Rowdy rivals

The weather’s been a little incontinent oi late, hasn't it? That, you will be aware, is a malaproplsm. The originator oi the term, Mrs Malaprop, together with the other characters irom Sheridan’s The Rivals, will soon be descending onto the Citizens’ stage. Director Robert David McDonald has made a conscious effort to return to the essence oi the original drait oi a play which, as he explains, has been diluted overthe years.

‘There are about ilve editions,’ says McDonald, ‘and clearly what we have been leit with as the standard work is the least interesting. It was revised because people thought that it was iaintly dirty. It's amazing what these people who used to go to public executions and iling dead cats onto the stage considered unacceptable. But then every age has its own way oi being

Portrait l Richard Brinsley Sheridan.


prissy about certain things. We don’t like talking about women because people think that they’re going to be beaten up by leminists at the stage dDDL'

In The Rivals, a woman’s place in the scheme oi things is clearly stated by Sir Anthony Absolute; enough reading to be able to sew his initials onto a dressing gown and enough arithmetic to bring the numbered shirt which he demands. McDonald, however, delends the author.

‘Sheridan’s not actually saying, “i think that women should learn nothing." He’s putting those words into the mouth of a man oi whom he clearly dlsapproves. Shakespeare, in The Taming 0i The Shrew, is saying, “That's what women should be like”. But Shakespeare’s a reactionary lart whilst Sheridan is entirely sensible.’

Although attempting to adhere to the coarseness of the original, McDonald is shitting the action to the decaying imperialist world at 20s India. Sheridan himsell was a prime example ot decay, being described by McDonald as ‘a man who couldn’t resist whatever current came along’. But then he could aitord to act in whatever way he pleased alter writing The Rivals at the tender age oi 23.

‘In 73 periormances,’ says McDonald ‘The Rivals made £15,000. Two hundred years laterl produced a play in the very same street, which ran ior 140 periormances and made £30,000. That's a jolly salutary thing to realise. In tact, it’s the most depressing thing I’ve discovered this year.’ (Philip Parr)

The Rivals is at The Citizens’ Theatre, 1-23 Mar.

Man with the golden bum

Belgium, it seems, is not only rich in chocolate. The past decade has seen the rise oi a number oi exciting dance companies, two oi which have become ilrm iavourites with Scottish audiences. Last year people ilocked to see Wim Wanderkeybus and Co, Rosas and Michelle Anne De Mey. This year Belgium makes its iirst Scottish bid with Mark Vanrunxt.

I asked Vanrunxt why dance in Belgium has taken oil so dramatically, especially considering the poor state oi government support. ‘I think it was simply necessary,’ he responds. ‘At the end oi the 70s there was nothing, so at the beginning oi the 80s there was a big explosion oi all the talents that were here. Aiter Beiart there was, tor a while, nothing special. Now with companies like Rosas there is a high point again. I’m afraid itwill go down again. Like everything else it comes in waves.’

For the past two years Vanrunxt has always clothed his productions soberly, in black or white. Forthis piece, entitled Moderne Compositie, the live dancers have exploded into colour: red, green, blue and yellow from head to toe. ‘There is a strong link

45 The List 22 February 7 March 1991

Marc Vanrunxt and Dancers in New Moves.

with the plastic arts,’ Vanrunxt explains, plastic meaning line arts. ‘Dn stage there is a big, golden, empty iramework oi a painting. Actuallywe are the painting, dancing and changing iorrn during this periormance.’

lie compares the structure oi the piece to a tunnel, wide and open at the beginning, narrowing down to one single vision by the end. ‘At the end we undress and we are wearing golden underwear and that is what I call the golden vision. Alter all the running and jumping it becomes a very calm and quiet piece. its like we want to reach, like in alchemy, one golden drop.’ (Jo Roe) Mark Vanrunxt is appearing at the Third Eye Centre, 28 Feb—2 Mar.


Clowning around ith the David Class New Mime Ensemble. V NEW PLAY

Tears of a clown

Jo Roe finds out about Pierrot and body-popping from David Glass.

David Glass has an eye for a good story. Last year he staged a version ofthe adventures of Popeye and the year before that he tackled Moby Dick. Not the easiest oftales, but rich fodder for his idiosyncratic brand ofcommedia-based theatre. Packed full ofimaginative energy the shows are always worth seeing. His latest production, Bozo '3 Dead was inspired by a stiking incident documented from the 19th century.

‘While I was researching for Popeye last year I read a very brief passage about a Pierrot who murdered his brother, an auguste clown. That incident became the kernel ofthe play.‘ Setting offa chain of ideas the murder became a vehicle for some neat dramatic metaphors. ‘I‘d always wanted to do something where language was killed on stage as a form of revenge in some way or other,’ Glass continues. ‘It made sense in that Bozo (an auguste clown. or harlequin) stood for words. whereas Pierrot was kind of artful - more intellectual and dry.‘

In Glass’s play, co-written by John Constable. the murderofharlequin co-ineides with the death of language. ‘John Constable added

one very important speech. It is where I (Pierrot) actually kill words, but I use words to kill them. The only character with a written text as such is Pierrot.‘ After murdering his brother Pierrot announces that speaking in the theatre is forbidden. From that point onwards there is hardly any talking on stage until the return ofwords at the end of the play. The whole episode neatly mirrors the historical swing between words and mime in the theatre. During the 19th century the silent persona of Pierrot came to dominate European theatre, reflecting the violent and dark events ofa changing world. By the end of the century the irreverant harlequin was once more in favour.

Although the five-strong cast share some form ofphysical training they are an unusually disparate bunch. Specialist skills include body-popping. mime, dance and Chinese opera movement. ’I like people whose backgrounds are odd, people who have done stand up comedy. juggling or dance.‘ Glass explains. ‘By mixing these energies you get a very different sort ofthing on stage. Often when you work with people ofstraight acting training they have a kind of consistency I find anti-theatrical.’

European Body Popping Champion and trained dancer Benji Reid last seen dancing with Soul II

Soul on their world tour— has enjoyed the security ofworking with professionals. With such diverse talents the cast are able to coach each other in different techniques. ‘I help Pete (Holdoway) with aspects of dance and he helps me on aspects on mime.‘ Reid explains. Capitalising on the wealth of raw material Glass