V NEW PLAY
In the past two decades a small revolution has taken place in Canadian theatre. Before theatres such as Tarragon. committed to staging new plays. were established. the most up-to-date work a Canadian audience could see would invariably come from the States or Great Britain. But today when Toronto alone has 120 theatre companies and when the country's newly developing commercial sector is increasingly likely to mount new work. the situation is considerably more healthy.
But Catherine Smalley. executive director ofthe Professional Association ofCanadian Theatres. is well aware oftheatre‘s vulnerability. ’We are terribly nervous about what‘s happening to the British Arts Council and in the USA to the National Endowment Fund.‘ she says. ‘They‘re little flares ofwhat could be happening here. The spirit is strong. but it’s fragile.‘
Just as over here. theatre in (‘anada depends on the enthusiasm and sacrifice of people for whom there is no certainty of financial gain. As Tarragon's Urjo Kareda explains. his theatre provides a progressive programme of workshops and support for writers. but is mostly unable to give any
. money until a full-scale production is
‘We have a long term Playwrights' Unit.‘ he explains. ‘We take seven writers and work with them over the course of a year as a collective. The advantage for them is that it breaks down their isolation. It gives them a peer group and it puts them in the context of the Tarragon so they can
see their own plays in a kind of continuum.‘
‘We had a successful play ’ this year called Amigo’s Blue Guitar i by Joan Mcleod.‘ says Kareda. ‘It i ran for six weeks at Tarragon and by the time it closed. six other theatres I had already made commitments to producing it. That‘s my idea ofwhat we‘re here for.‘ 3 There is a strong Canadian showing , in this year's Edinburgh Festival f Fringe.
Amigo’s Blue Guitar periorrned by l
THEATRE 43 CABARET 47 DANCE 48
‘I can’t rememberthe last time somebody did an interview with a pig,’ grunts actor Robert McIntosh, with a chuckle. At the end of a week spent rehearsing the part of a pig, he assures me that hammlng it up is not, after all, the order of the day. ‘I don’t think that’s a line to pursue,’ he says. ‘On one level, the hams are the two legs, but we’ve not worked out what the hams or the strategy mean in the context of the play.’
The show in preparation is Raymond Cousse’s Pig Play: A Strategy For Two Hams, the most-performed French play of the past fifteen years, which will have its British premiere at the Traverse Theatre this month. Translated by Alan Pollock, (former publicity officer at the Traverse, now working at the Royal Exchange in Manchester), Pig Play is a solo performance set in the sly of a prime porker preparing himself torthe chop. My sneak preview of James Merlfield’s set reveals a marvelloust inventive and colourful abode torthe pig, which embraces all occupants of the studio theatre, and features abundant reminders of his late.
‘lt’s not about facing death,‘ snorts McIntosh. ‘To the pig that’s an inevitability which he will be prepared to take, because he believes in it to fulfil his life as a pig. But there is a subconscious level where he examines and questions his own lifestyle, and
becomes confused in his answers. i know that sounds confusing, but that's as clear as the script is at times: he’s written a kaleidoscope of thought. I found it intriguing that the logic the man offers spoke to me and yet I don‘t know why I iistened.’
It’s possible to detect in Cousse’s
work the influence of his late friend and
mentor Samuel Beckett, but McIntosh is undaunted by the play’s spiritual troughs. ‘Overail, I’d say it should be an uplifting experience. liound it amusing but also poignant, but I don’t think he’s as bleak as Uncle Samuel. it takes a lot of digging into the script and into your mind to find something from it, but I thinkthere’s something in in that’s quite universal.’
