V NEWS ‘
I Enter. . . Winners The BBC/Traverse Apprenticeship Scheme attracted almost 200 budding playwrights to compete for places on a course taking place most weekends between ll) November and mid-February. Among the many guest tutors are lain Heggic. Peter Arnott, Ann Marie di Mambro and Tom McGrath. The list of winners includes Bill Dunlop. Peter Mackie Burns, Danny MacAhon, David Kilby. Lance Flynn. Marianne Carey. Kathleen Crombie, Carol Craig. Jan Nathason. Angela Leslie. Anthony Neilson and Patricia Hannah.
V IN PRINT
l Engineers of the Imagination Ed Tony Coult and Baz Kershaw (Mcthuen £8.99) A revised and updated edition ofa book first published in 1983. Engineers of the Imagination is an illustrated guide to the techniques of Welfare State International. the company behind the recent lantern procession in Glasgow. For over two decades the company has been creating large scale popular theatre events and this lovingly compiled volume is a manual about how they did it. Idealfor anyone interested in the practicalities of theatre-making on any level. it is. as the blurb says. 'a book to get thumb-marks and glue on‘.
IHE 8(1) I I ISII MI ?Sl(‘ HI\I l.
I The Scottish Music Hall 1880-19901H. LIIIICj( hn (G.C. Book Publishers £10.95) Not the sort of book you‘re likely to read from cover to cover. but a well-researched factual guide to a century of Scottish Variety. Going from town to town. from theatre to theatre.J.H. Littlejohn peoples his anecdotal accounts with the best known music hall acts oftheir day. Sadly few of the halls listed are still standing. making this an even more important social history record and a great way to throw new light on familiar streets.
In September, The Citizens’ Theatre ruffled a few refined middle-class feathers by producing Shaw’s, Mrs Warren’s Profession. Mrs
Warren was a prostitute; not your run-of-the-mill female character in period drama. Continuing the theme oi unusual female roles, the theatre is to present Nicholas Rowe's The Tragedy of Jane Shore. Jane is a king's mistress who is NOT motivated by greed, blind ambition and an unsatiated sex-drive. I spoke to Julia Blalock, who will play Jane Shore, about the role which comes as a refreshing alternative to the Lady Macbeths and Desdemonas of classical literature.
‘She’s not a complex character; she’s quite a straightforward and simple person. She was the mistress of Edward IV who has just died when the play begins. She wants nothing to do with the court but The Duke of Gloucester, who went on to become
Richard III, feels that she is blocking his way to the crown, which she isn't at all. In the end she dies but she has a small victory because she says ‘No’ to a tyrant. She suffered for it, she was killed for it, but she made her stand.’
“The one thing that she absolutely doesn't compromise on’ adds assistant director Adrian Howells, ‘is her integrity. With our modern day eyes we might think that she’s being a bit of a silly cow because if she had compromised herself she could have avoided the difficulties which she is in at the end of the play. But the fact that she does not is something very heroic, courageous and bold.’
The play, then, is fundamentally a . tale of good against evil, Jane against 5 Richard III. I asked Julia Blalock if she ‘ found any parallels between Rowe’s vision and the world today.
‘I find that Rowe’s language reveals so much more than today's language about the human soul. I have speeches in this play where I think about things that I see on the news, not about things that happened in the past. I think about people suffering all over the world, people starving, people fighting for their freedom —that’s what this language does. That’s the great joy about classical drama — it doesn’t speak about then, it speaks about now and the future because the language is alive. It may be a tragic play but then, it’s a tragic world.’ (Philip Parr)
The Tragedy of Jane Shore will be at The Citizens’ Theatre, Glasgow from
Q 2—17 November.
A picture, it is often said, can communicate more than many words. Why then should a man like Colin Baxter, whose photographs provide a
, comprehensive, evocative and almost
ubiquitous commentary on Scotland's landscapes, feel the need to collaborate with a mere writer in the pursuit of an expression of experience?
‘He puts it into words, whereas I can't,’ is Baxter’s disarmineg humble reply. ‘There are probably more circumstances where I’m frustrated not to be able to put it across, than when I manage to express what i felt when l was there.’
The wordsmith concerned is Jim Crumley, who first helped Baxter realise his vision in 1988, when they worked together on the St Kilda book. More recently, stage directorTim Fitzpatrick has joined the team, enabling the partnership to mount stirring slide shows with music and voice-over accompaniment. In what may seem a natural progression, they are now mounting a theatrical production to coincide with publication of their fastest book, Glencoe - Monarch 0f Glens.
With original music composed and recorded by cellist Ron Shaw, this a one-woman performance, which will tour some of Scotland’s furthest-flung I
reaches. Its setting is Glencoe during
a two different years: 1692, when the
Campbells’ massacre of the Macdonalds made the glen infamous, and 1992, when a young holidaymaker is deserted among the crags by her man, an enthusiastic mountaineer. Switching between the centuries, the play explores what Crumley calls ‘the manipulative power of the mountain throng‘.
Baxter’s slides, which will form the backdrop, minimising the necessity for a set, are, he says, ‘a collection of my best pictures to date of Glencoe; but
. also pictures that work in connection
with each other.’ A novice to theatre,
’ he concedes it’s an ambitious project,
but is stimulated by his theme. ‘lf’s about the physical influence that the landscape has on people — why do we go to places that have a drama to them? (Andrew Burnet)
Glencoe - Monarch 0f Glens opens at the Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh on Fri 26 & Sat 27 October, then tours Scotland, including The Tolbooth, Stirling on Thurs 1 and Paisley Arts Centre on Sun 4.
THEATRE 56 CABARET 60 DANCE 60
s. -. -~ ' Bruce Hubbard and Karla Burns in Showboat
Paul Robeson was big, booming and black. He was probably the first ‘star‘ to possess all three qualities without the assistance ofJolson‘s patent shoe polish. His, and therefore all black American actors‘, big break came with a show called Showboat.
Kerr and Hammerstein‘s musical broke all theatrical conventions overnight by giving song and story equal weight. In spite of the furore which accompanied initial performances, the show proved to be an enduring success and songs such as 01’ Man River remain firmly embedded in the lists of ‘Classics‘ and ‘Standards‘. I asde Marilyn Cutts. who plays Julie in The RSC and Opera North‘s new production. about the show‘s appeal.
‘A lot ofpeople would say that it is the mother and father ofall musicals. It was years ahead of its time. something different. a new departure. It‘s an epic and big in every sense ofthe word. It‘s still a staggering piece of work — one good song after another and the story really involves people whether they‘re young or old.‘
' Classic songs or not. the show was still written over half a century ago. I wondered if it could have such a profound impact on today‘s audiences as its tackling ofDeep South issues had in the 20s.
‘It uses the Deep South over the course of-IO years as a background.‘ says Marilyn. ‘Julie is one of the characters whose life is most seriously affected by the kind of prejudice that there was in those days because she is the child of a mixed marriage. When the sheriff comes on board and says "There is a negress on board married to a white man — that‘s not allowed here". that sends a shiver down anyone’s spine and is still, unfortunately. all too relevant in many parts of the world today.
‘But that‘s not the main thrust of the story. It‘s a love story which covers many different kinds of love. There are five couples and it‘s the story of those couples as they go through 40 years of their life. That gives the show a meaning which is just as relevant today as it was in the 20s. ' (Philip Parr)
Showboat is at The Theatre Royal, Glasgo w from 6—1 7 November.
52 The List 26 October - 8 November 1990