THE SHADOW OF AGUNMAN
Seen at King's Theatre. Hun BOOBO.
Ignore The List letters page. Sean O'Casey‘s first play is a witty. tenement tragedy. Indeed. it is surprising just how funny Ben Barnes‘ production is. given his stated aim to give full worth to the serious implications ofthe piece. Garrett Keogh and Johnny Murphy play mismatched ﬂat-mates Davorcn and Shields like a comedy double-act: Shields the knowing fall-guy. Davoren the elevated poet. The two are as cowardly and as inert as each other. only their justifications differ.
The Abbey Theatre — which first staged the play in 1923 — gives a cool. brisk and measured performance. Movement on stage is at all times restrained and simple with no fussy distractions. Characters parade in and out ofTim Reed‘s set— a basic brown decaying one-room interior- bringing with them the outside world of war-torn Dublin.
The play sustains its momentum. suddenly drawing back as tragedy overtakes comedy and superficial conceit is exposed by grim reality. But even in brighter moments. Barnes skilfully uses long moments of silence - always a danger on stage - to give something ofthe atmosphere of the tenement and. invariably. to top it with a well-timed joke. Arguably reaching too speedy a conclusion for the weight of the tragic punch to strike home. this is nonetheless a lively. conﬁdent and intelligent interpretation ofa politically powerful play. (Mark Fisher)
Citizens' Theatre, until Sat 2June.
Glenda Jackson plays her lines like a jazz musician. Words to her are a free-form score around which to improvise. She‘ll extend and tease a single syllable to squeeze it for all its poetic worth. Last time I saw her on stage— Philip Prowse's production of Rascine's Phedra at the Aldwych. London. in 1985 — [began to find her stylised technique repetitive and empty. but in Mother Courage she succeeds effortlessly to give life to arguably the greatest and
most difficult role ofthe modern stage.
In this latest Prowse production she plays Mother Courage with fearsome confidence. brash charm and unrestrained imagination. She is both the matriarch and the self-willed fighter. switching in an instant from melodic poetry to earthy Birkenhead patois; expounding philosophy. chastising her kids. For her performance alone — of a standard rarely seen in Scotland — this production begs to be
But Jackson is onlythe crowning glory ofa fine production. Clocking in at an hour shorter than the last Royal Lyceum version. it remains a long stretch in the theatre. But not only does Prowse keep fresh the play's rich humour and
characterisation. he also
tells a surprisingly compelling and humane story.
The play may in essence be a series of choices between economic gain and emotional
interwoven is a subtle tale of an individual helplessly engrossed in the capitalist machine. This is Prowse‘s starting point and it takes him to the heart ofthe drama. Against a backdrop of relentless military manoeuvre — an image that does start to wear thin —Jackson battles her way through the play discarding her equally proficient fellow actors one by one. Her procession through the 30 Years‘ War leaves her tiredcr. older and unrepentant. and the audience invigorated by a challenging and energetic production. (Mark Fisher)
NOT NOT WHILE THE GIHO
Seen at the UWC. Govan. See Mayfest Diarytorvenue details.
Mayfest produces the oddest ironies. A theatre group by the name of ‘Dependancy Culture' is touring around unemployed workers‘ centres with this one-hour. one-man soliloquy about life on the dole.
Hamish Smith. the laconic anti-hero ofthe piece. has echoes of Shelley (the TV dole-ite rather than the poet) in his depressive approach to life and occasional flights of fantasy. The solitary actor. Kenneth Lindsay. plays a well-written role with the necessary breadth of emotion. Smith lurches from desperation to hope and invention in a script which gives a voyeuristic view of life on the dole. The direction further contributes to this through the keyhole atmosphere. with Lindsay found already ensconced at his table as the audience enters. and cut offin mid-sentence at the end:
plunged into darkness as
his last l(lp is eaten by the electricity meter.
This abrupt finale has the effect ofdestroying any belief that Smith could escape his predicament. Minutes before. he had given the impression of a man with nothing to lose. but with immense potential. At the end he has reassumed his previous persona of hopeless layabout. This. then. is a fable which offers sporadic escapism. but ultimately only serves to remind Thatcher’s victims of the desperate nature oftheir plight. lf
there‘s any point in this. I can‘t think ofit. (Philip Parr)
Seen at Third Eye Centre. Returns to Arches Theatre in June.
