Doing the dishes
Michael Mears realises, somewhat ruelully, that the subject matter at his sell-penned one-man show will need a certain amount oi hard sell to compete with the sexual perversity and serial killers on otter elsewhere in the Fringe. ‘It doesn’t sound terribly attractive when you describe it— “Oh it’s about workers in a lactory canteen," but as a theatrical experience I think it's going to be very up iront, bright and stylish, and very lunny.’
The play, about the experiences ol a
young man working one summer in the aiorementioned canteen, is largely autobiographical — Mears had a slmila job beiore drama college —with the characters based on iormer colleagues. ‘The people in the lactory where I worked, the different personalities, the relationships between them, just iascinated me,‘ he says. ‘It’s basically about people in dead-end jobs, and how they survive them, with humour and so on, how they keep themselves going.’
Mears, best known as Alex, owner oi the kebab shop and pirate radio station
in The Lenny Henry Show, describes
the prospect oi playing all six characters (tour men and two women) r as ‘a big challenge, a bit oi an Everest
really. We’re going to be doing the changes very simply, with the emphasis on physical and vocal acting. Our star prop will be this canteen trolley lull ot dirty dishes, a slightly surreal sculpture oi dirty crockery and lag ends and so on, and possibly a long spike ol semolina suspended irom it— it sort oi sums up the world these people have to live in.‘ (Sue Wilson)
Tomorrow We Do the Sky (Fringe) Michael Mears, Traverse Theatre (Venue 15) 226 2633,13—18 Aug, 2pm; 20—25 Aug, 7.45pm; 27—31 Aug, noon, £7 (£4).
Upside down under
Three years ago Circus Oz visited the Edinburgh Festival. They had been here beiore and it was likely that they would return, lor they have a deservedly popular travelling show. Presenting raucous animal-tree circus they bridge age and taste barriers with charm and skill.
Hailing lrom Australia the troupe was lormed over ten years ago. Original members have been replaced by young blood, but the spirit oi the company remains intact. The dozen or so perlormers display a dazzling array oi skills and crop up in a variety oi guises throughout the show. Circus Ouies are prolicient trapeze artists, trampollnlsts, musicians, acrobats and
What pulls the show together and ranks it way above other animal-lrlendly circuses is its Tmaginative presentation, which renders most sketches more than a showcase lor various impressive talents. In past shows perlormers have impersonated Humphrey Bogart while strolling upside down on the ceiling high above the audience, installed telephones while trampolining, and created a moving sculpture while leaping through hoops.
Borrowing trom vaudeville and traditional circus the show includes acts that originate irom China, like the pole walking and hoop diving. All this is spiced up with humour and engaging ease -lun and lrolics lor all the lamily. (Jo Roe)
Circus Oz (Fringe) Assembly at the Meadows (Venue 116) 220 4349, 9—11, 16—18, 23—25, 30, 31 Aug; 2pm, 13-15, 20-22, 27—29 Aug; 6pm, 11, 18. 25 Aug, 7.30pm, £7.50 (£5)
l STATE OF PLAY
One ofthe many plays in this year‘s Fringe examining aspects of male-female relations — a sign ofour uncertain
Yorkshire Theatre Company and described
the male ego‘. Rooted in the customs and characters of Yorkshire cricket, the play satirises
ofsport and sportsmen, albeit with a certain
balance,‘ says co-author Toby Swift. ‘We‘re cricketers ourselves, so
an awareness that, fairly often. behaviour crosses the line between what‘s fun and what‘s suddenly not quite so much fun, is actually pretty boorish. The cricket is a kind of backdrop— the play‘s really looking at any
the way men seem to like to turn everything intoa competition.‘
Swift is hopeful that the play strikes the right balance between humour and serious comment. ‘It is both, although!
political side of it too strongly. We wanted to
the ultra-masculine world
sport, and beyond that, at
wouldn‘t want to push the
‘post-feminist‘. times? — is State ofPlay, presented by
as a ‘full-frontal assault on
amount of affection. ‘lt‘s a
there‘s a love for the game and its characters, but also
produce a play which appealed to the type of people it was sending up, but gave them a good nudge in the ribs.‘Therc‘s always a risk, with comedy, ofappearing to
I celebrate what you're
. ‘ ttingout to parody,but
‘ 't‘s one Swift is aware of.
