L route. (MF)
I Borderland Seen at Mayfield House. Edinburgh. Now atThc Arches. Glasgow until
Sun 22 Sept. Makinga speedy response to events
in Eastern Europe. Birds
of Paradise looks at ethnic friction in post- revolutionary Romania.
It's an absorbing plea for
us to recognise our
common humanity while
we decide whether the future lies in state corruption. wily
free-market enterprise or old-style union politics. Somewhat lacking in
tension early on. the production quickly makes up with strong use ofsong and ﬂuid. confident ‘ staging. Worth a look. . (MF) :
I Scotland the What? King‘sTheatrc. Glasgow. until Sat 14 Sept; then King‘s Theatre. Edinburgh. Tue S—Sat 26 Oct.
Twenty-two years at this game. Aberdeen's comedy trio know their audience perfectly — they even round off the show with a paean to middle age — and it istheir unpretentiousncss that makes them so likcable. Of the twenty all-new songs and sketches. presented with professional confidence. there are only two — The School C hunts and I Know The Face — which I found seriously funny. but they have nodifficulty sustaining a stream of chuckles throughout. (MF)
I The Sash Seen at Pavilion Theatre. Glasgow. On Tour. All the fun ofthe bigotsas llector MacMillan resurrects his early 70s morality tale — here doubling as director and playwright. In a packed Pavilion. the play suffered from the dual deficiencies of dodgy amplification and all too broad dialect so that much ofthe crude wit was lost into the stratosphere. What was audible. was as sharp and relevant as ever. (PP)
l Flowers on the Dead Red Sea Tramway. Glasgow. Until Sat 14 Sept. Clyde Nouveau meets The Dumb Waiter in a relentless poetic barrage featuringa self- dcstructing set. a pianist with a hammer and a lot of Tom Jones. Performed with mesmerising intensity by Y Cwmni. Flowers. . . is atturns funny. striking and intriguing. It loses its way by the end and its argument is too convoluted to follow. but it throws up some remarkable theatre en 1
46 The List 13— 26September 1991
The two most exciting productions of the autumn season are adaptations of classic Scottish novels.
l Mark Fisher nips out of the library and into the
I doubt it’s coincidence that two of the companies most dedicated to moving away from text-based theatre should choose to work from a novel instead of an original script. 5 'I'AG and (‘ommunicado have opted for adaptations before. and you can see how their respective directors. 'l‘ony Graham and Gerry Mulgrew. might find more ﬂexibility in working from another medium. in both 'I‘AU‘s Sunset Song and ("ommunicado‘s The Cane Gatherers. the companies have created stage pieces that not only stand independent of their literary roots. but also have a markedly different texture to much script-based theatre. Where (‘ommunicado has a big budget on its side — Gordon Davidson‘s set is an elaborate. full-scale re-creation ofa forest. from wood-chips to tree-house to operative period automobile — 'I‘AG relies almost entirely on human resources; the cast slipping from music to song to dance under the excellent lighting ofNicky Rintoul and Alan l.yddiard. In this respect. 'I'AG makes the most complete transition from novel to stage. It
takes (‘ommunicado a while to shake
offthe naturalism of Bryan Elsley's adaptation. but 'I‘AG leaps straight in with an unselfconscious integration of movement and drama. It's a real advancement ofthe style ’l'ony Graham has been developing in pieces like Edwin Morgan‘s From Glasgow to Saturn. and although Alastair Cording's adaptation doesn‘t break away from the novel‘s narrative form. neither does he let it become a handicap. Despite much activity and many people on stage. the focus is always remarkably sharp and. built around Pauline Knowles‘s warm-hearted performance as Chris Guthrie. the production has the fluidity and captivating variation of a classical score.
What becomes apparent in Sunset Song‘s second half. however. is that the story structure is better suited to the page than to the stage where it begins to meander and lose its forward drive. In The ( ‘one (iatherers. on the other hand. ("ommunicado has found a plot that is uncomplicated. emotive and naturally at home on the stage. Sight-lines and acoustics are variable and there is an initial fear that the extravagant staging is covering up a theatrically limited piece ofwriting. bttt slowly Gerry Mulgrew masters the text and introduces the kind of
The Cone Galhrers
simple. yet breath-taking spectacle of which only he is capable. few others could get away with it. but the sight of the east becoming a herd of deer charging through the forest is a joy.
As with TAG. music makes an important contribution to The ( one
(iatherers. and David .\lc(iuinness's .
deconstructed Scottish folk variations are sophisticated. disturbing and atmospheric. adding greatly to the supernatural feel of Mulgrews staging, George and William Jackson's music for Sunset Song is more conventional. but equally colourful and well performed. and like .‘\lc(iuiness. they recognise the theatrical power of the human voice.
What is worth noting. in a year whose previous highlight was The 'l’raverse‘s limit/tigers. is that Scottish theatre is at last proving that historical drama need not be mawkishly nostalgic. Make an effort to see both of these shows which
i demonstrate that it is possible to be
warmly human without being sloppily sentimental.
Sunset Song. .veen (ll 'I'ron 'l‘heutre. (iltts‘golt'. IlUlt' on (our.
The ( 'one (iuthers. 'l‘rumn'uy. Glasgow. until .S‘ut [4 Sept and on t()ttli
PLAYBOY OF THE WESTERN WORLD
Citizens’ Theatre, Glasgow. Until Sat 28 Sept.
The Citz hasn’t done anything this good for ages. That’s my opinion. Eavesdropping in the interval, I got the impression I was the only one to think so, but the second half didn’t change my mind.
In Giles Havergal’s production of Mill. Synge’s brilliant tragi-comic expose of the myth of heroicism, you will see some of the best acting currently on the Scottish stage. The magnetism that holds together Charon Bourke’s fiery, but vulnerable Pegeen Mike and Patrick O’Kane's romantic and lyrical ‘playboy’ Christopher Mahon is almost tangible. Nervously, they circle each other in an elaborate dance, saying one thing, but thinking another, with characterisations richly observed down to the finest, love-struck detail.
These two are just the highlight in a splendidly realised staging, from the smell of burning peat waiting across
the audience out olJuIian McGowan’s solid set, to the cry of seagulls overhead. Fine, unshowy performances all round. See it, but make sure you sit in my seat.
BEE!— AN IDEAL HUSBAND
Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh. Until Sat 28 Sept.
I’ve never seen a company take so long to kick-start a play into life. The Royal
Wilde’s An Ideal Husband
Lyceum had everything on its side —the buzz of excitement about the bright and
i l l
spacious new front-of-house refit. even ,
a round of applause for Gregory Smith’s splendid, opulent set— but the sparks of OscarWilde‘switsel nothing alight.
I don’t know about first~night nerves - this was the company's showcase opening after a year on the road —this was more like first-night inertia. Oscar Wilde’s aphorisms were underscored with a leaden lack of subtlety, the cast forcing out the script in a strained and rhythmically repetitive upper-class English, and the whole ofthe tedious first half raised barely a chuckle.
But wait! On return from the interval, here was the sparkling, funny and touching comedy we had been expecting. Christopher Gee, Rosaleen Pelan, Victoria Hardcastle, James Cairncross and David Gwillim were suddenly working as a delightful, lively and amusing team. Wilde’s pleas for compassion and understanding no longer seemed laboured, his one-liners no longer empty quips. By the time you read this, the first half might well have become equally entertaining. (Mark Fisher)