Women‘s Theatre Group.

Knife-throwing with Shared Experience, clowning with David Glass and romance with the


ing in the knife

Mark Fisher talks to Mladen Materic about eggs, silence and knife throwing.

‘In Sarajevo where I live,‘ says Yugoslav director Mladen Materic, ‘there is a big Jewish community. They have a very delicious egg recipe. The eggs have to be cooked for 48 hours with a lot ofdifferent spices and changing of water. Ofcourse, recently some people have discovered that they can be cooked in a pressure cooker for only two hours. I would say 48 hours is best.‘

The relationship between food and drama will be explored at some other time, but just now Materic is drawing a comparison between British and Yugoslav theatre practices. The pressure-cooker approach comes closest. he argues. to the three-week intensive rehearsal system that characterises, and blights, most theatre in this country. Interestingly. however. the director of Tattoo and Moonplay which wowed the crowds in Edinburgh in recent Fringes, doesn‘t claim any close affinity to his native theatre either. ‘The Tattoo Theatre is probably as strange to the rest of Yugoslavia as it is here.‘ he explains.

Materic is back in Britain to work with Shared Experience, the highly-rated touring company

Mladen Materic directs Shared Experience in The Closing Number.

founded by Mike Alfreds'in 1975 and now under the artistic directorship of Nancy Mecker. The project. The Closing Number, has grown out of a series ofworkshops led by Materic over the past three years and developed in an eight-week rehearsal period with actors Denise Wong, Kate France and Phil Daniels. star of Quadrophenia, Scum and Breaking Glass. ‘1 like the way their work grows very naturally out oftheir workshops.‘ says Materic. who finds no real difference in approach between British and Yugoslav actors.

Tight rehearsal is a particular necessity in this show, calling as it does on Phil Daniel‘s

Chorus time

In America, where people have T-shirts lor all occasions, Shirley MacLaine’s mother has one with ‘Watch out! Both my kids have Oscars' emblazoned across the trout. It seems that Hollywood is swarming with embarrassing mothers, but Shirley MacLaine took live nominations to get

an Oscar, so perhaps you can forgive the song and dance. Certainly when she went to collect the award, for best actress, there was no heating about the bush: ‘I deserve this,’ she said.

Arguably the two most lamous things l about Shirley MacLaine are her womanising brother Warren Beatty, and her interest in reincarnation (didn’t 1 she once say she was Cleopatra in a previous lile?). People tend to overlook her amazing durability— it’s not easy to keep on getting good lilm parts when you're the unlashionable side of titty. ,. ' s

The story at her rise to the starry top l isn't quite rags-to-riches, but not lar oil it. First herlalher, then her mother became alcoholics. Between the ages ol twelve and eighteen, MacLaine got up at 6am every day to take the bus to l school. Alterschool she went to ' cheer-leading practice. Then there was dance practice until 8pm, dinner and

little~known skills as a knife thrower. He plays one half of a variety double act Denise Wong has the less enviable role of standing in front of the board into which the knives are thrown whose relationship is threatened by a pyrotechnically-minded newcomer. Like Materic‘s Fringe shows, The Closing Number is characterised by the absence of speech, a style which can expose deep, subconscious levels of meaning without sacrificing the narrative.

‘Sometimes I think it would be easier to say “And now they are going to travel by train“ ,‘ explains Materic, ‘but I think when somebody is writing a play, he has exactly the same problems. He can’t say it like that either. He has to find a way which is neither harder nor easier than our way. Sometimes in rehearsal strong energy can be developed. It‘s not rationalised. I start with a very clear, simple situation in which one person wants something and someone else wants the same thing in some temporally defined space. Then we try to develop that main theme.‘

In Materic’s patent style ofvisual theatre he describes it as ‘Theatre of Action’ it would be easy to imagine that an object such as a knife, and in this show there are a lot of them, would be invested with particular loaded significance. Materic argues forcefully, however, that he gives equal value to everything within the performance space. ‘I’m not using symbols,‘ he says, ‘at least, not as I understand the word, because it means usually that some things are symbols and others are not. I’m not accustomed to feeling that any particular thing is also much bigger than its surrounding space. I am trying to make anything on the stage as relevant as any other part of that small world. It is a kind ofsymbol because it is presenting the world it becomes, but I would not like the knives to be more symbolic than, say, a kettle.‘

The Closing Number is at the Tron Theatre, Glasgow, Tue 5-Sun 10 Mar.

Shirley MacLalne.

e rehearsals until midnight, then MacLalne would get home at 2am and I catch lour hours sleep. Too tough to be

true? That’s Hollywood lot you.

Her first job was in a chorus line, so It is appropriate that MacLaine relum to the stage now with her singing, dancing revue Out There Tonight. It seems to be a perogative at Hollywood grandes dames that, once they get to a certain age, they celebrate stardom with a cabaret routine. Shirley MacLaine might not like to think at herself as ‘grande' but she has got the right credentials to bring a bit at Hollywood razzle dazzle to the Playhouse. And, who knows, she might even mention Warren. (Miranda France)

Out There Tonight is at the Playhouse, Edinburgh, Fri 22—Sat 23 Feb.

The List 22 February 7 March 199145