Tron Theatre, Glasgow. Until 9 May. Initially, the Tron Theatre Company’s adaptation ol Crow is not at all what you’d expect. The explicit, gothic nihilism oi Ted Hughes’ poem sequence is replaced with an absurdist vaudeville reminiscent ol Beckett, and enhanced by the black and red surroundings oi the Tron’s tiny new Changing House theatre with its miniature proscenium arch. When Douglas Henshall’s Crow iirst appears in white tie and tails, his dumbshow antics are agreeably iunny. An atmosphere at menace is established by Craig Armstrong's brooding score. But it’s only when Crow’s double Peter Mullan appears lrom behind a Magritte mirror that the production’s resoundineg successiul strategy begins to emerge.
Director Michael Boyd and his company have moulded some twenty oi Hughes‘ poems into a semi-logical sequence, in which Mullan plays a sort oi anti-conscience to Henshall's novice Crow. His birth is lollowed by a period at great sensitivity (the acting is vulnerable, liberated and daring throughout), turned to bitterness through harsh experience and the knowledge that ‘Creation had tailed again.‘ Crow is initiated to black-heartedness through the poem ‘Examination at the Womb-door’, alter which he delights in vileness. Here Boyd and company execute something at a coup, lor never does Crow seem more human than during ‘In Laughter’, which has him unable to contain his mirth over human suitering. Thus the audience is alienated yet at the same time identities itseli.
Crow‘s downlall comes in the shape oi Julia Dow’s llawlessly innocent singer, whose rendition ol ‘Crow's Undersong' draws him irresistibly. Haunted, he hunts her with a bouquet ol carnations, but contact is thwarted by his black, remote heart. The show closes on a vision at desolate iutllity barely imaginable at its beginning.
lmbued with dark, insidious humour, slickly and inventively staged, Crow is both entertaining and unsettling. lts triumph derives lrom the sublimation at a literary poetry into a theatrical one, so that its Moscow revival with Russian actors laterthis year should be as accessible and compelling as the original. (Andrew Burnet)
Cltizens‘ Theatre, Glasgow. Until Sat 21 Apr. Plays come and go, lall out at lashion, disappear. It is healthy lor an inquisitive, lively theatre to root through the catalogue ol neglected works to check it such neglect is justllied. And having made such an excavation, it is not dillicult to see why Robert David MacDonald was attracted to the little known Antony.
A lamous name—Alexandre Dumas— has instant, it limited, marketing appeal, but moreover, his play has an
emotional energy, linguistic grace and .
galloping plot that move it out oi its speciiic social and historical setting. It has the universal appeal at romantic love and a pertinent critique oi social snobbery, even it no bucklers get swashed. But having recognised the strengths oi the play— a passionate tale at a married woman’s allair with a classless orphan — MacDonald has had to lace up to its weaknesses.
it is less that the play concerns a social order as irrelevant as ever and now simply dated, it is more that its lorm— linguistically explicit and structurally melodramatic — sits laughably and uncomlortably on the modern stage. McDonald’s solution is to present the play as a slightly camp Saturday alternoon 4Ds' movie, complete with billows ol Elgaresque music whenever anything vaguely signilicant happens. Terry Bartlett’s monumental set, all cool blue marble with grand perspective, enhances the black and white cinematic eilect.
As solutions go, it is probably as good as any, but despite crisply delivered speeches (RP, natch) and patent Citizens’ elegance, it can’t cover up the play’s datedness. The production lalls awkwardly between parody and celebration and leaves the audience similarly conlused. ll, as one character claims, ‘doubt is always the hero ol the tale', it is also the downlall ol this production. (Mark Fisher)
IF ELVIS LIVED IN MEIKLE EARNDCK
Seen at The Cumbernauld Theatre. On Tour.
Peter Nardini has dabbled in a good iew artistic genres in his time and has
not shown anything more than great reluctance to stick to any one at them. The beneiits and drawbacks at such an eclectic approach to lile are lully illustrated in his play.
