Bard on 45
What do you do once you’ve performed the entire cycle of Shakespeare's history plays'.’ The answer for the English Shakespeare Company. making the first of two spring visitsto Glasgow. was to create a new work made up ofthe most interesting bits ofalI of them. Entitled (iodSuy Amen. the production picks up various pertinent contemporary themes and illustrates them with examples plucked from the seven-play history cycle.
‘Although the circumstances of Shakespeare's time were his circumstances.‘ says director Susanna Best. ‘the stories he‘s tellingare absolutely our stories. People are still going to war over land and power. ‘ That's the element we're interested in; we're not trying to show a history lesson.‘
Nor is the company trying to be didactic. Beginning rehearsals just before the start ofthe Gulf War. the choice of material was undoubtedly influenced by the debates that have been goingon ever since. but it aimsto raise questions rather than to force either a pacificist or pro-war point. To this end. the audience is encouraged to comment and argue at various places throughout the performance.
Committed to making Shakespeare accessible to modern audiences. the production changes in response to current events and the five-strong cast draws liberally from the Shakespearean cannon to create a rounded picture. One scene takes the theme of parting. illustrated by various characters leaving for battle. while another
more lighthearted episode takes the form of a panel game in which the contestants hurl Sliakespearian abuse at each other until accidentally throwing in a modern oath. (Mark Fisher)
God Say/1 men. ()Id Athenaeum Theatre. Glasgow. Tue 9—Sa! 13 Apr.
The English Shakespeare Company in God
THEATRE 51 CABARET 53 DANCE 54
Carmen feel the noise
Philip Parr meets Siobhan Redmond, star of Communicado’s Carmen: The Play, and finds out about acting from the toes
“Here we are in a church hall in Edinburgh pretending that we‘re seething with lust and that there‘s sweat trickling down the back ofour kneesf
Try explaining that to the minister. Gatecrashing Communicado‘s rehearsals for their unoperatic production of Carmen is particularly enjoyable when you‘ve got Siobhan Redmond to talk to. From her TV performances in Al Fresco and Bulman to being a stalwart of the lad Branagh‘s itinerant players. Redmond has sparkled even in the most glittering company. Meeting her in the ﬂesh is no disappointment. She frequently bursts into irrepressible laughter when talking of her role as the sultry gypsy.
‘She‘s the free-est person I‘ve ever played.‘ she says. ‘which is very exciting. but at the same time quite scary. because in order to make manifest someone without inhibition you have to lose your own inhibitions. It‘s also quite difficult to be outside that process so that you can qualify how well you‘re doing.
Siobhan Redmond in the Royal Lyceum 1938 production of As You Like It.
You just have to hold your nose and jump in.‘
Carmen: The Play may be based on the original short story by Prosper Merimec. but it has been transposed to a Spain of the 1930s in the throes ofcivil war. Writer Stephen Jeffrey's has taken one or two liberties with the original text by creating several new characters and (perhaps catering to audience preconceptions) by giving bull-fighting a prominent role. Carmen, however. retains the traditional image ofpassionate Romany. Is this not a difficult part for the blond-haired. blue-eyed Redmond to carry off?
‘When I think ofCarmen. I think of waist-length. raven locks.’ she says. lapsing into feigned RADA-speak. ‘and however one adhered to the Method. that kind of metamorphosis is not going to occur between now and the opening night. I had the same sort of problem playing the queen ofthe fairies (in A Midsummer Night's Dream). but there‘s very few people who are willing to go on the record and say “I‘ve seen a fairy. and I know what they look like, and it's not you.“ Whereas everyone has seen gypsies. and we all know that I don‘t look anything like a gypsy so I‘m hoping to go for the inner-woman.‘
As the laughter begins again. I enquire whether the scheming. manipulative. Carmen is a particularly desirable inner-woman to portray. ‘There are some characteristics ofCarmen that I wouldn‘t mind acquiring— the fact that everyone fancies her for a start. She is exactly what she is and she‘s just trying to make a living. She‘s a survivor. Women are always regarded as much naughtier than men when women manipulate people. Men find that very hard to take, I think. During rehearsals. there are comments ﬂung up like.
“Oh what a tart. what a slut. what a slag." They wouldn‘t do that if it was a male character. they'd all be saying. “Wow. who‘s that sexy man?" '
While Communicado‘s style of performance is unique and invigorating it could never be described as classical. I wondered if the style of the company lends itself to this most classical fable of a femme-fatale. ‘Communicado theatre is very sensual.‘ begins Redmond. ‘and veryjoyful . . .oh' dear me. I sound like a guide brochure or something. But it really does celebrate the extremes of human experience and that couldn‘t be more suitable for this piece. It‘s certainly not theatre from the eyebrows up. It‘s theatre from the toes up and that's what this play‘s all about.’
( ‘armen.’ The Play is a! (/1 e Assembly Rooms. Edinburgh, Wed 17—311127 Apr; and in Glasgow for Mayfesr.
Communicado director. Gerry Mulgrew
44 The List 5— 18 April 1991