And true to Fo’s intentions, translatorJoe Farrell, director Morag Fullerton, and perlormer Robbie Coltrane, make Mistero Buiio theirown.
Taking just a selection of the several short morality plays on offer, the production develops and adapts Fo's own introductions to include reierences and wisecracks about Scottish Tory MPs, the Wee Frees and Coltrane’s own Hogmanay gait. This is because Fo’s show is not merely a historical exercise. His aim was to put Medieval popular cultural expression in a modern context.
Robbie Coltrane is the ideal candidate to make this work. His appeal is as broad as his bright red jumpsuit and he has the audience on his side long belore he tries out these unusually theatrical one-man Medieval sketches and his avowedly anti-authoritarian jokes. To play several characters at the same time is no casual skill and Coltrane, despite suitering irom a cold, jumps from role to role — some stock, others more subtle —with ease. I suspect a leaner and litter Coltrane could give a more tinelytuned perlormance— and I’d like to see Craig Ferguson in the same role — but despite his weightiness, he gives an agile perlomance.
What limitations there are, lie in the nature oi the piece itsell. It is not a play that naturally builds towards a climax, ior example. And while the morality plays are interesting, inventiver brought to lite and alien iunny, they are rarely hilarious. Consequently, the show‘s comedy relies heavily on the contemporary additions which would work better it developed into a full-blown stand~up routine.
But these are minor quibbles. This is a very lunny perlormance oi a rarely-staged play and one which comlortably overcomes the lormidable problems ot a diiiicult script.
mm— THE WINTER’S TALE
Netherbow, Edinburgh until Sat 24 Feb. The Winter’s Tale has, in recent times, been out oi lavour, otten criticised lor its lengthy and incongruous mixture at tragedy and romance, clumsily divided by the intrusion at time. A brave choice for a young company considering its staging problems, iniamous lorthe written direction, ‘exit, pursued by a bear.
However, the Canopy Theatre Company succeed in setting alive lrequently stunning dialogue, and manage to breathe lite into some of the issues which make the play worth performing. They engage the
audience's attention throughout, iniusing each scene with energy and demonstrating a perceptive understanding oi Shakespeare’s language. Instead oi presenting a straight romance with traditional themes oi destruction iollowed by
3 reconciliation and rebirth, the
company pose uncomlortable questions about the nature ol human relations and sexuality.
But the production goes astray through a tendency to overstate. Although careiul to illustrate Leontes' jealousy from the start by emphasising the poisoned nature oi his thoughts, we would have more empathy with him it the tone was varied, instead ol sticking at lever pitch. Similarly, although Hermione is given a human dimension, she loses essential poise by breaking into shrill exclamations. Some oi the overstating succeeds: presenting Perdita and Florizel in almost constant embrace poignantly symbolises the carelree sensuality oi young love.
The production is bare and unlussy. Courageous direction, when it works, adds a dramatic dimension to the themes, as when Polixenes and Hermione cavort in a dream-like state so that we are not sure whether the vision is simply a iigmeni oi Leontes' imagination. Some oi it doesn’twork, appearing out at place and unnecessary in an otherwise straightlorward context.
Although not all the ideas come oil, this is an imaginative, it over-zealous production, with patchy, though committed acting. (Jo Roe)
WHEN SMOKING IS BAD FOR YOU/THE ERPINGHAM CAMP
Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh. Until Sat 24 Feb.
I'm in two minds about whether including Chekhov’s When Smoking Is Bad For You in this double bill was a mistake in itsell. or it it is only Paula MacGee’s direction that has sent it awry. Certainly it sits uncomlortany within The Erpingham Camp, Joe Orton's holiday camp larce. Clearly, when Chekhov called it ‘A Vaudeville', he had something other than Orton’s seaside postcard British bulloonery in mind. Not only is it not funny, in this production actor Victor Greene appears supremely uncomiortable as the put-upon husband, single-handedly running his wile’s school. Presenting the monologue as a Music Hall act is no
, doubt the reason lorthis.
| Surprisingly, The Erpingham Camp
, could have made a lull evening's entertainmentwithout the Chekhovian I insert. As it is, Jellrey Daunton's
I padded-out production struggles
j admirably to regain lost pace, but remains patchy.
Originally written tor television, The Erpingham Camp nonetheless makes a remarkably smooth transition onto the stage. Playing up the showbiz side oi the play, Daunton translorms Musselburgh's polite theatre-goers
into a down-market variety and bingo audience. You’re lett uncertain about whether to laugh at or join in with the cleverly tacky routines oi Greig Alexander and Alicia Devine as eager young red coats. Either way, they turn the Brunton into a convincing entertainment hall and Daunton’s direction draws the whole audience Into the iarce.
Strong periorrnances all round, but Paul Morrow in particular does much justice to Orton’s notoriously ditiicult one-liners. The play is olten very lunny and even 25 years on, much oi Orton’s writing maintains its radical edge. ii the legacy oi television means that some characters are insuliiclently
: developed and that the plot structure is
not as tight as it could be, the Brunton does a good job at covering up. It’s just a shame that they had to imbalance the evening with an inappropriate companion play. (Mark Fisher)
REVIEW JUNO AND THE PAYCOCK
Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh. Until 3 March.
This is the sort at play that the Royal Lyceum is good at. A well-crafted early 20th-century tragedy with poweriul speeches and dramatic twists ol plot. Follow the instructions and you can’t go wrong.