Nardini plays to his own strengths and shows no lear ol completely ignoring the normal conventions ol dramatic theatre. Music is seamlessly woven into the script and, donning his other hat ol musical director, he has chosen some ol Elvis’s less lurid vinyl moments to conjure up a vivid image ol why the lat slob at later years was so idolised in his youth. The author demands much at his actors and William Elliot in the role at Elvis impersonator, Makey, gives a stunning yet subtle performance. The reason why he and the other members oi the cast give such a lreshness to the production lies in the lact that they never let the play degenerate into a musical. There is none ol the temporary suspension ol character which occurs in the West End when the singing starts. In this play it is Makey who sings Elvis, not William Elliot.
In addition to the dell use at music, Nardini displays an earlordialogue which he may have lost it he’d been singularly involved in theatre lor the last ten years. Once again the word that springs to mind is ’lreshness’, albeit oi a decidedly earthy nature.
The problem with the play is a lack ol subtlety when the lun stops and an attempt is made to move the audience ratherthan invigorate them. The dramatic scenes don‘t quite come all and there is a lack ol coherence in the piece as a whole. One can imagine the author penning each scene with ease and then struggling lor months to link them all together. Unlortunately, he doesn't quite succeed. Butthis does little to detract lrom a highly entertaining evening and, it he sticks at it, Nardini could soon be writing llawlessly. (Philip Parr)
EEEHEDIIIIIIIIIIII PLAZA SUITE
Seen at The Village Theatre, East Kilbride. On tour laterthis year. Dl all the alternatives to a Brecht production which has lloundered because ol an inadequate translation, a Neil Simon comedy must be the most implausible. Iturned up in East Kilbride expecting The Caucasian Chalk Circle and was greeted by Plaza Suite. The tact that The Contact Theatre Company managed to pull all this transition at all is a credit to them. Unlortunately, though, the company were unable to overcome the dilliculties which the perlormance ol Simon’s masterwork presents to your average small Scottish company. Initially, there are the accents. We‘ve all squirmed as actors lrom the heart at Glasgow have attempted Bronx and ended up sounding like an Australian Brazilian, so it was with some sense of relielthat, in true Sean Connery lashion, the actors made no attempt to disguise their Scottishness. However,
the down point oi this is that with Plaza Suite being so essentially American, the audience cannot muster any beliei that the actors are who they actually claim to be. Perhaps Contact’s most promising actor is Jell Paton but it is mightily diilicult to accept that he is a lamous Hollywood producer with his accent.
Then, there is the play itsell. For all its wit, it is becoming exceptionally dated with phrases such as ‘cool it’ abounding. This is GDs‘ theatre and maybe it should now be laid to rest with some dignity still intact. Finally, I guess you could count on one hand those who haven’t seen the lilm ol this play. Not only does this destroy any impact ol the more memorable lines it also sets one hell ol a standard lor any theatre company to match. Unlortunater Contact, lor all ol their commendable enthusiasm, have no Walter Matthau amongst their number. (Philip Parr)
THE END OF AN ORDINARY MAN
Seen at Theatre Workshop, run ended. It looked promising: Arts Council lunding, Lecoq trained actors, prolessional dramaturge and a pleasing set. Unlortunately, such relined ingredients added up to little more than a dellated soulllé.
The play is about a supposedly ordinary man who linds himsell at the end at a short tether. Emotionally crippled, the lad vents his murderous lrustration on his lriend’s eleven-year-old son. Apart lrom a iew episodes —the housing benelit scenario, a beet about unemployment and the MotherTeresa and Malcolm Muggeridge story—the play tailed to draw in its audience. Intending to provoke us to embellish bare, one-sided scenes, the result was conlused. It was never clearwhat was happening in the boat scene, but more importantly it never bore any recognisable relevance to the rest at the play.
Similarly, episodes which were presumably loaded with symbolic signilicance tailed to stir much response. Gutting a lish on stage is neither disconcertingly gruesome nor particularly interesting to watch, yet it was obviously meant to carry some meaning.
I lound mysell waiting lorthe murder to happen, yet was completely unstirred when it linally did. This is because there was no handle on the main character and his girllriend. What was she doing with him, where does the rough and ready, yet philosophical lriend lit in and where is this meant to be anyway? Surely not an authentic lishing community.
Despite the explosive subject matter, this play was sadly undramatic. It was aiming to build up tensions which never became taut, lalling into the mire ol hall-baked physical theatre. (Jo Hoe)
50 The List 20 April — 3 May 1990