In a hastily-constructed theatre with the workings clearly visible, the Grand Opera ofOkIahoma plunders popular culture and its interaction with high art to create ‘unfinished theatre‘. You what?
‘Well, there are three performers and a tortoise in it,‘ explained Kate France a third of this sometime theatre company. ‘And our press line is that we‘re trying to get all of nature in one hour.’ I mumbled encouragement. ‘It includes astrology, animals, plants. supernature, life and death, the whole lot. Everything.’ ‘Although,’ continued France, ‘with our work the subject matter doesn‘t really count. because what is actually happening is this performance and the relationship between the three performers.‘ ‘And a tortoise‘, I added helpfully. ‘Oh yes, the tortoise is the star of the show,‘ enthused France. ‘Reptiles love being in the limelight. He starts the show in a follow spot, and he just loves it there. He has perfect timing too, you know.‘
I changed tack, questioning France on the company‘s process. ‘We worked for eight weeks, went off to make some little films and then gradually worked out a story line — someone‘s born and then they die. Quite dramatic really.‘ ‘I see.‘ Which Ididn‘t. Skimming the press release in front of me for inspiration, my eyes alighted on the mention of ‘ingenious mechanical devices.‘ France became mysterious, ‘lt‘s a big secret, but I can tell you that there is a growing tree, a cloud that rains, a pageant with the sun and moon in it. and there‘s a magician‘s '
disappearing cabinet. Terribly low-tech stuff, and you can see how they work which is kind of the point really. It's all in the format of a rather terrible, vaguely magical travelling theatre show. We‘ve been planning it for three years. and we hope it will be funny, strange and quite moving‘ — which is ironic considering there‘s a tortoise involved.
Set in Christmas 1098, In Search Of Omar Khayyam centres on a group of survivors struggling to reconstruct their faith after their home town is decimated by the soldiers of the First Crusade.
It‘s performed by El Hakawati. the first and currently the only international Palestinian theatre group to be formed in the occupied territories. Now permanently based in East Jerusalem in a disused cinema, the company have a significant reputation throughout the world.
Despite the potentially agitative
Grand Opera otOklahoma
nature oftheir material. El Hakawati’s work has most often been acclaimed for its avoidance of cliche and stereotypical propagandistic attitudes.
Writer and director of the production, Francois Abou Salem, is aware of the inevitably political context ofthe company‘s work: ‘In Palestine we face a continuous conflict between politics and art. To achieve a balance is very difficult because wherever you look, politics pops up. But you cannot create theatre inspired only from that because all you‘ll end up with is a few slogans and that‘s it. Reality is not that simple.‘ (Michael Balfour)
I Nature (Fringe) The Grand Opera of Oklahoma, Richard Demarco Gallery (Venue 22), 557 0707, 26—31 Aug. noon, £3.50 (£2.50).
I In Search Of Omar Khayyam (Fringe) El Hakawati. Assembly Rooms (Venue 3). 220 4349, 27—31 Aug, noon, £7 (£5.50).
Nuts about Brazil
Workshops in the Music and Culture at ! Latin America and a Brazilian street ' procession are sure to entertain young people interested in arts lrom international cultures in the iinai two weeks at the Fringe.
Carlos Arredondo has created a cultural umbrella lor his special work, FABULA, ‘lor a better understanding oi Latin America’. Originally lrom Chile and new resident in Edinburgh, Carlos is a teacher/singer/songwrlter dedicated to promoting a positive image at Latin America.
During the Fringe he is both performing and carrying out workshops -the latter being something that he does all year, travelling to schools throughout Scotland. The workshops encourage children to speak about Latin America, aiming to provide them
with lnlormatlon that they can relate to
their own lives-tor example, where potatoes come from, or the origin at the word chocolate.
Carlos' real strength is his music through which he speaks poignantly oi the peoples, cultures and customs oi Latin America. He uses his large collection oi instruments and beautiiul
songs to enthuse others — he’s entertaining and great with kids. Workshops are open to young people over eight years at age.
Another series of workshops are for children Irom three local primary
schools. The lucky kids will be learning
dances and making their own costumes and musical instruments before meeting on Saturday 31 August tor a procession which will no doubt till the
i streets with the clamour and joy of 3 Brazilian carnival. Workshops are not open to the public, ’ , I butdon't miss the procession. (Tamsin ; Grainger) Music and Culture ol Latin America
(Fringe) Levemdaie Arts Group, Bonnington Resource Centre (Venue 48) 555 0920, 23—31 Aug, 11.30am, £1 (50p). Tickets at venue only.
Brazilian Street Procession (Fringe)
Weekend Arts College, Maylield House
(Venue 52) 551 3813, 31 Aug, 2pm, Free.
tale from the time ofthe
Michael Ballour singles out live shows tor Festival early-birds.
I In Search oIOmar Khayyam British premiere of a dramatic and ancient
Crusades. Performed by an internationally acclaimed company based in East Jerusalem and blending vivid imagery, folklore and allegory.
In Search of ()mar
Khay yam (Fringe) El Hakawati, Assembly Rooms (Venue 3 ). 220 4349, 27—31 Aug, noon. £7
I The Last Laugh A lively. impressive production of a new comic fairytale. that balances farce and slapstick with a serious message about Amnesty International.
The Last Laugh (Fringe) Flesh It ()ut Theatre Company. Hill Street Theatre (Venue 4]) until 3] Aug. 11am. £4 (£2.50). I Conversations with a GOIIIWOQ Faced with the confusion and anger of
growing up. Carrie leads her life under the direction of a toy. A dark and disturbing play exploring the fine line between reality and fantasy.
Con versattons With A Golliwog (Fringe) Glasgo w A rts Centre. Harry Younger Hall (Venue 13), 26—31 Aug, noon. £3 (£2).
I One ol our Monsters is Mything The adventures of a gormlcss Greek hero on a quest to do battle with all monsters big and eccentric. An original production, performed
with quiet charm and an
epic sense ofhumour.
! ()ne Of()ur Monsters ls
M ything (Fringe) F reefall Monster Company. Celtic 9 Lodge (Venue 6) 225 7097, l until31Aug. 11am. £3.50 3 (£2.50).
' I Purple Hearts A sad and i life-affirming story of
3 three men trapped inthe
hold of a sunken
j American battleship.
‘ Performed with perfect intensity and conviction.
j Purple Hearts (Fringe)
I Los Altos Conservatory
Theatre, Moray House
Union Theatre (Venue
T 108), 5565184, until31
é Aug (n0t27. 29). noon, £4 (£3).
Leap out at bed, clutch your head and hit the trail
tongue will tell
The List 23 - 29 August 199121