Seen at Cumbernauld Theatre. 0n TouL

It may be disheartening, but the fact remains that a big name is more likely to produce the theatrical goods than any number of ‘promising’ newcomers. And so it was at Cumbernauld, when the last of that theatre's specially commissioned plays—The Flitting, by Tom McGrath - provided an undisputed highlight.

For considerably more than two hours, there is hardly a minute which does not provoke regular, ribald laughterfrom the audience, even though (or maybe because) Cumbernauld comes in for more than its lair share of swipes. The audience’s laughter-filled recognition of McGrath’s digs at the transport system, the neighbours and even the gardens of the new town emphasised what a chord had been struck.

However, in the midst of the comedy, I am almost certain that McGrath is trying to make a series of serious statements. The trouble is that each message remains as incomprehensible as Cumbernauld's one-way system. Every so often, the tax

Cumbernauld Theatre on tour with The Flitfing

satisfied. Even without McGrath‘s polished humour, The Flitting would be worth seeing just for her. (Philip Parr)


Seen at Theatre Workshop, now at Glasgow Arts Centre

Borrowing from detective fiction, American cop shows and crime thrillers, Matthew Witten’s The Deal is about political corruption. Neatly structured around the conversations, taped and live, of an undercover FBI agent and a small-time politician, The Deal is pleasingly compact. Pete (FBI agent) coaxes Jimmy (a relatively straight politician caught in a weak moment) into a corrupt deal in an attempt to get at the real crooks. Snappy, macho, American dialogue saves the play from relying on plot, while the emotional content gives it depth. It turns out that the FBI agent has a heart, just like the ‘virgin’ he is handling, and that his boss is as warped as the corrupt politicians they

5 are eagerto nail.

Despite a cleverturn of events the

i playlackscredibility.Althoughthere

man, ecology, the IRA and bureaucrats ,

are mentioned. But once thrown into the pot, they are ignored, rarely to be heard of again, and we return to the jokes. This is fine, for it makes for a truly entertaining evening with little in the way of sobriety to cloud the fun, but it does leave you wondering if you're

missing something. The finale, when a '

character who never even appears on stage loses his life, is an almighty cop-out. Why doesn't McGrath choose

has been a lot of careful attention to

detail it feels like a writer’s glamorised idea of what goes on behind the closed

; doors rather than a true picture. It is difficult to believe the emotional

vulnerability of Pete, the agent with a

f conscience.

American Connexion have chosen to

stage the play virtually in the round, an ; indication oftheirgeneraleagernessto

one of the leads to make his point of the i

fragility of existence?

In spite of these qualms, The Flitting looks like providing one of the theatrical highlights of 1990. Mandy Matthews gives the production more spark and vitality than a firecracker. In her TV and theatre roles she only ever seems to play one part— a chirpy, cheeky teenager— but she plays it so well that you are always left completely

present more than straight theatre. They use a number of theatrical devices—frozen frames, simultaneous action, a muslin screen dividing the stage in half— some of which work very well, others of which are empty. The play has been looked at intelligently though like the fake American accents

3 done by averagely good actors,the theatrical treatment sometimes

smacks of superticiality. Ultimately, however, this is an entertaining genre given a reasonable reading. Could have done with less of the progressive rockthough. (Jo Roe)


At The Tron Theatre, Glasgow until 4 November.

If The Tramway’s got the mdney and the new Bauhaus monstrosity the big names, then The Tron certainly has the audiences. Enthusiastic praise has never been missing at this intimate theatre and so it was for The Baby.

However, three curtain calls or not, The Baby is a monumental waste of time, talent and, primarily, energy. The actors look almost as drained as the audience at the end of this two and a half hourordeal.

The story is set in ancient Rome and, presumably, the sparse set and vocally based ‘music‘ are an attempt to re-create the theatre of those bygone times. But this wouldn’t have got past the first read-through in Home. It would have been straight down to the Colosseum and lions’ breaktasttime for writer, Chris Hannan and director, Michael Boyd.

The play revolves around Macu. It’s the typical tale of woman wailer for the dead who refuses to wail for tyrant, goes to house of young prince, rips apart dog to make a curse, sees home and child burnt down by said prince, goes outside Rome to eat twigs, meets aforementioned prince at head of big army and tops herself before his eyes therefore reducing him to gibbering wreck. If all this sounds disjointed, it‘s ten times worse when each of these vignettes takes twenty minutes to run its course. There's the additional problem that most of the story can be gleaned from the programme and very little of it from the action and dialogue. The characters are faintly sketched rather than drawn and their motives are so obscure as to be impenetrable.

Boyd's direction adds to the misery. I am certain that the loud hanging of various metal pipes and chains against the floor is included solely to keep the audience awake. Several of the cast overact like troupers, but enough of them give strong performances with weak material (most noticeably Bosaleen Pelan as Macu) forthem to


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be exempt from blame. They still cannot rescue The Baby; a startling example of an ill-conceived conception. (Philip Parr)


Seen at The Arches Theatre, Glasgow. On Tour.

If you are going to stage a play with a central theme of witchcraft, there can be few better venues than The Arches Theatre. The unadorned brick walls, echoes and, not least, the cavernous rumblings from the trains overhead create just the right level of unsettling ambience. Fablevision Theatre Company benefit from these phenomena but this play would stand as a triumphant success whatever the setting.

In their usual style, Fablevision dispense with verbose dialogue and let their skill with lighting, movement and sound tell the story. The characters are divided into easily defined classes. The mob of commoners who eventually fall victim to the garrotter’s rope are displayed as a giggling mass of fun-loving folk who like nothing better than a good witchhunt (so long as it is not they who are the victims). The gentry are jealous, conniving and genuinely evil. The cast play their roles with such conviction that one is inevitably drawn into the increasingly helpless plight of the poor, who are convicted on the oath of a gentlewoman.

But one is really swept along by the spectacle rather than the story. The set is simple yet infinitely variable, the lighting (dare I say) haunting and the sound effects convey menace, joy and downright terror equally effectively. It almost makes one wonder why script and dialogue need to play such an integral part in other performances. But then, few companies would be able to rely so much on talents which are often considered peripheral. That Fablevision not only experiment in this way but produce such riveting theatre as a result suggests that they should be truly cherished. (Philip Parr)


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