Past master

Director Patrick Dickie describes Open Stage‘s new play La Gioconda as ‘Leonardo da Vinci meets Hannibal the Cannibal. . . a fable of obsession and possession using the

much abused image ofthe Mona Lisa K A

as a focus.‘

Mona Lisa and serial murder— it‘s quite a connection to make. However, it is easier on the brain when taken in the context of its inspiration: the publication. in 1873, of a book called The Renaissance by art critic Walter Pater. Ostensibly a book of art essays, the book was also a vehicle for Pater‘s controversial and sometimes unpalatable views on human rights. ‘It was banned at the time in case it corrupted the young, and it‘s still quite a controversial text now,‘ explains La Gioconda's designer, Tanya Lees. ‘What it advocates is a complete lack of responsibility for other people. that you go out and do whatever you want to do, that you achieve every sensation you can. It‘s about the right of human beings to live their lives to the full by disregarding the rights ofother human beings. In fact it was a great influence on Oscar Wilde he carried a copy of it wherever he went.‘

Open Stage. who as a group devised La Gioconda, have created two characters into whose hands The Renaissance might have fallen,

p I


painting a picture of obsessiveness that is really gruelling. Particularly

, harrowing is the return to the theme

5 of man as oppressor and woman as

i victim. and Open Stage sees the

i production as especially topical in a

5 year that has already had to contend with American Psycho and The

' Silence ofthe Lambs.

E Patrick Dickie concedes that the

play's depiction ofviolence is

; disturbing and La Gioconda is very i much a series of scenarios, or

3 images, rather than a plot but then 3 he says that he wants to place violence in a wider context. ‘Kidnap


and torture are not confined to exotic, aberrant individuals, as the files of Amnesty International provc.‘

With Open Stage already beginning to interest producers in a television version of their play, and with La Gioconda being taken on to the Modern Drama course at Leeds, it looks as if Dickie may be on the way to getting the wider context he‘s looking for. (Miranda France)

I La Gioconda (Fringe) Open Stage, Richard Demarco Gallery (Venue 22) 557 0707. 12—24 Aug, 4.45pm, £4 (£3).

I Fox and the Flutlst A


The Cruel Grasp

All you need is nerve . . . Last year, playwright Thomas Kett sent his play The Cruel Grasp to Janet Suzman, having admired her work in BBC masterclasses and elsewhere, asking herto direct it. Suzman, liking his play and his audacity, accepted and this year it appears for a three-week run at The Pleasance.

Kett's play is in an English tradition of .

black comedy and hidden menace which leads Suzman to describe it as‘. . . baby Jonathan Swift, baby Pinter, baby Bennett, without sounding

condescending. I say baby because it’s 5

a small one-act play.’

Set in South London, it follows the machinations of a mother and her new lover to get rid of her son Robbie - in his twenties- from the house, so that

they can be alone together. But the plot ,5

has many twists and in the end, alter blackmail and other unpleasantnesses, it appears that Robbie has gained the upper hand. Kett is pleased with the unpredictability of the piece. ‘I think that at the time I wrote it I was quite angry; the anger adds an edge. There’s a double meaning to most Ilnes, a double edge to the set-up, as an audience your mind ls constantly


1 working overtime as to what exactly is meant by a line and that’s a quality! hope to keep.’ its also hopes that Suzman will add extra perspective to the play and indeed chose her partly on i the basis of her difference from him. ‘I 3 wanted an actress as opposed to an

i actor, because as a writer I love the

; idea of a woman coming in and adding

3 her professionalism and experience to

' what I’ve done - I find that very


. It would be interesting to know how the play was shaping up under Suzman’s direction, but when I spoke to herthere had only been a day of

Janet Suzman

rehearsals. Running on a tight budget, Suzman has allowed only a week plus previews to put the play together. ‘lfl can do the Three Sisters with Jonathan Miller in three weeks I can do this in one,’ she says, stalwartly. A veteran actress of many 880 and other classical productions, she claims to be ‘a bit of a rookie’ when it comes to directing. Though she has directed Othello iorThe Market Theatre in her native Johannesburg and forthe RSC, ' Kett’s play is the first ‘new’ work she has tried her hand at and she speaks enthusiastically about it. ‘I like the : writing very much,’ and about putting it on at the Fringe ‘out of the limelight so to speak.’ Kett, meanwhile, has great expectations of the collaboration. ‘l j think the qualities that she has will ' enhance what I’ve put down and everything will fall into place with the experiences that she’s had and they’ll combine and compliment each other 3 and it’ll work beautifully. . . hopefully.’ (Frances Cornford)

The Cruel Grasp (Fringe) Blue Moon

Productions, Pleasance (Venue 33)

j 556 6550, 8, 9 (previews) ill-31 Aug, 4pm, prices vary.


Miranda France recommends five ways to while away an afternoon.

one-woman play acted in the modern Japanese style of Noh, and a powerful love story which has already been seen in 24 venues across the world. Fox and the Flutist (Fringe) Shinko, Theatre Workshop (Venue 20) 226 5425, 12—24A ug (not Sun), 3pm, £3.50 (£2.50). I Lahrlns Sahib The first all-Indian company to hit Edinburgh, Akadameia describe their production as ‘a play about passion and politics’. See preview. Lahrins Sahib (Fringe) Akademeia Repertory Theatre, Paradox (Venue 73) 229 1003, 11—17Aug, 4.10pm; 19—31 Aug. 6.10pm, £5.40 (£4.50).

I Autogeddon The latest

epic, campaigning poem ,

by environmentalist Heathcote Williams, performed in Edinburgh by his friend Roy Hutchins. See preview. Autogeddon (Fringe) Roy Hutchins, Assembly Rooms (Venue 3) 220 4349, 10—31 Aug, 3.30pm, £6.50 (£5).

I Avnerthe Eccentric Making his debut in Britain. and rumoured to working up to a regular TV slot Avner‘s comedy routine thrills adults and children alike and had The New York Times falling over itself with praise. See preview.

A vner the Eccentric (Fringe), The Pleasance (Venue33) 556 6550, 10—31 Aug (not Thurs), 5.15pm, Mon—Wedf6 (£4.50); Fri—Sun £6.50 ([5).

I Witchplay Another

; ambitious one woman

show, this time from Australia, which explores how women have often draw the short straw—

. through ignorance and superstition

Witchplay (Fringe) Three

Women and a Passion, Theatre Workshop (venue

20) 226 5425, 9—31 Aug (not 11 and 18) 4pm, £5.50

; (£4.50).


3-6pm Siesta time?

seen, theatre, comedy and all sorts to be taken in baton you earn that High


The List 9 - I5 August T991 31