World premiere of Crow at the Tron. The Bruce Morton comedy roadshow. If Elvis Lived in Meikle Earnock at the Cumbernauld Theatre.
LISTINGS: THEATRE 45 CABARET 49 DANCE 50
V NEW PLAY
Poet Laureate meets Performance Art as a new studio theatre looks towards Moscow. Tron director Michael Boyd goes bird watching
with Mark Fisher.
‘Crow was so much blacker Than the moon‘s shadow He had stars.‘
Black is an adjective that crops up all over Ted Hughes‘ collection of poems From the Life and Songs of the Crow. The opening poem alone uses it no less than thirteen times. That‘s pretty black. So it‘s surprising that Michael Boyd‘s stage adaptation should use comedy to draw the audience into Crow‘s nightmare world.
‘There is lots of humour in Crow.‘ Boyd counters. ‘albeit bleak and fatalist. I think that, as with Beckett. the sheer ability of Crow to survive is the positive note. Of course. it‘s a very dark piece. It‘s sometimes a gothic nightmare. sometimes a surreal nightmare. The way into it is a comic journey. It doesn‘t remain hugely funny. but there are laughs in it. It‘s that sort of approach that I‘m keen to take. so that it doesn‘t become an undergraduate. sombre Grimsville. because I think Ted Hughes is much better than
Waiting For Godot and Acts Without Words are
just two of a range of reference points Boyd uses to describe the production. Beckett is first on a list that encompasses Genet. Gogol, Dostoevsky. Jaques Tati and the Marx Brothers. It‘s an eclectic mix of inﬂuences on which he has drawn to structure an otherwise linear series of poems. ‘lt‘s like going into free fall.‘ Boyd admits. ‘taking poetry and saying this is going to be theatre. We‘re not calling it a play. it‘s much more akin to performance art with the joy ofbrilliant language. It‘s more wordy than performance art. but it‘s full of non-sequiturs and arty things that don‘t occur in plays on the whole.‘
With much admiration for the pioneering work of Nikki Milican at the Third Eye Centre. Boyd recognises that mainstream theatre has plenty to learn from performance art. Contributing to Crow is Craig Armstrong, a musician whose credits include work with the Big Dish and the establishment of Scotland‘s only performance art group. cunnineg titled Performance. He‘s been
feeding in tapes to rehearsals in between bouts of session work in Trevor Horn‘s hi-tech studios, and the final production will feature live voice and percussion.
Boyd‘s desire to work with Armstrong has a second motive. Crow is not only the inaugural production of a tiny 50-seat theatre akin to Edinburgh‘s Traverse Studio and built into the Tron‘s old upstairs wardrobe, it is also Glasgow‘s response to last year‘s New Beginnings season. playing Moscow in the autumn. ‘I wanted to do something I hadn‘t seen in Russia.‘ Boyd explains. ‘Something that took on board the inﬂuences I felt recently in the work of Neil Bartlet, Annie Griffin and Man Act. In Russia they don‘t have that. The 60$ didn‘t occur there. There were no Happenings. They‘ve got an enormous amount to teach us, but obviously you want to go baring some kind ofgift.‘
The production uses only about a third of Hughes‘ poems, although there is no additional dialogue. The performers. Douglas Henshall and Peter Mullen. play out the most simple ofoutline stories, following a theme of an actor (Henshall) and his nightmare double (Mullen). ‘The joy of the piece.’ says Boyd, ‘is revealed as things are revealed in music. A ﬂash here, a ﬂash there, sometimes mutually contradictory. A poem is meant to be an entire universe of its own —- the beginning, middle and end of a show — and it‘s got to be only a subsection of what we‘re doing. It‘s difficult to force two contradictory poems say about how Crow sees himself in relation to God. The way we’ve chosen to cope with that is to celebrate it. I hope that the opening sequence will woo the audience into the delights of inconsistency. The first five minutes is the comic reduction of the actor to a quivering wreck.‘
No muskets ’ere
Looking at Dennis, the Majestics’ unsuphisticated roadie from Tutti Frutti, you’d scarcely credit him with a sound grasp of international theatre. Yet torthe past few years, Ron Donachie has been among the stalwarts of the Citizens’ Theatre Company, turning in such diverse roles as Shylock in The Merchant Df Venice, Willy Loman in an affecting Death Of A Salesman, and Sir Epicure Mammon, the most grotesque of all sinners in last year’s lurid Alchemist.
In the Citizens’ new show Antony, he is taking a back seat, with a humility uncommon in thespian circles. ‘l’m in
the fortunate position of being able to watch other people doing the large roles,’ he says, ‘and it really does make an awful nice change.’ The central characters- an adulterous couple whose affair challenges the social order- are played by Mark Lewis and Julia Blalock, torwhom Donachie expresses sincere-sounding admiration. ‘The relationships are very carefully worked out and I think very well acted,’ he says. ‘Mark and Julia have done a lot of work here before as lovers in this kind of pfece.’
Antony is translated by director Robert David MacDonald from a little-known text written in 1831 by Alexandre Dumas, much better known for his later novels The Counth Monte-Crista and The Three Musketeers. ‘The central character is from the same kind of area,’ says Donachie, ‘but what you see of him is
much more his private life than the swashbuckling side of it. it’s been described as the first tragedy in modern dress: the first drawing-room tragedy, ifyou like.’ In fact one lengthy speech - delivered by a character who seems to represent Dumas - discusses the notion of ‘eplc’ characters in a recognisable social situation. Donachie describes Antony as a ‘very intense and impressive’ play, and is quick to refute any suggestion of its obscurity. ‘There are no other theatres which take this kind of risk,’ he argues. ‘The Citizens' has always managed to find space for these pieces which are really only obscure in that nobody‘s done them for a long time. When you actually explore them and see them performed, most of them are perfectly straightforward. And if the piece is a success In its own terms, regardless of how unknown if is, it tends to be well
attended. These people have been here twenty years, and they've had a long time to create their audience.’ (Andrew Burnet) ' f ., ,. ,.
JOHN BYRNE ,7:
The List6— 19 April 199043