SEAN Hubsohi -—-—--:
Ian Brown directs Bondagers It’s the sort of thing you read about in Thomas Hardy novels: ‘Bondagers’ were women hired annually by male farm labourers — or hinds — who had to provide a woman co-worker in order to get hired themselves. The farmers’ reasoning was simple — they could pay women half the going rate and pass on the responsibility of supporting them to the hinds and their families, providing a meagre allowance for maintenance.
Confined mostly to the Borders and Northumberland, the practice was unwieldy and ripe for conflict — particularly between bondagers and hinds’ wives. In all it probably lasted no longer than fifty years. Sue Glover’s award-winning play catches the tail end of that era, and, taking an 18605 Borders farm as a setting, uses music and dance to evoke a year in the lives of six women caught up in the bondager system.
Director Ian Brown explains what some might see as an unusual context for music and dance. ‘I wanted Sue to write a play that was going to take more risks than maybe she’d taken before and I told her not to worry too much about how you get from scene to scene and try and experiment with language and form.’
Winning the LWT Plays on Stage Award has meant extra-rehearsal for the play and the welcome involvement of Movement Director, Sue MacLennan, not a woman of ﬁxed ideas and rigorous instruction. ‘1 like to wait and experiment with the people rather than try to recreate a picture exactly the way it was in my head’, she says. ‘I think there’s more in our collective imaginations’.
Transfering the play from the Tramway — ideal for sweeping ﬁeld scenes — to the much smaller space of the Traverse will prove a challenge. ‘It usually happens the other way round,’ admits Brown, but he sees no reason why Bondagers should be any less of a play scaled down. The script, after all, is ﬂexible. ‘There is a plot, but it’s not the most important thing— you just get a sense of time passing. These people just don’t exist anymore, it’s something that’s gone. So there’s a sort of lyricism in it as well.’ (Miranda France) Bondagers, Tram way, Glasgow, Fri 3—Mon 6 May; Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh Sat 11 May-Sun 211m.
V D RA M A Bridging the dhﬁde Courtesy oi the troubled city’s Lyric Players, a small part oi Beliast theatre history is set to visit Glasgow this Mayiest. A llrst play by iormer shipyard painter Sam Thompson, Over The Bridge was llrst anounced as a lorthcoming production at the Group Theatre by producer James Ellis (later bound tor 2 Cars lame) in April 1959, only to be swlltly withdrawn by the venue’s Board ot Directors. The powers-that-were memorably stated, ‘This play is iull oi grosst vicious phrases and situations which would ollend and altront every sector oi the public. it is [our] policy. . . to keep religious and political controversies olt our stage“. Even so, a spate oi resignations tailed to stop the piece playing to packed houses when it eventually opened at another theatre early in 1960, to much acclaim trom press and public alike.
Set in Beliast’s largely Protestant-dominated shipyards, it was Thompson’s untlinching portrayal oi rellglous prejudice’s eilortless slide into violence and mob rule that proved uncomiortably close to the bone. Despite the three decades since its initial run however, the Lyric’s Artistic Director Roland Jacquarello is keen to stress the continuing relevance oi the
Lynda Steadman and Roma Tomeity in Dverthe Bridge
work’s lirm moral centre. ‘In one sense, because it's set in a trade union background in the 505, we have moved on,’ he explains, “but unfortunately, the disease and the canker oi sectarianism are still with us. Everyone in the province is still altected by it in some way.’
Trailing a number of awards lrom last year’s Beliast run, Over The Bridge will be playing the same Glasgow venue, the Kings, as the original 1960 British tour, and still remains an appropriate testival choice tor a city not without its own particular brand oi prejudice. ‘lt’s universal really, i suppose,‘ reliects Jacquarello, ‘in that the play could be about Arab and Jew, black or white.
Thompson though is a very authentic Y‘fundd “1'T2959_","f‘"_‘a" Ulster voice, and i think the Scottish i 3:3,?” 'gﬁg’nimg;“;:,;;:; audience will repond to its honesty and ! mm. turned Mum, directness.’(TrevorJohnston) ‘ directorcxpmmngmc motivation behind the Cutting Edge show. Cutting Edge is a departure from the
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‘Last year at Edinburgh,l got bored shitless going
Dverthe Bridge, King‘s Theatre, Glasgow, Tue 7—Sat 11 May.
Judith Transitions Dance Company
Transitions Dance Company could never be described as unadventurous. Formed under the umbrella oi the highly acclaimed Laban Centre in London, the company commissions new works by some oi Britain and Europe's most exciting choreographers. Each year, six new pieces are rehearsed tor tour months and then toured around the world. The transitional nature at the repertoire is matched by the maytly existence at the company which is selected lrom trained dancers on an annual basis and no-one pertorms with Transitions lor more than twelve months.
Chris de Marigny, editor oi Dance Theatre Joumai, and one ol the
_ themtoattemptthingsthatmaybethey '
Glasgow, Sun 5 May.
i his-mike format featuring ' five London stand-ups: Dave (.‘ohen. Mark Thomas. Richard Morton, I Bob Boyton and Kevin
I Day. with a wide range of
permanentadministrativeorganisers I ot Transitions, teeis that the constant 3 variation in work and personnel keeps ' the standards high. ‘Everybody who comes onto Transitions has already had a proiessional dance training and this is like a special year iorthem. The tact that they’re working with diiterent choreographers lrom around the world and then touring the world means that you have an explosion oi young people raring to go.’ ;
Among the choreographers who have worked with the group this year are Yolande Snaith, Claude Brumachon and Jacob Marley. However, Marley‘s piece will not be seen at Mayiest because oi difficulties which the company have had in adapting to its complexity. Chris de Marigny, ironically, teeis that this is an indication that the company is luliiliing its role.
‘What we say to the choreographers when they come is “we want the dancers to be stretched". We want
material and styles. coming together to provide a structured show.
it‘s a welcome variation on a flagging format, and the first time stand-ups have been asked to interact on stage, rather than just deliverthcir material and get off. ‘lt's not improvisation,‘ says Connor, ‘bccause all the stuffis their regular material, but the way it‘s being used is in a new format. For instance we have the ‘gag tag‘ game. where one comic can ‘tag' another and take over with a gag on the same subject. In that waythc show should be different each night.‘
The format also allows for topicality and the ability to adjust the content to reﬂect events. ‘lfa big news story breaks, we‘ll be able to react to it,’ says Connor, ‘that's a big factor in why we're doing this sort ofshow. While most stand-up is steering clear ofpolitics. we’re able to cover political issues and include I material that has rather i more edge to it.‘ (Tom Lappin)
The Cutting Edge, Moir Hall. Thurs 9—Sat 11 May.
thought that they couldn’t do, or i possibly discover aspects oi 7 themselves that they hadn’t known about. The only way to do that is
to provide enough ditierent kinds oi experiences; there'll always be one choreographer, one piece of work, that they have a lot oi trouble with. And it’s those kind oi challenges which help the dancers to develop, because they always do, hugely, during the year.’(Phl|ip Parr)
Transitions, Mitchell Theatre,
20The List 3- 16 May 1991