Seen at Shaw Theatre, London. At the Tron Theatre, Glasgow Tue 20—Sun 25 March. Trestle’s gastronomic delight combines Vecchi's comic opera and the company's highly inventive comic mask style. A quintet oi unmasked singing waiters provides a musical accompaniment to a tale at love and misunderstandings played out amidst elephantine cutlery on a red checkered table cloth. Along with generous servings ol melon and ravioli come, among others, a gangly, lovelorn yuppie permanently attached to his cordless phone, his bookish, erstwile paramour, a cheeky delivery boy and a medallion man well past his sell-by date. All lamiliartypes, but distinguished by the bold expressiveness of the masks and the pertormers’ remarkable physicality.
Mime, physical theatre, call it what you will, is renownedly unaccessible and still engenders a good deal at mistrust and misconceptions but here Trestle has created a show with an undeniably broad-based audience appeal. Rich, engaging and above all ingeniously tunny. However, lor long standing Trestle lollowers, in comparison to their previous show, Ties That Bind, the tare could appear ; slightly lean cuisine, but in its own right good, healthy sustenance tor a cold, blustery winter’s evening. (Sue Emmas)
WHEN THE BOUGH BREAKS
Seen at The Gilded Balloon, Edinburgh. At The Tron Theatre, Glasgow, 15 and 16 Mar.
Here isa play which llies in the lace ol convention. Little eltort is made to entertain the audience, and there are lew concessions to the sentimental schmaltz which is so often resorted to by American drama dealing with dillicult subjects. Maybe that is why it has received wide acclaim state-side, and why it also transters so eltectively to ourshores.
Susan and Doug, two supremely organised yuppies, who have planned their parenthood with a similar attention to detail as they’ve used tor their careers, suddenly have parental bliss threatened by a possible miscarriage. Butthe dilemmas begin when they are told that the baby has a chance at survival, although with a strong possibility at developing brain damage. The ultra-modern couple suddenly have to cope with the age-old emotions oi guilt and responsibility as they wrestle with the choice of letting their child die or giving it a chance ol survival and inevitably risking the continuity oltheirweIl-ordered existence.
The multi-dimensional, and therelore completely believable, characters, coupled with an entirely credible scenario, make this engrossing, thought-provoking theatre. The developing reactions ot the two leads (played with a sensitive touch by Gregg Ward and Donna Orlando) convey the altruistic best and the callous worst of human nature. A challenging, serious and ultimately uplitting play, lorwhich it is well worth enduring the inevitable emotional drain. (Philip Parr)
Tramway Theatre. Until 10 March It takes some digesting. Fourteen actors walk out from the shadows. Most are physically detormed, some to the point where you wonder how they survived at all. It is dillicult to describe the teelings that this kind at controntation provokes — the ellect is at once humiliating and contusing: a page where the words lack meaning.
Freaks, however, does have
meaning. It tells the story at a society at circus lreaks, banded together tor protection against the exploitation ot circus masters. Into this hidden world comes Cleopatra, a beautilul trapeze artist, whose conceit and cruelty threaten to destroy the company tor ever. As events untold, it emerges that what is at stake is the very meaning at human worth. Putsimply, Freaks is a lairy tale, which otters the moral truth that beauty is only skin deep.
It will be interesting to see how people react to this production. Freaks lay on the censor's desk lor over lorty years, and no doubt there will be renewed charges ol voyeurism. There will also, I hope, be some sort ol detence. The cast at Freaks are not mentally delicient, and the invitation to look is open and lully sell-conscious. This is a challenge to pass through the voyeuristic stage: it is the audience, not the cast, who are depicted as the weakllngs ol society.
Over and above that, this is an important contribution to the development at Scottish theatre. In terms at style, Freaks draws upon a much more sophisticated tradition than
has ever existed here: carnival, circus
and theatre, all rolled into one.
Freaks is such a challenging piece that the quality at the work seems almost irrelevant. I should point out, however, that the Compagnie Genevieve de Kermabon are at the highest calibre, and that it anyone is competent to perform this play, they are. You should not miss it. (Philip Kingsley).
Seen at Laverndale Hospital. On Tour. ‘Private Wars’ is an excellent production, perhaps one at the best to emerge Irom the ranks at community theatre in a long time. Set in the day room at a psychiatric hospital, it describes the relationships between three patients: Silvio, a psychopath; Norman, a paranoid recluse and Robert, whose nervous compulsions have constantly to be suppressed by a cocktail ot tranquilisers and radio-mending. This alone might give the proceedings the appearance at a ‘sate bet’, but the play raises itsell lurther by avoiding the kind at dewy-eyed sentiment that an outsider might have tried to inject. Instead, what we get is a sharp and pacy black comedy, which revels in the absurdities ot the situation.
Perhaps the most impressive teature oi this production was the quality of the acting. None at the cast has been on stage belore, but they pertorm in a way that would put many prolessional
companies to shame. This seems even more impressive when you consider that the appeal of ‘Private Wars', as a piece ot drama, rests entirely on the shoulders of the characters themselves. There are no ‘events‘ with which to saleguard the interest value ot the piece: the only liteline altered to the actors is a meticulously timed series of revelations concerning the backgrounds ot the characters themselves.
Dangerous stull indeed, but itworks. The result is a lunny and realistic portrayal ol institutional lile. (Philip Kingsley)
THE BHUS (BERWICKTO BANNOCKBURN)
The Tron Theatre. Until Sun 11 Mar. It’s sad to report that one of the most entertaining aspects of this production is the personable, witty and oil-hand banter belore each act by playwright and co-ordinator George Byatt. In contrast, his play, an epic retelling oi the lite at Robert the Bruce with a socialist message at its core, sulters Irom an overly earnest, stoney-laced interpretation that asks too much of yourconcentration.
On paper, Theatre PKF's production has a lot going lor it. Drawing on Brechtian and Noh Theatre techniques, it is a stark, stripped down production that leaves the back wall at the Tron bare and the actors in their everyday clothes. In battle scenes, the pain comes belore the blow, so as to distance us lrom the lalse glory ol violence and some speeches are introduced in the third person so our involvement is objective, not subjective. It‘s rare to see undiluted Brechtian devices in practice and the company displays much interesting ensemble stage cratt.
But the whole evening is one-paced, with surprisingly little texture given the company’s theatrical approach. Byatt's poetry is often tight, occasionally trite, but cumbersome — verbs at the end of a sentence put, dillicult to understand it make, ilyou know what I mean. And the use 0' the various techniques often work against a sense of place, character and indeed the story— important to sustain our dramatic interest in a sprawling epic ol this nature.
The Brus is a worthy and ambitious re-examination ol Scottish history in a modern-day context, but it sulters lor its earnestness. (Mark Fisher)
The List 9— 32 March 19‘)“ 49