I TREASURE ISLAND Dear old Robert Louis Stevenson was born and brought up in Edinburgh. This new adaptation oi his most famous novel is directed by Festival Director Frank Dunlop and features lots of yo-ho-ho-ing and the odd bottle of rum. Good funfor all the family.
Assembly Hall, until 1 Sept (not Suns) 7.30pm. Also Sat and Wed 2.30pm. 2450—52850.
I A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM/ KING LEAR Renaissance are on the home leg of an exhausting round the world tour. and still pulling in the crowds with productions which put the actors to the test. A space-age, metallic set gives an unworldly feel to both plays.
King's Theatre 225 5756, until 18 Aug, varioustimes, 24-210.
I EDUUS A new and powerful interpretation of the perennial Shaffer classic which focuses on the rise of religious fundamentalism and involves the audience in a most original way. Overseas House (Venue 19) 2255105, until 1 Sept, various times and dates, £4 (£3).
I LYSISTRATA Sick and tired of tedious Greek wars. Lysistrata decides to unite the women in a sex strike for peace. Out To Play Theatre Company use naked body masks and play around with genderto hilarious effect, judging by their rave reviews and sell-out shows in London. Don’ttake Granny orthe kids. Greyfriars Kirk Rouse (Venue 28) 225 3626,until1 Sept (not Suns), 12.30pm. £3.50 (£3).
I THE HYPDCRDNDRIAC Look! No Props! The National Student Theatre Company almost turn mime artists in their very minimalistversion of Moliere's 17th century blockbuster.
Assembly Rooms (Venue 3) 226 2428. £5 (£4), Cluny Church Hall (Venue 54) 447 0015, £3.50 (£2.50), varioustimes and dates.
Orgasm is a difficult word. You have to be really right-on to feel comfortable saying it and I felt a blush come to my cheeks when I saw it in the title ofthe first play to be listed in the Fringe programme. But Californians don’t blush easily and Santa Cruz, California, is where the Kresge Theatre Project come from. They are on their way to Edinburgh with Adult Orgasm Escapes from the Zoo, a new translation of Dario F0 and Franca Rame’s play about women, sex and social politics.
The original Italian play, consisting of six monologues, was first translated as Female Parts and was performed at the Royal National Theatre. Co-director Trent Jones reckons the American translation to be better. ‘It has a lot more guts. It’s much more forthright and it really gets the ideas across.‘
He’s proud of the female domination of their company of twelve, only two of whom are men. There are five actresses and five monologues. The issues are taboo, sometimes hilariously and sometimes tragically so, as Jones
explains: ‘A lot of women‘s issues aren‘t addressed. People aren’t really willing to talk about things like being beaten. Or like the fact that a woman is not allowed to be a sexual being.‘
The play was adapted by Estelle Parsons, a successful actress on Broadway and, although Kresge did not have the benefit of her advice, in true Californian style they have been guided in their production by a theatrical guru — a ‘dramaturge‘. ‘I guess that expression‘s not in vogue yet in Britain’, laughs Trent Jones, ‘She’s studied Dario F0 for her PhD and she’s very familiar with the text
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Appropriately, ofthe Rame-Fo partnership, Rame took the lion‘s share of the writing which Trent describes as ‘more sarcastic than some of Dario Fo’s writing‘. But Fo’s comic touches, far from undermining Rame’s message, accentuate it and serve as an important part of the whole. (Miranda France)
I Adult Orgasm Escapes from the Zoo (Fringe) The Kresge Edinburgh Theatre Project, The Royal Scots Club, (Venue 57) 557 5091, 20 Aug—1 Sept, 6pm, £3.70 (£2.50).
There I was, ready to rave about how perfectly Jenny Tiramani’s set worked forA Midsummer Night's Dream - its modern metalic walls peck-marked with stars alluding to the heavenly canopy of Shakespeare‘s Globe Theatre - when I discovered that the company uses exactly the same set for King Lear. It’s a hit like realising that your favourite comedian is not a genius
of spontaneity, but necessarily repeats i the same act every night. But the
wonder of Tiramani's set is that, in conjunction with Jon Linstrum’s beautiful and precise lighting design, it does work for both shows.
The raked circular stage textured like red candle wax, has near its circumference a ditch which serves both as a handy hide-away for the sprites in a Midsummer Night’s Dream and as a gully forthe dramatic rain in King Lear's heath scene. Under Kenneth Branagh’s direction, the actors use this ‘wooden D’ to delineate performance areas on the stage. In the Dream they dance across the ditch; in Lear they drench their feet in it. Linstrum’s lighting picks out, enhances or subdues colours according to mood.
What characterises the two
productions is a clarity and swiftness of delivery by a cast which plays down the
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star-status of individual performers. Even Richard Briers playing the title role in King Lear with maturity, subtlety and broad expressive range, never dominates the performance at the expense of his fellow actors. The much-hyped Branagh plays second fiddle, blending into the ensemble in well played minor roles (Edgar and Peter Quince), although Emma Thompson after a fine comic performance in the Dream, risks imbalancing King Lear with an irritating, overly-mannered Fool.
The ensemble approach makes for two clear and accessible productions, but in the Dream in particular. the
absence of charisma prevents a lively and enjoyable interpretation from becoming an exhilarating one. To the company's credit, it manages to enliven Shakespeare’s typically long-winded ending to the Dream with a marvelous song-and-dance number, but this is not typical of an otherwise straightforward production. What is striking is how fresh both plays are after a staggering eight months of performances around the world. That Briers can play Bottom with true comic agility one night and Lear with passion and heart the next, is in itself a remarkable feat. 0f the two plays King Lear is the most
satisfying — which is as it should be - although I’d have liked to have seen more venom in Goneril and Regan and more strength of purpose in Cordelia. Opting for a two hour first half demands a lot of the audience and a rather distracting thunderstorm weakens the powerful pace established in the earlier part of the evening. It is nonetheless a faithful and perceptive interpretation which is typical of two fine, but not breathtaking, productions. (Mark Fisher) , A Midsummer Night's Dream ! (International Festival) Renaissance ! Theatre Company, King's Theatre, 225 55756, 18Aug, 7.30pm, 24—210.
King Lear (International Festival)
Renaissance Theatre Company, King’s Theatre, 225 5756,18 Aug, 2.30pm, 524—210.
The List 17 - 23 August 1990 41