Clanjamfric takesJock Tarnson 's Bairns. wraps it in a plastic bag and takes it to the seaside. Snapshots. 8 devised visual performance piece for three actors. is a collage of memory. anecdote and cliché. which tries to pin
- down those elusive
qualities of nationhood. identity and belonging.
A memory relived in a photograph slowly loses its meaning. A ballad or dance divorced from its tradition becomes hackneyed and stale. Yet somewhere close to these cultural signposts lies a shared identity. a common experience. a nation's heart.
Clanjamfrie’s trick is to blend autobiographical childhood tales with family history. cleverly switching the focus from the amusineg personal to broader issues like migration and the passage of time. The company plays with real memory. gets wet with real water and dirty with real sand and so touches real nerves.
lmaginatively choreographed and wittily staged on an installation-like set, Snapshots is a highly entertaining exploration of the Scottish psyche. Like Jock Tamson ’s Bairns. it is more concerned with raising questions than with providing answers. but they are questions that need to be asked although there are no simple answers. (Mark Fisher)
IEIIIIIIIIII GOVAN STORIES
Seen at The Arches. See Mayfest Diary for venue details.
Does this ring a bell? ‘Stories based in Glasgow but universal in appeal.‘ Too often. theatre billed in this way not only fails to appeal universally. but also leaves all but the director's mum wondering. ‘what‘s the point of it all'P‘There's been a proliferation of gripping tales ofgoing down to the post office to collect your dole. seeing the ‘Gers on a Saturday and nostalgically remembering a day when the iron smelter. rather than the crack. ruined the teenagers‘ health. Hey yeah. social realism. but unfortunately so often just plain dull.
Goran Stories covers the same old ground. but what is as unexpected as a Celtic League title isthat it does so with such consummate style and originality that one is left wondering why all Glasgow dramas can't be made this way. The ten authors grasp the audience's attention within the first few seconds and then show a Rottweilerian tenacity in refusing to let it escape. Once the audience is hooked. each story exhibits a poetry which would make them a pleasure to hear in any accent. They may be set in Govan. but what makes this invigorating theatre is that it could (with a minimum of revisions) be exported anywhere in the world without losing any of its impact.
The sentimentality which usually mars introspective theatre is almost completely absent. replaced by genuine humour and tragedy. As for the actors. they single-handedly restore one's faith in Scotland‘s drama education system. Universally wonderful theatre. (Philip Parr)
THE COMPLETE HISTORY OF HOCK’N’ROLL
Seen at The Drumchapel (:66. See Mayfest Diarylor venue details.
‘Wait a minute. am I in the wrong hall?‘. This is meant to be a theatre show. but there's nothing on the stage save for a selection ofmusical instruments. and the one concession to ‘set' is a banner declaring ‘Cambuslang Miners‘ Welfare Rock‘n’Roll Night‘. I settle back
expecting some sort of avante-garde exploration of Rock‘n'Roll with occasional recourse to actors attempting. in Bad News fashion. to muscle their way through Presley. Lewis and Mitchell standards.
What the audience gets. in fact. is over two hours of polished. original songs from a band oftalented musicians. Dialogue and action are rare occurrences but. when called to be. the musicians show themselves just as adept as actors. The problem is that this is 95 percent pure rock concert. but with none of the spark and excitement ofa Jerry Lee or Little Richard gig. The audience don't know any of the songs. nor have they paid to come and see their heroes. So one is left with a concert bereft of its two most vital ingredients— adoration of the performers and the option for the crowd to sing along. Compounding these problems Dave Anderson and David McNiven's songs tend to become samey and the promised dramatic exploration ofthe question ‘What is culture'?‘ never materialises.
In 1979 an Evening Express critic asked ofthis show‘s forerunner. ‘lt‘s entertainment but is it art?‘. Whetherthe 1990 ‘remix' fulfills either of these theatrical prerequisites must now be open to question. (Philip Parr)
At The Tron Theatre, Glasgow until 10June. Tony Roper built up an almost unrivalled position
18The List 18—31 May 1990