I Halliwell's Hell Seen at Bedlam Theatre. Edinburgh. Run Ended. Neatly constructed. if over-long in the telling. Roddy McDevitt's play puts Kenneth llalliwell. Joe Orton‘s long-time lover and murderer, centre-stage. while a less interesting characterisation of Orton shoots to fame in the background. As much inﬂuenced by TS. Elliot as by Orton. the play is not as funny as you might expect — though there are several witty moments— and pcrversely McDevitt introduces farce only in the last ten minutes. An energetic and pacey production, though. with an excellent set by Toby Gough. (MF)
I Night Mother Seen at St Bride‘s Centre. Edinburgh. On Tour. What begins as a light domestic comedy. slowly edges into a bleak and emotional cry ofdespair in American Connexion‘s absorbing production of Marsha Norman‘s Pulitzer Prize-winning play. A house-proud daughter has returned to live with her sluggish mother after the death of her father and separation from her husband. As the evening progresses. the conversation switches from shopping lists to suicide. The only play I can remember that operates in precisely real time (a clock is part ofthe set). there is an air of fate from the moment the daughter gets out her father's old revolver. Rescuing a theatrically (but not emotionally) unambitious script with convincingly charged performances. Donna Orlando and Pene Herman-Smith tread cautiously, sometimes explosively. over a minefield ofsecrets that have hitherto been governing their characters‘ lives. From a low-key start, Night Motherleads us unsuspectingly to face sensitive issues about our attitudes to epilepsy and about the honesty with which we live our lives. I imagine it would work better on film. but asit stands. it is a moving and involving piece oftheatre that is well worth seeing.
70 The List 3— 16 May 1991 ’
Strange fruit 1
Mark Fisher finds that . despite the oranges and i bullfights, § Communicado’s revival of Carmen: The Play is more interesting politically than . theatrically.
Someone should write a thesis on the artistic importance of the orange. Earlier this year, Stephen Frears came up with a particularly nasty implied torture involving several ‘ oranges and a towel in his film The 5 Grifters. Michael Clark and Mark E. i Smith were curious about the citrus i spheres a couple of Edinburgh Festivals ago. And in : Communicado‘s Carmen: The Play, i Siobhan Redmond in the lead role ! risks ridicule by trying to make an orange look sexy. Surely no other fruit has proved itselfso versatile. The scene in Carmen: The Play is an example of the simple yet evocative imagery in which Communicado specialises. As she rolls a sample of Seville's finest around the contours of her bosom, Redmond is expressing not only Carmen’s own insatiable sexuality, but also Mediterranean sensuality. In this case, it only just works, but imagine trying to do it with a British product like a turnip or a cabbage. Based on the original Merime’e . story and transposed to the Spanish l
,/‘.. ’l'f \ " t
Siobhan Redmond and John Hannah in Communicado's Carmen: The Play
Civil War, Stephen Jeffreys‘ play is, however, as much concerned with political struggle and the battle for cultural identity, as it is with passion and seduction. Here. Carmen is like Brecht’s Mother Courage, following the war. gypsy-fashion, to make a financial killing amid the human slaughter. Passionate though she is,
sleeping with the soldiers is much the "
same as dealing in arms; just a different way ofpreserving a free and independent spirit.
That Communicado has chosen to revive this play immediately after its production of Buchner’s Danton '5 Death — an atmospheric tragedy played out at the height ofthe French Revolution — suggests a continuing interest in periods of social unrest where national.
regional and political identities are at i
stake. Jeffréys‘s characters are fighting for their political beliefs — communist. fascist. anarchist — and also for their cultural values — Basque, Portuguese and. significantly. Carmen’s free-roaming gypsy heritage.
It‘s not hard to imagine that
actor-director Gerry Mulgrew, post-Jock Tamson 's Bairns, is pursuing an investigation into the shifts of power that define and form our social make-up. ln Carmen he finds a character who is both certain of her culture, much as it is tragically flawed, and yet free ofthe geographical fixation of regional and national cultures. Somewhere in the push-and-pull turmoil of revolution we might focus on the values which define a Scottish identity.