‘We‘ve tried to work against that,’ he says. ‘You see the events ofthe play through the eyes of the central female character. she‘s always putting what the men do. however funny it is, into context, and she‘s a genuinely appealing and interesting character. You can‘t get rid of the danger that someone‘s going to take it the wrong way, but we‘ve done our best.‘ (Sue Wilson)
I State of Piay(Fringc) Yorkshire Theatre Company, Assembly Rooms (Venue 3) 220 4349, 9L3] Aug (not Tues), 1 .30pm, £7/£6 (£6/£5).
NORMAL: THE DUSSELDORF RIPPER
You might assume that a new play about a serial killer was an attempt to cash in on this year‘s somewhat peculiar craze, but according to writer Anthony Neilson the timing involved more luck than judgement. ‘When I wrote it I had no idea there was going to be this spate of things about serial killers. The play is quite different, anyway, because you never lose sight of the fact that you‘re talking about a murderer, and that murder is very, very horrible. Also, I wanted to make sure we
had the viewpoints of the victims rather than just the killer. it‘s a very intense piece; we don't flinch from anything, though there‘s nothing graturtous in it — it‘s emotionally rather than visually disturbing.‘
Neilson first came across the story ofthe Dusseldorf Ripper, who was also the inspiration for Fritz Lang‘s film M, when reading about Jack the Ripper. ‘1 think at the time it was because he’s a very archetypal serial killer, with all the elements that are common in most ofthem‘ he says, explaining what attracted him to the subject. ‘ltwas also the setting — Germany in 1931 , just two years away from the Third Reich. I wasn‘t particularly interested in simply telling the story of a serial killer; the play is less about his life than his trial and his defence, the wider implications of findinga man like that legally sane — that's why it‘s called Normal. The verdict can be seen as symbolic of what was happening in Germany at the time.‘
‘Serial killing is a bit like a disease, one which is unique to modern history,‘ Neilson believes. ‘I think people are fascinated by it because it enables them to ﬂirt safely with their own darker side. People are always interested in extremes, and this is about as extreme as you can get.‘ (Sue Wilson) I Normal: The Dusseldorf Ripper (Fringe) Psychopathia Sexualis, Pleasance (Venue 33) 556 6550, 7—31 Aug (not 11, 18, 27), 2pm,£4/£4.50 (£2.50/£3).
‘Going boldly where no mime has gone before,‘
theatre, clowning, slapstick and acrobatics, Black Mime Theatre is one of a growing number of companies whose work bridges the conventional divisions between
j different theatrical forms. Black Mime Women‘s Troop is in Edinburgh with Total Rethink, described as ‘a fast and furious spoof on macho adventure movies‘.
‘The inspiration for the show came from films like Die Hard, Total Recall, Robocop and Terminator,‘ explains director Denise Wong. ‘We wanted to look at
combining mime, physical
v THEATRE '
images of women in these ﬁlms, the way they always tend to be bimbos or helpless victims, and do a complete send-up on it.‘ BMT was set up in 1984
as the ﬁrst British black mime group, with the Women‘s Troop being formed last year. ‘It felt very wrong that there should be any art form where blacks weren‘t represented,‘ says Wong. ‘1 think what we‘ve begun to achieve is the acknowledgement that we do have a culture of our own here in Britain, we don‘t always have to look to America, or the West Indies, or Africa.’
Wong also welcomes the movement towards a simpler style of theatre, reflected in mime‘s ’ growing popularity. ‘1 think the current trend away from these
elaborate, cluttered designer sets is very positive, that we‘re starting to go back to what I‘d call an actor-based theatre. After all, you can always do a show without a set, but you can‘tdo anything without the actors.‘ (Sue Wilson)
I Total Rethink (Fringe) Black Mime Women‘s Troop, Pleasance (Venue 33) 556 6550, 7—31 Aug (not 12, 19, 27), 1pm, £5/£5.50 (£3/£3.50).
28 The List 9— 15 August 1991