Penicillin and Stephen Flannigan's Mrs Borrowthis.
Although the first act is over-wordy and tries to accomodate too many characters, the strong visual effects of the play carry it along. This covers up , some of the weaknesses in the performances and is a relief from the dogged naturalism in parts of the script. One of the most entertaining scenes is set inthe City’s council i chamber where the councillors are i BAILEGANGAI RE damningly portrayed as a mix between w tea party chimps and an all-boys club. ~ . "
‘Dampbusters’ inevitably poses 5 questions about the attitudes E underlying the Year of Culture — questions that are even more urgent coming from those on the periphery of
occasionally seem laboured, much as they are engaging and politically astute. But lorthe most part, the Brunton Company has the measure of the play, turning in several mature performances in a crisply presented,
5 absorbing production. A more than promising start to the season. (Mark
Freddie Boardley, Tom Watson and Joe Mullanev. from The Ship.
mm_ : house blocks concealing rooms behind
j metal shutters and trap doors. Over the ’3 heads of the actors, pylon-like
THE SHIP 1, symcmres suppon wind chimes and the City’s cultural activities. Not only is Harland and Wolff, Govan, Glasgow. ' sculpted debris, transforming the stage EaSlefha" Thﬁa"? GFPUD dwandlng Until 27 Oct. into an installation as much as a great“ Pamc'l’a‘m" '" 90"“93'
This is dead theatre in an expensive coffin. To be lair, much of the audience seem to enjoythe funeral, but, for me, The Ship is a big opportunity missed. Biddled with cliches about Glaswegian working-class life from washing lines to religious bigotry, this is one long, ill-defined, nostalgic wallow in all too lamiliarterritory.
Undoubtedly, there‘s an air of excitement when you enterthe Harland and Wolff warehouse and dry ice billows from beneath the rough-edged skeletal scaffolding that towers above. William Dudley’s set is, as you’d expect, an exhilarating feat of engineering, but its impressiveness finds no equal in the play itself. The script by Bill Bryden is the sort favoured by community theatre projects - an episodic melange drawn from real life experience and never demanding too much of any one performer. There’s nothing wrong with this in its place — it’s a formula that has worked recently for City and Theatre Workshop - but when the actors are, in Bryden’s words, ‘the Scottish team’, it is a shameful waste of talent.
Compounding the problem is John Tams’ appallingly bland Anglo-folk rock score that adds to the cosy respectability of a production that lacks theatrical danger. You only have to think of the vigour, energy and attempted critique of Test Department’s recent ‘The Second Coming’, orthe five-minute political sophistication of Elvis Costello’s ‘Shipbuilding', to realise how bereft of imagination The Ship is. All that metal and it’s barely even rattled.
Of course, the production could never live up to its hype and its titanic budget, but even with my expectations lowered, it is an irritating disappointment. The sad thing is that, like the Titanic, the wreck demands to be seen. (Mark Fisher)
Tron Theatre, Glasgow. Until Sun 30 Sept
‘Salvation’ looks great. Rae Smith litters her set with boxes, from the two television monitors flickering in opposite corners, to the large doll’s
As a response to Peter Arnott's script, it is a fine solution. Not only does it throw up its own natural shadows and corners ideal for Arnott’s murky world of gangland espionage, but also it creates several distinct stage areas which accommodate the many scenes in the play. The set, like Craig Armstrong’s excellent Eastern-influenced score, has a half-foreign, half-familiar quality which draws out the play’s uncertainties and fears.
The acting, unfortunately, is not so accomplished. Be it through pressure on rehearsal time or misdirection, the performances — particularly Kevin McMonagle’s detective Cloon, and Davy McKay’s cult initiate Salvador— are Ianguorous and uncharismatic. For a play that is built on the politics of suspicion, deception and violence, there is little real tension between the characters and too few sparks to justify their compulsive behavior. There are some nice touches like John Ramage's McTeer, whose butch transvestism is accepted as normal, but despite the play’s absorbing pace, we are never properly engaged in the characters‘ motivations.
Perhaps it is the script’s tendency towards explication - the spy/thriller genre is as much about reason as action - but many scenes are too static, and it is only towards the climax that Michael Boyd’s production conjures up its intended sense of edgy fear. I think it is a production thatwill mature—and even as it stands there is an awful lot going for it— but it needs to be more forthright and clearto make accessible a complex, maybe too complex, piece of writing. (Mark Fisher)
Played against Gerry Dovey’s simplebut effective set,‘Dampbusters’ traces the Currie family’s developing awareness of the consequences of putting up with the cold and damp in their house. Herein lies the didacticism you might expect of a campaigning show, but it is offset by the use of dream sequences, the comic double act of Aspergillus and
decision-making but, by its efforts, demanding also a recognition of the part that it plays in the real culture of the city. And the problems they face cannot be deferred. As one of the characters tells a council official, ‘I've got more culture growing in this house, than you’re likely to experience in your lifetime.’ (Tom Maguire)
Maartje Van Den Bere as StJoan.
Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh. Until 29 Sept. In his opening play of the autumn season — an ambitious project with a cast of seventeen plus extras - director Charles Nowosielski presents George Bernard Shaw’s St Joan as a great religious tragedy. The small Brunton stage is transformed miraculously into the cavernous chancel and sanctuary of a church by Nick Sargent’s atmospherically lit set, while men of power and a woman of spirit play out a deathly game of politics and morality.
An inspired piece of casting places Maartje Van Der Berg in the title role, her native Dutch accent giving her a distinctive, other-worldly appeal which, it it doesn't quite capture the allure and magnetism of the saint, certainly sets her apart from the earthly machinations of the church and statesmen around her. She is shadowed by a trinity of Joans, adding colour in their respective red, white and blue, and bolstering her charismatic charm as they drift about the stage.
It's a long, unusually hot, evening in the theatre and Shaw’s arguments now
Irene Sunters as Mommo.
Seen at The Old Athenaeum Theatre, Glasgow. On Tour.
On entering a theatre and being immediately confronted by a double bed centre stage, one expects to hear the whimpering cries of a debagged vicar at any second. The occupant of this bed, though, is not any sex-starved parishioner but Mommo, a rambling and objectionable old hag whose pre-sleep ritual involves the humiliation of her long-suffering grand-daughter, Mary, and the recital (but never completion) of a story from heryouth.
The story is a macabre one. But Mary becomes increasingly desperate to hear it to its conclusion. And so, with the additional prompting of her sister, Dolly, the story is told. Or rather, I presume it is told. It is unusual, when seeing a play lorthe first time, to be able to pinpoint so accurately the flaw which makes it fall just the wrong side of the line which separates ‘intriguing’ from ‘incomprehensible'. But here, the blame can be laid squarely on the shoulders of the leading actress, Irene Sunters, in the role of Mommo.
As she is the story-teller, she should command the stage and possess the charisma to draw the audience into the tale. Increasingly, lfound myself watching the much more impressive Barbara Rafferty as Mary, even when she was performing such obviously peripheral duties as wringing out the washing or making the tea. Compared with the monotonous mumblings of Mommo, this was riveting stuff.
As a play, one can see why such praise has been lauded upon Bailengangaire. The characters are well drawn and I feel that the story should be compelling. In this production, director Hamish Glen and designer Colin MacNeil evoke a modern-day western Ireland where tradition battles with progress. Glen has found the right balance between pathos and humour. Madeline Erskine as Dolly, and Barbara Rafferty are virtually perfect. However, if you can manage to stop your mind wandering to a greater degree than old Mommo’s,
you're a better person than I, to be sure. (Philip Parr)
52 The List 38 September
It October 1990