So much for the politics. As a production, Carmen: The Play fails fully to engage our emotions. As the Roman blinds lift and lower around the arched arms of Paul Ambrose‘s cast-iron set, Gerry Mulgrew creates spaces and atmospheres with imperceptible ﬂuidity. There’s a great knife fight. a convincing re-creation of a bullfight and the continual feeding-in ofa three-strong band of musicians. But somehow these elements don’t add up to the theatrical charge ofwhich Communicado is capable.
For all that Siobhan Redmond holds our attention as a wilful and sexy Carmen. and for all the neat doubling of parts among the cast, the production lacks the unity to excite our feelings. Each piece of stage invention is an isolated idea, momentarily captivating, but not properly connected to the play’s emotional flow. It‘s never dull, but on the strength ofthe first night, it is theatrically unremarkable. With any other company. one might not feel inclined to comment, but Communicado has set itselfa high standard to which I have no doubt it will return.
Carmen: The Play, seen atAssembly ? Rooms, Edinburgh, returning to
Tram way, Glasgow, Wed 22—50125
: SHARKS ,
i Seen at Cumbernauld Theatre. Ontour. ;
3 If it’s Wildcat, it must be an issue and
; this week we’re looking at the very real ; problem of moneylenders. I admire
very much their commitment to putting ' on stage ordinary people and the j pressures of working-class life, but
: sometimestheirsingIe-issue approach
' turns their shows into theatrical
5 from play to play— in real life the ‘ women from Cleaning Up might get into
a condemnation of the benefits system ; which leaves poor, passive widow
. Marie McGinley (played with much
i pathos by Pauline Knowles), trapped
versions of Kilroy or Donaghue. Problems don't seem to cross over
debt and the poll-tax rebels of Harmony How might have a view on nuclear power.
Ouibbles aside, this is a strong show,
into owing overten times as much as she borrowed to pay for her husbands’s headstone. Dave Anderson plays McNaughton, the loan shark and heroin pusher, with his usual professional suavity and a heap of one-liners, making him really too attractive a character for the slimy, greedy parasite on his own community that he is.
As everwith Wildcat, live music is a prominent feature and this time for some unknown reason they’ve taken Hue and Cry fortheir musical mentors with very loud, bland synthesised rock
numbers (George Drennan in particular i i herself. Barron has not contented
: himself with the archetypal image of
call-girl looking for an extra buck, nor
could easily fill in for Pat Kane if the Iatter’s political career ever takes off). But what deepens the play into more than a liberal polemic to promote credit unions are the exuberant idiosynctacies scattered throughout it: the violin playing heavy, the polis who thinks he’s Philip Marlowe, the hilarious parody of nightclub entertainment. It’s the best thing Wildcat have done for ages. (Andrea Baxter)
Seen at St Brides, Edinburgh. On Tour. Annexe Theatre Company’s play concerns surrogate motherhood in general and virgin births in particular. The characters are straightforward enough: a desperate wife, a new-man husband, an uncomprehending mother and an ethical/unethical doctor. Writer Charles Barron has resorted to
stereotypes, admittedly, but these parts are well written and played with commendable conviction by a strong cast
What gives the play its driving force, however, is the surrogate mother
even yuppie wanting the ‘pregnancy experience' without the commitment. Jill lives alone in an unused shop, sleeps on a counter and keeps the baby in a food-freezer (unconnected to the mains). She shuns social contact (her only friend being the doctor who arranges the pregnancy) and is quite happy to live out her life on social security, reading books and listening to music.
Emma Currie makes this eccentric yet eminently believable character come to life with one of the most natural pieces of acting I have ever witnessed. The rest of the performances, Eve Jamieson's direction and Irene Harris’s imaginative design are out of the top drawer, but it's the combination of Barron’s vision and Currie’s talent that lifts this small-scale, low budget, touring production to an unbelievably high level. (Philip Parr)