facile. I had to break the mould. It used to annoy
V NEW PLAY
The Sky’s the limit
Una McLean went from being a co-founder of the Lyceum Theatre Company to being a Grade 1 celebrity. She tells Philip Parr about travelling the path back to serious acting.
Derek Nimmo, Joanna Lumley, Peter Ustinov can all be put into the same category. Yes, yes, I know what you’re thinking, but in addition to that. they are all ex-actors who have now become celebrities. The path is a familiar one, but there can be very few who have travelled it in the opposite direction. One ofthis elite group is Una McLean. The archetypal Scottish entertainer who could always be relied upon to fill a spot in a chat show, Una changed direction some three years ago. Now she is facing her greatest challenge in a one-woman show at Edinburgh‘s Traverse, Sky Woman Falling.
‘Going into comedy just happened by chance as most things in life do,‘ says McLean. ‘Ofcourse, it always comes down to economics. I was bringing up children and there were times when I had to take certain types ofwork, but there came a point when I felt that I was in a trough. I had to keep my mind working and get back to something less
me so much to be pigeon-holed; people thought that I could only do the one thing. There is another I type of theatre — they were cheering and stamping 5
Una McLean, seen here in 7:84's Bevolting Peasants, goes straight into Sky Woman Falling
at the last night ofRevoIting Peasants and that‘s wonderful - but this at the Traverse is so satisfying. It‘s nice for me because now I‘ve got the best of both worlds.‘
Sky Woman Falling by American playwright Toby Armour, traces the life ofan Irish-American girl of fifteen who is captured by Indians and brought up as one ofthem. The Sky Woman is in her 805 as she recounts her life, but rather than relying on make-up to give a convincing portrayal of the old woman, McLean has been voraciously absorbing information about the Indians‘ customs.
‘Ifthey lost someone, ifone of their family had been killed in a raid by white people, they took somebody to replace that person. Sky Woman replaces a young boy. The rest of her family dies — her father just gives up and her mother is scalped. The first time that she sees a scalping it is of her mother and her beautiful red-gold hair. It must have been traumatic. But, in spite of that. when
LISTIGS: THEATRE 58 CABARET 60 DANCE ED
she comes to, after a tortuous initiation ceremony, she says that she has never known such love.‘
The play is the first by Toby Armour to be performed in Britain and the first unsolicited script to be produced at the Traverse since 1989. McLean, though, is in no doubt about its quality. ‘She tells her story almost in spite of herself,‘ says McLean of the ageing heroine. 'It just suddenly all pours out and a lot ofit, I‘m sure, becomes a kind ofcatharsis. And it‘s beautifully written, almost like a piece of music with great images. You can‘t but help being caught up in it because of those images. The play isn’t written in a conventional way but very poetically. There’s a great economy of language, very succinct. yet I think it‘s even more descriptive because of that. Obviously, when she‘s talking about her childhood, it has all been suppressed and so when she’s telling it, it‘s as though it's all coming out, and the words have hit the air, for the first time.‘
Sky Woman Falling is McLean‘s first ever one-woman play and. running for seven weeks, it can be seen as much an endurance as an acting test. The actress, however, is able to see her life in a new perspective having immersed herself in the life of this Irish-American-Indian.
‘I often think that I am going to faint from nerves when I’m on stage. I am paranoid about knowing who‘s in the audience. have been ever since I started. I” even once think about it. I just hate it. But this woman had such a terrible life, I don‘t know how she survived the way she did. Irish stock I suppose. Her second husband was incredibly cruel and she tells this story just before she is moved to the first white reservation where she dies about two years later. So it‘s not only that she‘s preparing to leave her home but she‘s also preparing to die. When you study something like that, you know we have a lot to answer for.‘
Sky Woman Falling, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Thursday 4—Saturda y 27] ul y and then throughout the Edinburgh Festival.
V CABARET ‘
Three of a kind
It's a joy to learn that, despite rumours to the contrary, Glasgow's only multinational comedy triumvirate is still happy to be known by its lull glorious monicker, The Three Men Trio Brothers Troupe. None at your
comer-cutting abbreviations here. ‘We ' tend to get “The Trio Brothers Troupe" and then betore or alter In brackets “(The Three Men)",' says Canadian Greg Hemphill. ‘It's like all those nail
The Three Men Trio BrothersTroupe
songs by Whitney Houston called “i Love You" and then in brackets, "(Give ; Me A Call)" orsomething. I like the long name too.‘
Good also to hear that comedic i
co-operation is not the monopoly oi the 3 Funny Farm. TV star and panto-writer, Bruce Morton, once described by the Glasgow Herald as a ‘mirth god‘, has made the Troupe his personal holy trinity. All tour comics are joining forces for ‘Troupetellas', a one-off night of comedy featuring two regular sets and a mini-play performed soap opera-like in three parts overthe
‘lt's a loving tribute to the Marx
Brothers and Martin Scorsese,’ says
Hemphlll about Morton’s playiet to
; which the Troupe has added jokes and ' directorial ideas. ‘lt's a wordy, , last-paced gag-test based on the recent , spate oi gangster movies. We tried to ; till ltwith as many gags as we could § i and then sitted out the bad ones. What's left is pretty tight stutt.’
Since winning last year's Edinburgh Fringe So You Think You're Funny competition, The Three Men Trio Brothers Troupe has been concentrating its work on a smaller number of cabaret-only venues,
? instead oi the wealth of pub gigs where they forged their apprenticeship. ‘We've changed our act a lot since then, because we received a lot of constructive criticism,‘ says Hemphlll. ‘We're working more towards something less visual with a lot more
: music and we do a little bit at stand-up j as well. Our baby at the moment is a
' song we’ve written about how dead people like Jim Morrison become
: tamous.’ (Mark Fisher)
Troupetellas, Third Eye Centre, Glasgow, Fri 28 June.
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