The grand old man of the BBC, Mike Leigh, is bringing his latest stage production to Edinburgh as part of the official festival. Greek Tragedy it is called, and it has received rave reviews (‘adroitly directed and compellingly performed' —The Australian; ‘brilliantly observed' — Sunday Telegraph) in Australia, where it was developed in conjunction with Sydney’s Belvoir Street Theatre. Leigh is no stranger to praise, nor to criticism
_ ! . l Magic I l
Dashiell Hammett, the inventor ol both a new literary genre-the hard-boiled detective novel - and of a terse, elliptical styleto write itin, isthe subject of a new play I Can't Get Started ' by Declan Hughes. Hammett was an immensely talented author, whose writing-life was cut short in the mid-30s by a block which was to persist until his death in 1961. Hughes' play examines this latter period, a period shared with playwright Lillian Hellmann in an extraordinarily resilient love affair.
Hughes describes his play: ‘lt‘s an intertwining at two stories- one is a Hammettesque thriller, the other is a theme from the relationship between Hammett and Hellmann. At the start of the play a detective, who had appeared r originally in note form called Daniel Webster, returns and visits Hammett. as itwere -and this is the dream play element— and insists that he get his story. But Hammett is more concerned to try and write a story that will make sense of either his relationship or the complications of his life . . . And so it cuts between the two in an attempt to see which is the more valuable or which makes more sense.‘
The play centres on this attempt by Hammett to find a new, workable form in which to explore the complexities of
F E S'TI V A L _
either— his work over the years has always managed to conluse the reviewers and, on the principle of divide and rule, he has generally managed to come out on top.
Greek Tragedy is set among the sizeable Hellenic community in Australia, in the Sydney suburb of Marickville. It is on the Sydney Airport flight path, and in between the rumblings of the jumbo jets, that the customary Leigh action is played out: the politics of race and class, the insidious tension of awkward emotional relationships as contlicts flare and dissipate, matching the tenor of the characters’ lives. The central figures are Alex and Calliope, who are trapped in a fragile, loveless marriage that cannot live up to the mythical aspirations aroused by their very names.
Leigh's position has always been an ambiguous one—simultaneoust celebrated and belittled by the art establishment lor his ‘unorthodox' working methods. Since 1965 he has been producing, on stage and screen, work developed through actor improvisation, involving immensely detailed scrutiny of personal experience. Twenty-live years on, the time has come to find out whether the old spark is still there.
Greek Tragedy (Festival) Belvoir Street Theatre, Churchill Theatre 447 7597, 13—25 Aug, various times, £5.50—£8.
a romantic relationship: ‘I think the next place he had to go was into embracing a woman who was not the lemme tatale orthe good old girl or one of these types.‘ And Hughes himsell seesthe dangerol working with the more hackneyed elements of the genre: ‘I thinkthe main thing about it is that it is not pastiche, there is no question of pastiche. It's always seemed to me to be a serious form, and the pastiche elements have always irritated me. There‘s obviously humour in the play, but there’s no attempt to get value from that whole pantomimic or pastiche element.“
Rough Magic, and Hughes himsell, established their reputation, with an all-too-briel run of Donal O'Kelly's Bat The Father, Rabbit The Son at last year's Maytest: luckily that production is returning to the Assembly Rooms for the Fringe. (Matthew Barrell)
I Can't Get Started (Fringe) Rough Magic Theatre Company, Pleasance (Venue 33) 556 6550.10 Aug-1 Sept, 3.45pm, £5 (£4).
Bat The Father Rabbit The Son (Fringe) Rough Magic Theatre Company, Assembly Rooms (Venue 3) 226 2428, lOAug—l Sept, 2pm, £5.50 (£4.50).
Last year‘s Fringe saw the appearance ofMark Rozovski's Teatr ()u Nikitski Vorosk in Poor
Liza. which proved to be an outsanding performance by this Moscow-based company. TAM — The Comradeship Of Actors And Musicians — was formed a year ago by fifteen members of Rozovski‘s company. headed by Artistic Director Alexei Paperny and designer Peter Pasternak (yes. he‘s Boris' grandson! ). Although their work has never been seen before outside the Soviet Union. ifthey stick. asthcy promise. to the acutely effective styles of melodrama and sentiment that Rozovsky has practically perfected. their show will be something to savour.
