SECC, Glasgow. Until Sun 25 Aug. Hands up whose bright idea was it to put a major international musical in the SECC? And having made that auspicious decision -lor some people might leel comlortable in aircratt hangars— was it beyond that person to instal something as modern as raked seating or even an extra-high stage? It's a shame we don’t cover hairdressing in The List, because I could tell you as much about the row at heads in lront at me as about the Robbins/Laurents/Bernstein/Sondheim hit. And I had a good seat.

It is, then, a small wonderthat this 50-strong American company not only makes its mark, but also proves itsell as perhaps the most accomplished troupe to tackle West Side Story since the show's debut in 1957. Its energy alone is awesome. To clear a ten loot tence in three easy steps, leaping to the ground lor anothervigorous and tightly co-ordinated song and dance number, demands an athletic skill lar beyond the range at your average performer. And three decades on, Jerome Robbins' choreography— reproduced laithlully by Alan Johnson is as llash, spectacular and engaging as ever.

The choreography can also be thanked tor stopping the musical lrom showing its age. I doubt that even in 1957 street gangs were quite so polite to each other, but by turning the lights into dance sequences, Robbins makes the violence abstract— and theretore durable -without reducing its

emotional impact. The white Anglo-Saxon Jets in this production are a little too preppy to be truly convincing, but their Puerto Rican counterparts, the Sharks, make up with suitably streetwise, linger-clicking, mean and moody menace.

It's also great to re-see a musical as tightly put together as this. Dialogue is economical, almost minimalist, yet the plot races ahead with no sense of contusion or loss oi emotional depth, while the score—and whattunes! blends naturally and lluidly with the action. A great achievement, but do try and get a decent seat. (Mark Fisher)

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Arches Theatre, Glasgow. Until Sat 27 July.

The continuing survival at the Arches and its resident theatre company is a tribute to the hard work, dedication and enthusiasm of director Andy Arnold. Recognising the unique charm of this underground performance space, originally kitted out as part at the ill-lated Glasgow‘s Glasgow exhibition, Arnold has marked the way lortunding bodies to follow. It is to be hoped that the powers-that-be will spot that in the Arches, Glasgow has a much-needed, ready-made studio space with bags at built-in atmosphere, and a dedicated and talented team to boot.

In Joe Orton‘s black tarce, Loot, Andy 3 Arnoldtakesawalk-on role, as PC ' T Meadows, a uniformed officer whose

lurking presence suggests a torce of potentially corrupt policemen just


waiting to pervert the course of justice. It Orton's characters are not exactly evil, they do at least glory in their own caretree amorality. Any lront which they show to the world is chosen purely for convenience and never out of conscience. The comedy bubbles over when their limited altection lorthe truth is put underthreat and they merrily change allegiances. Blult overtakes double blull, the innocent are condemned and the guilty prosper.

Unlike other playwrights of his generation, Orton‘s writing is not informed by an alternative political vision, but it nonetheless maintains the shimmerot subversion by its studied disregard lor the status quo. His witty one-liners have a tendency to dazzle brilliantly, onlyto fade away as last. and it‘s important lor any production to hit each punchline with breathless panache belore the audience cottons on to the thinnersubstance underneath.

0n the whole, the Arches Theatre Company achieves this, though it misses a law laughs here and there. Ronan O‘Donnell plays the newly-widowed McLeavy, the only good guy on stage, with too little indignation to spark all much comic conflict, but otherwise the cast, notably Carolyn ‘Alexander Sister’ Bonnyman asthe murderous Irish nurse. plays the characters with due irreverence and broadness. Andy Arnold adds a couple at his own comic touches— like the opening Bontempi musical gag where a sombre church organ switches to a bouncyjig to setthe tone of black comedy— but its Orton‘s laugh-a-minute script that ensures an entertaining nightout. (Mark Fisher)


Theatre is listed by city. then alphabetically by venue. Touring shows are listed alphabetically by title at the end otthe section. Shows will be listed, provided that details reach our oliices at least ten days belore publication. Theatre Listings compiled by Mark Fisher.


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After six months of the most extensive renovation in its history,

Theatre Workshop is back. There is improved access for the disabled; a new studio space; a lift installed; the building stone-cleaned and the cafe/bar enlarged and refurbished. Why not be somewhere else this summer ? At THEATRE WORKSHOP.

56 The List 26 July 8 August I991