v DRAMA I l l
After winning the Spirit of Mayfest i award last year, Clyde Unity Theatre 3 has a lot to live up to this time round. ; Its new production, Rag Woman, , Rich Woman, an epic Springburn ' drama oftwo girls, a boy and a ! blanketful of old clothes in Paddy’s 3 Market, is adapted from the local l bestseller by Margaret Thomson Davis, popular with the punters but ignored by the literati. John Binnie, the show’s writer and director, seems I quietly confident that it will be a ' success in its own way.
‘Our profile has really upped over the last year — the Guardian said we were at the forefront oftouring ' theatre in Scotland,‘ he says I modestly, ‘but what we’re doing is l what we’ve always done, stripping everything down and relying very much on emotional performances and very intimate kinds of acting. I think it’s really decisive to go in thinking we won the award last year, we’ve got to pull off something really brilliant this time.‘
Aileen Ritchie. the company‘s co-founder, actress, writer and coffee-maker, agrees. ‘Yeah, there’s no point in chasing awards though.‘ she says. ‘It’s much more important that we continue to develop artistically and creatively as a company, and I think we all feel very comfortable that we don’t have to compromise our own style or sell out.‘
Clyde Unity is known particularly for its commitment to touring small local venues which groups with a 5 similar critical reputation might have abandoned long ago. According to Binnie, small theatre spaces have their own compensations. ‘One night ; you play the Citizens‘, the next it’s the smallest venue in the Springburn 1 Elderly and Disabled Centre - it’s i never boring and you get a totally different audience every night. This show is going to be wild, like a l summer panto, because there’s so much sex in it and getting off with each other.
‘Last year, in Lambs ofGod, Aileen played this sexual manipulator and the audiences would boo when she came on — “don’t get off with her son, she‘s a bad yin” — that’s great, it’s so live, and at least they’re not falling asleep. That's partly why we’re doing this, the book — and hopefully the play as well — is the kind you just can’t put down.’ (Andrea Baxter)
Rag Woman, Rich Woman tours Glasgow and Edinburgh from Mon 20 May.
‘We’re trying to question the idea of sexuality,’ says Lynne Parker, director of Rough Magic Theatre Company’s production of Lady Windermere’s Fan, ‘because Wilde’s own sexuality was very complicated. He loved dressing up in women's clothes and i think there was a very feminine partof his psyche. I wanted to play around with that notion.’
Since its opening in Dublin last year, the producton of Oscar Wilde's classic farce has met with critical and popular acclaim for, amongst other things, its inventive casting. 0f the eight cast members, six are men which, as those who know the play will be aware, leaves the director short of a woman or two.
‘We wanted to get back into a much more theatrical and rumbustuous approach’ explains Parker, ‘and we did this by introducing a kind of swapping of genders in the play. Lady Windermere’s Fan is very much concerned with definitions of men and women, particularly women. The society was rigidly male dominated and yet the most subversive character is a woman. So we have a lot of the female characters who are toeing the social line now played by men, but the lead female character is still played by a woman. Firstly it starts to introduce a notion of an oddness about conceptions of sexuality and secondly, it's very funny.
Mal Whyte in Rough Magic’s Lady Windermere's Fan
‘I suppose the act of casting it that way was the main directorial decision. After that, we took the characters themselves quite seriously. So the style of playing is not grotesque and caricatured, but that trick of casting implies the grotesqueness. We’ve tried to make the play as dark and, consequently, as witty as we think Wilde wanted it to be.’
Parker believes that her novel approach to this established work has given the play a renewed vitality which it desperately needed. ‘We’ve been a little naughty, a little mischievous with the play itself. Normally it’s done in a rather austere way. What we did was give it a kick up the arse (not to put too fine a point on it), because we felt that Wilde was a very mischievous man himself. He didn’t suit being relegated to drawing rooms.’ (Philip Parr)
Lady Windermere’s Fan, Mitchell Theatre, Glasgow, Tue 21—Sat 25 May.
mura- Dance puzzle
Jigsaw Dance Theatre is comprised of
ten pupils from the Robert Owen Centre for adults with special needs, underthe artistic direction of Cheryl Strong. With
1 two successful productions undertheir ' hell, they have been asked to perform a
new piece, The Nature Of The Beast, for Mayfest. involving text, design, movement and music, the piece examines society’s attitude towards those with a disability, using the vehicle of George Orwell’s Animal Farm.
‘A number of Jigsaw find it very difficult to communicate through speech,’ says Strong. ‘There is this opinion that people with Down’s Syndrome have a natural sense for music. ldon’t go along with that all the way, but in my group i have two Down’s who move beautifully. When people see them perform they find it amazing that they remember everything. Despite having a learning difficulty which may involve remembering the names of things, or the spelling, body memory isn’t a problem. They just remember through instinct and conditioning. l’ve even done pieces with them which we’ve gone back to afterthree months and it just appears again.’
Each memberof the group has
’lt‘s the complete antithesis ofAndrew LloydWebber.‘ says Paul Mercicr. writer and director of Dublin's cult rock musical, Drowning. ‘lt's in a tradition ofits own. it‘s an indigenous creation.‘
Set in an authentic working class Dublin, Drowning is about a young man‘s naive aspirations to stardom to escape his deprived background. Originally a hit in 1984, the show was revived by Passion Machine earlier this year with a new cast and a soundtrack reworked for 1991 by John Dunne. Highly rated for its combination of exuberance and gritty realism. its return after seven years has been welcomed by Eire critics.
‘lt‘s very much about Dublin,‘ says Mercicr. ‘We wanted to put a particular side oflifc on stage. People who don‘t have the same opportunities. hopes or chances in life as others, if they were given the right conditions, they could
‘ 5 showtheirfullpotcntial.
a different perception of their disability. ‘Words like spastic and mongol which were in the script originally are not any more. We discussed whether they were ever called those names. The ones who understood what we were asking didn’t actually understand those words were pointed at their disabilty, they just thought it was being called names, like “you pig” or “fatty”. ldidn‘t see the purpose of pushing it so that it upset somebody.’
Jigsaw’s run at the Tramway should be bristling with energy and invention. ‘lts always a little nerve-wracking,’ says Strong. ‘I’ve seen them perform pieces in the past overthree nights and by the last night it's not the show I directed. That is wonderful because it means they’ve really taken it on.’ (Jo Roe)
Jigsaw Dance Theatre, Tramway, Glasgow, Sun 19-Mon 20 May.
about lost youth. about reaching out for something that you're never going to get. It‘s about the fact that thislife exists in Dublin and goes on and on and on.‘
Getting the balance has not been easy between appcahngtothe traditional musical-goers weaned on Lloyd Webber on the one hand, and sounding convincingly rock ‘n‘ roll to the city‘s youth on the other. In practice, some older people have been offended. while some of the younger crowd have deemed it uncool. But Mercier is philosophical. ‘You have to take it for what it is,‘ he says. ‘We can‘t do the whole gambit.
It has to be a style ofits
own. It doesn‘t end up
with a big rousing
number. but there‘s a lot ,I to be enjoyed and laughed at on the way.‘ .' Drowning. King '5 V Theatre, Glasgow, Mon 20-Sar 25 May.
The List 17—30May199121