Peasant viewing ,
A sulky and cynical Mark Fisher sits stony-faced through 7284’s Poll Tax
I‘ve never heard an audience sound more like the laughter-track ofa tacky US sitcom than at Glasgow‘s King's Theatre. where 7284’s Revolting Peasants began its run. From the back of the Grand Circle a woman let out intermittent parakeet squalls. while any stage smuttiness was a cue for the man in the row behind to sound his fog-horn belly-laugh. Elsewhere. gaggles of theatre-goers took their turn at hysterical cackling. and by the end they all agreed they‘d had a great time.
But despite the enthusiasm, I reckon Patrick Prior‘s Poll Tax farce is a load oftosh. Popular it maybe. but 7:84 is selling its audience seriously short. not least because. in Una McLean and Russell Hunter. the company has an impeccable comic double-act worthy of much sharper material. lwon‘t try and make out that my own chuckles didn‘t make a small contribution to the laughter-track. but Revolting Peasants is plagued by second-rate jokes and pathetically transparent local references that are saved only by the professional showbiz pzazz of McLean and Hunter.
Una McLean and Russell Hunterin Revolting Peasants
But this isn‘t the real problem. Choosing farce as a vehicle for his message is no bad thing. but why Prior has gone for the sexually repressive trouser-dropping of Whitehall farce. when there is the shining example of Dario F0. is a mysterV. Here we have a revolutionary idea — break the law and don‘t pay the Poll Tax - trying to express itself in a reactionary theatrical form. And as the feeble closing lines prove. it doesn’t work.
Instead of making his political viewpoint an integral part of the action, Prior tacks it on glibly to the rollercoaster mechanism of farce. and so the politics are at best only incidental. Ironically. what comes across most clearly is his condemnation of the Labour Party‘s policy of upholding the law, because Russell Hunter. as a Kinnockite shop steward. goes on about it so much. The forces ofauthority — two police. one Community Charge inspector — are so unconvincing that the whole ugly business of the Poll Tax is reduced to an inconsequential game ofcat and mouse.
I‘m not trying to argue that the Poll Tax is too serious to laugh about. rather. that by presenting figures of authority as weak-willed halfwits,
7:84 is trivialising the problem and denying the audience the chance to engage emotionally or intellectually with the real political isSues involved. Vari Sylvester and Matthew Costello as the Police Superintendant and Constable yield their truncheons. neither with the brashness of a cartoon, nor with the serious violence of real life. Consequently, both the political and comic possibilities of the piece are diminished.
Further evidence of an insulting attitude to the audience is the huge wardrobe on stage, which falls open at the most inopportune moments. having been built with much the same creakiness as the plot. But I feel most sorry for John McGrath. the now-banished founder of7z84, whose work with the company could combine humour and politics in an engaging. accessible and theatrical way, and whose ideals are quite at odds with such a lazy piece of theatre. I accept that most ofthe audience was perfectly satisfied with its night out, but I maintain that it has been cheated. And I’m sure that not a single one will have changed his or her opinions of the Poll Tax. Revolting Peasants, seen at King’s Theatre, Glasgow, now on tour.
[EMERI— ' CINDERELLA
Seen at King's Theatre, Edinburgh. At King’s Theatre, Glasgow, Tue 11—Sat 15Jun.
London City Ballet’s Cinderella is a comic spectacle. Featuring romance, slapstick and magic, it is more ol a theatrical event than highbrow ballet. Fine it you want to be entertained, disappointing it you’re looking tor art.
Using every theatrical trick in the book, this is a traditional rendering oi a well known iairytale, gilded with glamour and illusion. Princes walk out
ndn City Ballet
oi mirrors, lairy godmothers turn pumpkins into chariots and Cinderella is easily the belle ol the ball. The ugly sisters, however, steal the show, all still legs and no co-ordinatlon, showing themselves up against Cinderella’s dainty choreography.
For a company that has supported itsell over thirteen years, it is a shame that it has been relused an Arts Council grant. These are competant dancers who could get their teeth into works of oreater stature. (Jo Roe)
RAG WOMAN, RICH WOMAN
Seen at The Old Athenaeum Theatre, Glasgow. On Tour. One murder, one manslaughter, one aggravated assault, one gang rape, one DIY abortion (with a knitting needle) and one taintlng (in the audience) all before the interval. This is what you might call psychological drama with the emphasis on the psycho.
Clyde Unity Theatre has taken this moderately nail table and created a stunning piece of theatre. John
Binnie’s script crackles with genuine Glasgow humour and shocking set pieces vying tor prominence. Aileen Ritchie is vibrant and ebullient as the heroine oi the title and receives ample support irom Simon Hart as the pseudo-intellectual Matthew Drumond and Stewart G. Aitkin as the sleazy iourno with a heart at gold. Binnie, the director, has managed to whip the action along at a frenzied pace but keeps scenes such as the rape oi the heroine and the murder ol Drumond’s lather stylised and therelore possibly even more potent.
The one and only down side at the evening is the graphic depiction oi the abortion. This was what caused the tainting and i must admit to leeling a touch queasy mysell. The scene is protracted, grotesque and shocking; the justiiication would be that it was the
3 crucial tuming point in the lead
character’s lite and therelore must be shown in this way. But the problem is that once the play is over, the abortion, rather than the much more positive aspects of the production, is the main talking point. Clyde Unity would do themselves a great lavour by toning it down. (Philip Parr)
I ﬂab C. liesbitt At The King‘s Theatre, Glasgow. Until 8 June. Theatre’s meant to be cultured isn't it? You‘ve only got to look at the tastefully placed silk swathes covering the two cherubs which flutter above the stage to realise that plays are pure dead decent. Gregor Fisher, Elaine C. Smith and the rest have different ideas with this refugee from the small screen. A sample piece of dialogue is, Smith: “You expect me to welcome you back with open arms?‘. Fisher: ‘Open legs would be better.‘ Ha ha. Imagine two hours of this sort of patter and you’ll get the picture. Not decent, not decent at all. (PP)
I The Splitting oi Latham Seen at Craigmillar Arts Centre. On tour. Eccentric, colourful and not a little silly. Benchtours‘ divised gothic comedy has ‘Edinburgh Fringe' written allover it. It makes virtue of a low budget by concentrating on theatrical inventiveness, telling the story of a Victorian scientist‘s character-splitting invention with cartoon playfulness. The pastiche melodrama of the beginning and end is unevenly paced. generally too slow and lacking in clearly-defined style. But tighter direction would make the actors feel as comfortable in these sections as they do when letting rip through the play‘s very amusing central core. (MF) l A Slice at Saturday Night Pavilion Theatre. Glasgow until Sat 1 Jun; then at Playhouse, Edinburgh, Mon 3—Sat 8 June. A jolly romp through an almost continuous run of pastiche 605 songs, this Heathers Brothers musical claims to be set in 1964, but borrows Rutles-likc from the whole decade. Unashamedly nostalgic, but too concerned with lusty young desire to become maudlin, it is entertaining in an undemanding sort of way, although weakened by a ﬂimsy dramatic structure. Gary Glitter — inexplicably on crutches — poses and preens like only he can (surely pantomime dame can‘t be far away?) and. though it‘s not a patch on a Glitter Gangshow, he’s got enough charisma to carry it off. (MF)
The List31 May—13June 199151