Sean O'Casey ls master oi the play and director Ian Wooldridge and his actors are wisely servant to him. Juno and the Paycock has lasting appeal because it is much more than a tract against civil war- although there lies much oi its tragedy. it is a play rich in social detail and convincing character study. It is about Ireland, religion, poverty, survival, community, morality, love, humour—equal measures in a rich dramatic tabric.
Rachel George’s set achieves the rare teat oi giving the Royal Lyceum stage a sense at the cramped conditions oi a Dublin tenement ilat, without overly limiting the movements at the large cast. But her restraint in Act Ills typical oi Ian Wooldridge’s direction at the whole play. This is the scene in which the Boyle tamily displays the beneiits at its windlall legacy by splashing out in style. There is a tremendous and still contemporary joke at the expense oi the nouveau rlche itching to get out here, but the Lyceum plays it down - and misses the point— by tastelully modifying the set instead oi giving it a gaudy re-llt.
A small iault perhaps, except that this production has too little at the wry comedy necessary to give the tragedy its extra blte. Denis Quilllgan makes a worthy etlort in what is the play’s tunniest character, Joxer Daly, but his interpretation is too willully eccentric to teed into the comic momentum oi the play. Generally the acting is sutilciently convincing and the story sutilciently absorbing to make this work as an enjoyany sad play, but the direction is altogethertoo polite, the overall mood to earnest, tor the lull lorce oi the tragedy to work. (Mark Fisher)
arrives in town on a national tour of Shakespeare‘s comedy of mistaken identity. See Preview.
I THIRD EYE CENTRE 350 Sauchiehall Street. 332 7521. Cafe open 1 lam—2.30pm Tue—Fri and during evening performances. [Accessz PPA. L. Facilities: WC. W8, E. G. R. B. Help: AA].
New Moves See Dance Listings for details of DV8‘s Dance residency and the many exciting performances in the New Moves
I TRAMWAY THEATRE Albert Drive. 423 9527. Tickets from Ticket Centre 041 227 5511 [Help: AA]
Voice Class Thurs 22 Feb. Thurs 1 & Thurs 8 March. 2—5pm. £4 (£3 members). Every Thursday afternoon until 5 April. Elspeth Macnaughton will be leading this Performance Exchange class for professional performers. She‘ll be giving special attention to voice in text and you are asked to bring along a short piece of learned prose or poetry. There will also be the chance to pursue special project work with Elspeth Macnaughton or James Ross. Call 227 5557 for details. See also Blackfriars above.
Jock Tamson’s Balms Until Sat 24 Feb. 7.30pm. £7 (£3.50). Playwright Liz Lochhead and director Gerry Mulgrew explore the boundaries of cliche and archetype in Communicado‘s devised celebration of the Scottish nation. Taking place at ‘the last Burns's Supper’, the show brings together 24 actors and musicians. Ignore the councillors. Don‘t miss this production for anything.
Freaks Sat 3, Sun 4. Mon 5, Wed 7,Thurs 8. Fri 9 March. 8pm. £6.50(£3.50). Uncompromising theatrical reworking of Tod Browning‘s 1932 movie set in acircus where one of the ‘freaks‘ falls fora beautiful trapeze artist. Highly-rated when it played the Dublin Festival last year. See Preview.
I TROH THEATRE 63 Trongate, 552 4267. Box Office Tue-Sat Noon—8pm: Sun 12.30—11pm. Closed Mondays. [Accessz R, ST. Facilities: WS. E, G. R. 8. Help: AA]. “
Tally's Blood Until Sun 25 Feb. 7.30pm. £5 (£2.50). See Touring.
Bros (Berwick to Bannockbum) Tue 27 Feb—Sun 11 March (Not 5 March). Georgi; Byatt’s play based on the ascent of Robert the Bruce makes use of Scots and English, poetry and prose. A new production ofa highly-rated play by Theatre PKF. In an effort to emphasise the contemporary relevance ofthe 1296 Berwick massacre. a discussion follows each performance. Recommended. See Preview.
I ADAM HOUSE THEATRE Chambers Street.
Le Bugle Con Le Gambe Lunghe Until Fri 23 Feb. The University of Edinburgh's Italian Society presents this Neopolitan comic drama by Eduardo De Filippo. An examination of social hypocrisy.
I ASSEMBLY ROOMS George Street.
Feet Elm Wed 28 Feb—Sat 10 March. See Dance Listings and Feature.
I BEDLAM THEATRE Forrest Road, 225 9893. [Access: St. Facilities: WS, G. 8. Help: AA]
Electra Until Sat 24 Feb. 7.30pm. £3 (£2.50/£2). Sophocles‘ version ofevents after the death of Orestes which lead upto Electra‘s bloody revenge. Edinburgh University Theatre Company present the 2400 year-old tragedy.
Iranian Nights Until Sat 24 Feb. 1.30pm. £1 .50(£1). Howard Brenton and Tariq Ali‘s controversial play was written in swift response to the Salman Rushdie affair. Edinburgh University Theatre Company are among the first to perform It. Antigone Wed 28 Feb-Sat 3 March. 1.30pm. £1 .50 (£1). Fraternal honour versus loyalty to the state is the central
50 The List 23 February - 8 March 1990