Ultimately, the challenge of performing a ninety-minute script alone was not one at which McIntosh could turn up his snout. ’lt’s very concentrated,’ he says. ‘Especlally at this stage, when l’m grasping and groping and failing. You run into your own brick wall. It sits like a huge pig on your shoulder every day. I’m just a bit stunned that it’s going on.’ With which
he shuffles, and returns upstairs to his ' pen. (Andrew Burnet)
‘ Pig Play: A Strategy For Two Hams opens at the Traverse Theatre,
~ Edinburgh on Thurs 26, and runs until the end of the Edinburgh Festival (not
$ t i. 3-1
During last year’s Fringe, I saw a production of ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ by The Red Rose Theatre Company. All the male parts were played by women and the female parts by men - apart from at the end when the writhing mass of llesn in the centre of the stage could not be separated into its constituent parts. Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum is now producing a more conventional version, but I asked Hilary Maclean (playing the delicate Gwendolen) if the ambiguous sexuality contained in the script still shines through.
‘There’s something distinctly suspect about the relationship between Jack and Algie,’ says Maclean. ‘There are lots of scenes which show them bickering. They almost sound like some kind of domestic couple. The language is so full and everything’s very precise that you don’t need any theatrical tricks to highlight the
I Maclean has been involved primarily in modern plays such as Elizabeth Gordon Quinn and The Tokyo Trip. i
I wondered if the adoption of Victbrian morals and values was difficult.
‘As Maura Quinn l was playing a character who was much freer. You just did something because you felt like it. In this, the structure of the society was so restricting. The comedy comes out of that-you know these people are after each other, they’re wantin’ it but they just can’t do anything about it.’
As Maclean points out, throughout the play Wilde continually surpasses his last line’s bite and wit. But doesn’t this lead to a round of each character upstaging the preceding one?
‘Hopefully, it’s much more complementing than upstaging each
other,’ she says, ‘and we’re all working towards the same end-the presentation of the play. That’s indicated in the way that this production has been designed. At the very back of the set there’s a picture of Wilde to emphasise his presence. When he was writing it, it was really .the end of everything for him. He was forgetting about all of his own iresponslbillties and worries and he 'was putting them all onto the characters in the play.’ (Philip Parr) ,The Importance of Being Earnest, ‘Boyal Lyceum, Edinburgh, 13July-4 aAugust.
Walk n the Wilde side
I SAC Director Caroline Hall has been awarded the post of Scottish Arts (‘ouncil Trainee Director at the Tron Theatre starting in August. while Oxygen llouse‘sJohn Mitchell will join the Traverse as SAC Trainee Associate Director at the same time.
I Young People’s Theatre Teachers, parents and young people are invited to make their thoughts known about the existing provision of theatre for young people to the Drama (‘ommittcc ofth Scottish Arts (‘ouncil which has set up a working party to produce a report by summer 1991. Write to Charles Bell. Drama ()fficer. SAC. 12 Manor Place. Edinburgh EH3 7DD.
I Photo Opportunity Photographers with a particular interest in dance are invited to apply for a £4000 Scottish Arts Council commission to work with Scottish dance companies. Contact Patricia Eckersley. Dance and Mime ()fficer. SAC. 12 Manor Place. Edinburgh EH3 7DD.
I Muiti-cultural Job YoussefAl-Khatib has started a one-year part~time post at the Scottish Arts Council to help develop and promote cultural diversity across all art forms and to help foster links between the SAC and groups and individuals within minority communities in Scotland.
I Party Guests Wanted Edinburgh‘s Bedlam Theatre is to hold an anniversary party in August for Old Bedlamites. lfyou reckon this is you. then get in touch with Rachael Bailey on 031 225 9873.
V IN PRINT
I Sondheim & Co Nick llern Books£l 1.95. The composer associated with H 'es! Side Story. ( I'ypsy and Sunday In The Park With (ieorge is back in the limelight as the composer of the score for [)le Tracy (See Feature). This updated second edition by (‘raig Zadan is an exhaustive behind- the-scenes biography of Stephen Sondheim‘s career in musicals. Relying a little too heavily on wholesale quotation where more authorial intrusion would have been welcome. this is nonetheless a thoroughly researched and fully illustrated account. And the publishers have had the foresight to make sure the new edition has a good couple of pages devoted to Madonna and the new movie. The hype starts here.
42 The [Ki-isji‘c July 1990