challenging theatre is that it has always refused to opt for easy options.
‘We dance around like the devil in holy water.‘ explains co-director Jos Houben. his Belgian accent turning everything he says into poetry. ‘We constantly try to break what we‘ve done before. That doesn't mean we just jump to any other area for the hell of it. We want to question what we‘ve done and how we should progress. but with the same concern to be extremely direct. clear and physical rather than just visual. We want to communicate in a direct and physical way without just showing offskills.‘
The company‘s latest play Terra Amara. an up-datcd eommedia dell'arte script from early 17th-century Padua. has a ten-week rehearsal period; unusually long by British standards. but all too short for Complicite"s ambitions. The production has a long life ahead of it. having been booked in for performances until at least December. including a summer run in France and Italy. and l-louben regards the first night at the Tron as the beginning of a second period of rehearsal. ‘Ten weeks is a long time if you've done all your research and exploratory work before.‘ he says.
‘but we have to begin at Week One and get somewhere ten weeks later. That's incredibly short ifyou want to
be brave. if you want to really explore and to ask yourself some radical questions. We‘re not just making show after show using the same old recipes.‘
The Complicité machine is a tightly-organised production unit that allows for as much artistic creativity as possible within the constraints ofa touring outfit. While one show is on the road or at a very early stage of formulation. another can be given particular attention by the whole company. Terra Amara is the brain-child of Marcello Magni. a founder-member ofComplicite’. whose idea was to explore the great skills ofmmmedia dell'arle but in a contemporary context. ‘We wanted to find this world again.‘ explains Houben. ‘without putting on medieval hats and pretending we are servants and masters that nobody recognises because they no longer exrst.
The Italian tradition ofstock characters improvising their way through three-act skeleton plots containing the roots of modern pantomime has been a frequent point of reference for 20th-century theatre. But Complicité aim to restore the political edge ofthe original mmmedia troupes which is frequently lacking in modern revivals. ‘It is normally done and perceived to be pretty and funny - as a bit ofcircus.‘ say Houben. ‘yet
originally people played stories that involved prostitution, murder, manslaughter. exploitation. selling yourselfoff as a soldier to go to war. . . Those were all incredibly unpleasant things and they concerned people of the time. We have to find the concerns for now. The performers need to be a bit frightening. rather than kind. cute and nicely dressed.’
Taking emotions and stretching them to extremes. the production tells a love story in which the lure of wealth in a foreign land is contrasted with true but poverty-stricken romance back home. It paints an uncompromising picture of a world where no-one is charitable for the sake ofit. ‘Ifyou were to tell a story like this in daily life in a pub.‘ says Houben. ‘you would be very depressed. Yet this story is taken to extremes and the way we play it will make the audience laugh again and again. Every piece ofcomedy reveals the humanity ofthe person. it does not reveal the actor’s wish to entertain at any cost. Tragedy and comedy are completely together all the time. It is so tragic that you have to laugh. When somebody dies. he or she dies again and again. worse and worse. in all sorts ofcontortions and dances. It is the euphoria ofthe body while you play dying.‘
Terra Amara. Tron Theatre. 23 May—3 June, 10.30pm.
GEORGIA ON MY MIND
One of Mayfest's ‘themes‘ this year is Georgia - Stalin‘s rather than Jimmy Carter's. Film. in the form of Abuladze's Repentance and Rekhviashvili's The Step. and singing from The Journalists. will be prsented alongside performances from two Georgian theatre companies: the Rustaveli Young Company and the Marjanishvili S.A.T.
Unsurprisingly. issues of national identity seem central to both groups. From Stalin's rejection and suppression of his own homeland. to the recent demonstrations in the Georgian capital Tbilisi. long-standing problems are still alive. The Rustaveli Young Company has only been in existence for four years— an offshoot ofthe long-established main Rustaveli company —- and after touring extensively in Eastern Europe. this will be its first visit to the West.
The Marjanishvili is a much more established affair. Founded by and named-after the leading light of Georgian theatre in 1933. the company has retained the status almost ofa national theatre company. A large number of specifically Georgian plays are contained in the repetoire
Bill Burdett-Coutts. Mayfest‘s director. is particularly keen to emphasise the special nature ofGeorgian theatre. ‘The range ofthe young actors in the Rustaveli is astonishing.‘ he says. ‘We really are seeing the stars ofthe future here.‘ As one ofthe few people in Glasgow who has direct experience of Georgia. he should know what he is talking about. ‘Singing is something that everybody is brought up to do. so there‘s a natural exuberance about the Georgian way of life — a sort of natural theatricality. That‘s why we're having the Georgian meal to close Mayfest. to show people what Georgia is really like.' (Andrew l’ulverl
The .S'tepmulher. 35 ~30 May. Rustaveli Y'l‘( .4 Provincial Story 3.?— 24 May. ()IheI/o 35-2031“.
The List 18—31 lit-$199013