Robin Peoples. erstwhile director of the Scottish Youth Theatre. has recently taken over as artistic head of Musselburgh‘s Brunton Theatre. For his first season. he‘s chosen Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas and Absurd Person Singular by Alan Ayckbourn. but he begins with another favourite. George Bernard Shaw's Arms and the Man.
‘The reason why I‘ve chosen those plays.‘ says Peoples ofa season which could be described as conservative. ‘is that they are well known. by well known writers. so that the audiences that have always come along to the Brunton can feel some reassurance. There's one big new variable which is me. there‘s a new director around. so having plays that are. to some degree known. removes one variable. And they're all very good plays.‘
Arms And The Man. Shaw‘s second play. written at the end of the last century. is also very topical. Set in the Balkans. it touches on a topic which Shaw returned to again and again in his career — militarism and its adherents. ‘Shaw describes the play as an anti-romantic comedy.‘ explains Peoples. ‘but it‘s actually typically Shavian in that it‘s very well written and it takes a very clear and unequivocal stance on all sorts of issues; social issues. attitudes to warfare. excessive masculinity. It is quite a didactic play. but that is all carried through very cleverly on the back of this comedy. 80 you never feel that your lapel is being grabbed and there‘s stuff being shoved down your throat.‘
Choosing quality plays and presenting them well is just one part ofwhat Peoples sees as his agenda at the Brunton. There will be development ofthe youth theatre and a broadening ofthe activities of the Brunton‘s workshops. Pcoples' new position gives him the opportunity to get back to basics. 'The paradox of my situation with the SYT over the last halfdozen years was that the company grew. and the more it grew. the more I became a manager and coordinator and the opportunities to direct plays became fewer and fewer. The original reason why I went into theatre in the first place was to direct and I can now do that again.” (Philip Parr)
ArmsAnd The Man. Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh, Fri24 L Jan—Salli Feb.
f Tamsin Grainger
welcomes Glasgow’ fifth
festival of new dance.
j and the programme looks bot j inspiringandoriginal.
Once more the New Moves Across Europe dance festival is with us. It was touch and go for quite a while
with the recent demise ofthe Third Eye Centre. but it has now begun
The aim of festival director. Nikki Milican. is to present the most interesting of British dance alongside artists who are breaking new ground in Europe. She‘s put a particular emphasis on Portugal. but there are also contributions from companies and individuals from Spain. Yugoslavia. Belgium and Italy. Although Wim Vandekeybus launched the festival at Tramway. the rest of the three-month season takes place in the new New Moves Theatre at what was the Third Eye Centre (now the Centre for Contemporary Arts) in Glasgow.
This month there are two ofan eventual three programmes of Men Solo in which Milican continues to persuade the public that solo work, even by men. can be ‘very dynamic and pretty special‘. That's how she describes Russell Maliphant and Nigel Charnock. neither ofwhom are strangers to Scotland after their work with Laurie Booth and DV8
respectively. In performance there are similarities between the two — both acrobatic and prone to performing dangerous feats — but in the making of their new solos they have quite different approaches. Maliphant improvises in his solo Evolving Paradigm. although he emphasises that it is not a random process. I” have a map of how I‘m going to use the space and what movement themes I will be working with.‘ he says. ‘so it will
have a structure.‘ He prefers to work not from text or direct emotions. but from abstract notions. unlike Charnock who needs to speak about the world’s injustices. ‘Most of the things I do come from a sort of disaffection.‘ says Charnock. ‘a kind ofdissatisfaction with things as they are. [don‘t do what most dancers do which is to learn steps. I use my body to try to say something.‘
But like Maliphant. Charnock wants to break away from company dancing and make something of his own. Both men admit that the process of making their new solos has been difficult. Maliphant explains that it is about being ‘open and spontaneous with the task you‘re trying to explore‘. even though there is no one there to challenge you except the video camera in an empty studio.
In the second helping of Men Solo. Maliphant is paired with Iztoc Kovac from Yugoslavia. They both have gymnastic and classical ballet skills. but Kovac deals with private emotions like doubt and love in his two-part solo How 1 Caught a Falcon. Charnock. meanwhile. shares his double bill with Paulo Ribeiro. a dancer of the younger Portuguese generation. His solo. Modo de Utilizacao ( Way of Use). is described as a ‘study of inspired savagery with a raw experimental edgef
After the real delight of Muscle Voice last year. I‘m intrigued to see what Milican has in store for us over the coming months.
Men Solo: Paulo Ribeiro and Nigel Charnock, Ne w Moves Th eatre, Glasgo w, Th urs 23—Sat 25 Jan. Men Solo: I ztok K ()l'(I(‘ and Russell Maliphant. New Moves Theatre. Glasgow, Thurs 30 Jan—Sat 1 Feb.
To make an exciting new drama in these recession hit times, first take two actors. . . er, that's it really. Jim Cartwright’s ‘To’ played in the Edinburgh Fringe a couple of years ago with Brookside regulars John McArdle and Sue Johnston tackling all of the play’s fourteen characters. Not only was there no ‘best supporting actor’ honour, there were no props or set except for a couple of bar stools. Rather than a piece of innovative staging, Cartwright, possibly with an eye on the financial climate in the arts world, had written his pub saga that way. Now Blythe Duff and Vincent Friell are to present the first Scottish production of ‘To' at Cumbernauld.
‘It doesn't beat about any busb,’ says Duff, who'll be lamiliarto Taggartfans as DC Reid. ‘lt’s very dark and I think that’s going to be one of the problems, finding something that makes the piece work for everybody on a different level.’
As Duff hints, there are problems for actors who dare to tackle Cartwright's audacious piece of writing. There is, of course, the small matter of each actor
having to adopt seven characters during the course of the play. Then there is the range of characters to be played, Friell having to go off stage as a 90-year-old widower and to return as a seven-year-old child. If that was not enough, money as ever comes into the equation with Cumbernauld being able to afford only ten days rehearsal time. The two actors, however, remain undaunted.
‘Eventually we hope to get sponsorship to tour the piece,’ says Friell, ‘and then we‘ll have the advantage of having done it, and we'll be able to revive it a lot quicker. Forget ten days, we can do it in ten hours, ten
Vincent Frlell and m. o: ‘We’ll be doing people'sstag-nlghts.’
minutes, do a quick run through, get the hats on and go. We'll become like strolling players; instead of singing telegrams we'll be doing tours of people’s stag-nights. We’ll be doing it forever, Blythe. I can see it now, in 25 years time-the longest running play in Scotland.’
‘This is going to work,’ agrees Dull. “We have no reason to think that it shouldn’t work, we're both competent, we’ve both got Equity cards. And if that isn't enough, we'll put footnotes in the programme to tell the audience who is on stage and when.‘ (Philip Parr)
To, Cumbernauld Theatre, Thurs 30 Jan-Sat 8 Feb.
44 The List 17 - 30 January 1992