One major difference between the two is the content of the piece. Poor Liza was an adaptation of the 18th century novella by Nikolai Karamsin: TAM are taking the brave step of placing their performance in a modern setting. inspired by the street life of Moscow's 'le‘l’Sktil Boulevard. l’aperny's manifesto statement is that ‘vve try to depict tfie world and chaos w hich surrounds us, without any
i decided to reject the idea
of a subject. unless w e define the subject as the
country in w hich we live
and the air we breathe.‘
1 low ever. the same wild fusion of music and image will be there. cutting to
' the heart of contemporary
Rtisstanlile. (Andrew l’ulv er)
I Tverboul f firingc ) TAM. 'l'raverse(\'enue 15)32ti 2633.14Aug lScp. various times. U150 (8.51)).
THE BOYS NEXT DOOR
Just four guys living in the next flat. except these guys are different —-or are
' they? The tour
room-mates — Arnold. Lucien. Norman and Barry — work and live together and confront the usual array oflife's offerings. Nothing much different here. is there'.’ Well. yes. there is. because these lads are all mentally handicapped. Living together as an experiment in community selfsupport. they are real people living limited lives. although often more attuned to surroundings than their ‘healthy' counterparts, such as the burnt-out social worker.
Jack. who drops in from time-to-timc.
Like Kesey‘s ('uekon 's Nest. The Boys .Vex! Door. also destined to become a major film. brings the audience into lives they probably would not otherwise see. And what will you find'.’ According to director Rob Mulholland. the play ‘is a very funny. touching comic drama about relationships and people and the need to communicate.‘ The playwright. Tom (iriffin. avoids the trapfalls of condescensiori and sentimentality. Instead. you have to laugh with these characters. share their joys and sorrows. ‘But above all.‘ says Mulholland. ‘you'll never lump mentally handicapped people together again. The play converts stereotypes into what they really are >- individuals'
Mulholland found the play very taxing to direct but a great education and enjoyment for everyone inv olv ed. He collaborates here for the second time with Sandpiper Productions. having previously taken Being Home wit/t ( lulu/e to the \Vest find. American Festival Theatre. under Mulholland. has appeared in the Fringe since 1983 btit this will be their first show in the Assemva Rooms lt soundslike
great theatre. Don‘t miss it. (Kerry \apukl
I The Boys Next Door (Fringe) American Festival Theatre. Assembly Roorns(\'entie “3362428. ll:\ug l
'l'he l.l.sl lll lti
i SPRINGTIDE 0F NATIONS
()l the small trickle of
Polish theatre groups that have found their way to
' Scotland recently. a large proportion hav e come from l.ublin. This university town in the east of Poland boasts a l'istful
ofleadingavarit-gardc companies. and this year Scena (i come to the
; Demarco with their new
work Springtide ()f .Vulimrs.
'l'akirigas theirstartiiig point the turbulent events of INS. the performance deals with their relation with the French Revolution and to lilth and 3f lth centuries as a whole. ‘The performance .' explains director Kovvalezy'k. ‘is a kind of accusation against the modern history of the l'.tll'tipe.'itt civilisation in the name or people who experienced horrible misfortune but w ho. nevertheless. did not lose laitli in culture'.
'l.iberty. liquidity. l-raternity'.quotesa performer. ‘but why didn't they add ( ‘ulture'." It is a sensitive and unanswered question. The performance seeks to ofter some explanation for the historical and spiritual cornplexrties that are experienced in ‘that other “worse” part of luurope‘ As Kowalc/v k pointsout. it is for middle l-urope that Will century Socialist day dreams became a reality . and the Stalin legacy has lelt only a sense til defeat
All Secria os work is devised through improvisation and the collective poi llingoi the groups knowledge and
imagination l he result is a collection of images bound together by le\l
created by the eoiiipanv. .is well .is draw it lli‘lll (Mellie.lililtlsky.tlc‘ I loujuev ille and lsundei .i llie sv iithesis is lelt tothe audience (1 is.i liarailseri
- l Springtide Of Nations (Fringe) Seena b. Richard Dernarco (mum (Venue 2:) 55" ll7li7. 13 35 .-\ug(not Sun). opni. L5 ( L35“),