Mark Fisher rounds up the current crop of one-woman shows.
Alternative mainstay. Stu Who'.’. and mainstream funnyman. Dean Park. are joining forces on Saturday 13 July at Glasgow's (‘omic Club for a stand-up show called Variety 's .\'ot Dead. ItJust Sine/ls Bad. Two minutes away at the Tron. meanwhile. Dorothy Paul is proving that ifvariety is dead. it has no shortage ofgleeful mourners. 'l‘he packed. predominantly elderly female audience is not just with Paul in See That's Her. it is ahead of her. racing to the ptinchlines like they were long-lost friends and often beating her to them.
l-lers is an unashamedly nostalgic meander through the well-mapped territory of Glasgow tenement life. taking in the less familiar detail of her own theatrical career on the way. In the past. I‘ve questioned the worth of the recurrent obsession with early-century working-class urban experience in plays from The (Iorba/s Story to ( hanged Days and The Ship — here too Dorothy Paul earns a round of applause just for mentioning her part in The Steamie. But for all the dewy-eyed fondness with which it is recounted. this is evidently a story that for some deep-seated psychological reason needs to be told and told again. And to her credit. Dorothy Paul tells it very well.
Using the Variety format for this self-written monologue. Paul
dances. sings and wisecracks through
anecdotes and character portraits in an endearing. old-pro sort of way. The songs are unobtrusive and sweetly sung. the acting is well
Dorothy Paul: See That’s Her
observed and assured. and the jokes may not be new. but still raise a laugh. The second halfof the show. an extended chatshow showbiz history. arguath says more about Scottish culture than the first half’s well-worn tales of co-operative halls and hanging out of tenement windows. Paul holds back from giving away many truly personal details. but her anecdotes about
playing the clubs. music halls and TV"
studios of Scotland and Ireland are rich in human detail. The audience
gave a standing ovation and Paul was clearly touched.
Also delving into showbiz history is Waterfront Productions whose debut show. I Cover the Waterfront. is a biography of Billie Holiday. written by Jim McNulty and performed by Dunoon's finest. Suzanne Bonnar. The story of Holiday. from impoverished childhood through adolescent rape to musical success and narcotic downfall. should be a playwrights gift. but McNulty fails to bring dramatic shape to the material. telling it as straight as a TV ' documentary and rarely allowing us any insight into Holiday‘s character. He makes the mistake of telling us what happened instead ofshowing us.
Fortunately the story is strong enough to hold our interest. but things are made harder for Bonnar— on the first night at least — by truly awful lighting operation. abitrarily flooding the stage one moment. sending it into blackness the next. It's hard to tell whether its sloppy direction or the random will of the lights that leaves Bonnar repeatedly caught out at odd corners of the stage - either way I’m sure it can be sharpened up by the time the show hits the Edinburgh Fringe.
What the production certainly has on its side. however. is Bonnar’s voice. She goes way beyond mere mimicry by assimilating the characteristics of l loliday's vocal style and making them her own; her delivery is neither forced nor contrived. but effortlessly natural. I think she‘ll settle into the acting which at the moment needs to exude more energy. confidence and size. although she's working with a script which itself fails to address the question ofwhy Holiday is interesting as a personality. But with tightening up I can see this being quite a punchy show.
See That's Her. Tron Theatre. Glasgow. Until Sun [5 July.
I ('over the ll’aterjront. seen at Tron Theatre. At (ii/(led Ballon Theatre. Edinburgh. Fri (LA/Ion l 9 Aug.
[Elm— THE canon CLUB
Seen at Theatre Royal, Glasgow. Playing King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, Mon 22 Jul-Sat 3 Aug.
There’s something intriguing about an all-black musical which features in its cast a certain Joop Leiwakabessy and one Svetlana Pengel. Suddenly the penny drops and you realise that this is not your run-ol-the-mill touring musical, but an Anglo-Dutch-Amerlcan run-ol-the-mill touring musical.
The stars are British and American - Madeline Bell (best known for that song about melting pots and coffee-coloured people), Grace Kennedy (best known for her legs), Chip Barnett and Britt Wilson- but the chorus, all of the musicians and the producers are Dutch. What a happy example of global
harmony; almost, in fact, fulfilling the aims of Ms Bell's hippy hit. But that song was always a little optimistic wasn't it?
The leads are flawless. Bell and Kennedy can both belt out the standards with the best of ’em. Not quite Billie Holiday. but almost. Garnett has a superb voice and, if it
hadn’t been for a faulty mike, could have performed the show-stopper. As it was, that honour went to Wilson with a wonderfully witty Minnie the Moocher.
But solid leads don’t make fora great musical. Only one of the continentals, Marcel Peneux, is up to scratch. He doesn't have much to do, just
g tap-dance, but whattap-dancing:
absolutely breathtaking. Peneux aside, this is a sorry advertisment for Holland. The chorus look so bored and
i uninterested that you can only presume i that, in true Cotton Club style, they’ve just been given a day's notice. I fear,
though, that future audiences will not be that lucky. Worst of all is the band
j which is annoyingly competent, efficient and downright dull. They don’t
play jazz, but some sort of elevator be-bop. One phrase springs to mind: ‘Dem white boys just ain't got no soul‘. (Philip Parr)
I King's High King‘s Theatre. Glasgow. Until Sat 27 July.
Positioned neatly between panto seasons. King's High sings. dances and wisecracks its way. slickly and undemandingly. through a fourth crowd-pulling year. A lot ofthe jokes are second league. but there area couple of amusing set-pieces by Allan Stewart and Andy Cameron. notably the latter's bigotry routine (even if it is ten yearsout ofdate). Musical standards from Opportunity Knocks-winner Brenda (‘ochrane. and standard magic from Leo Ward help keep the audience happy. .‘ylildlydiverting. but not essential. (MP)
I Macbeth Bedlam 'l'hcatrc. Edinburgh. Run Ended.
lt's ambitious for a
company which declares its limitations by calling itselfThe Edinburgh Young Shakespeare Company to tackle Macbeth. But there was nothing inadequate about this performance which. with the exception of musical accompaniment more suited to a Coward farce than Shakespeare. was as competent as many
a professional production. The inclusion of a female Banquo was strange, but worked well. as did a new and very funny reading of the porter character. Andrew Bonar just managed to steal the show from a wholly assured cast with his magnificent Macbeth. (PP)
I Phantom of the Opera At Edinburgh Playhouse
until Sat 13 Jul. At
Theatre Royal. Glasgow. Mon 26-Sat 31 Aug.
When the ﬁrst word ofa musical is ‘Shit!’ you know things can’t be all bad, and Ken Hill‘s version ofthe ghostly whodunnit by Gaston Leroux starts as it means to go on. Like American Werewolf in London, it is both funny
and spooky — sending up
the melodrama one moment, sending shivers through the Grand Circle the next. The cast is uncommonly animated, enjoying the silliness quite as much as the audience. and handles the operatic score with aplomb. Good fun. (MP)
The List lZ—ZSJuly 199151