i i Altar states
‘The play which caused the French Revolution‘ is a strong accusation to level at any dramatic work. although it is
‘ partially true in the case of Beaumarchais‘ The Marriage of Figaro. Not that the playwright was
1 taken out after the
i opening night and summarily guillotined; the play‘s place in history comes more from the satire it contains— aimed at the paternalistic French aristocracy — and the fact that its bourgeois hero predates the ‘bourgeois revolution‘ by a few years.
The story ofsexual intrigues at the home of Count Almaviva is more familiar to modern audiences in the shape of Mozart‘s opera, which was premiered in Vienna in 1785. one year after the opening ofthe play. EmperorJoseph ll had banned Beaumarchais‘ original because it was ‘too liccntiously written for a self-respecting audience‘. In France. Louis XVI had also had it banned because of its ‘Republican sympathies‘. although when it finally made it onto the stage, it was so popular that three people were killed in the crush to get in and it received a five hour ovation.
The play has a greater social texture than the opera and makes more sense ofthe darker subplots. The forthcoming production at Edinburgh‘s Royal Lyceum. directed by Ian Wooldridge. plans to use Scottish accents. which should add a spark to the already dynamic cast of characters. But whether or not history repeats itselfand the play‘s revival heralds the overthrowing ofthe current political system in Scotland and the setting up ofa new form of government remains A/'7“'1to be seen. (Alan
P" ' . .. (uiﬂ’fkﬁ/
‘ The Marriage of Figaro. Royal
‘. Edinburgh, Fri v.\. 7ng—Sat 29
I l i 3
In the light oi the Government's
1 announcement oithe premature
closure at Ravenscraig, the appearance oi Jump the Llie to Come, 7:84's lament to the people at Motherwell, seems almost cynically
; punctual. in tact, the play’s origins
' stretch back to April 1990, when the
company, in conjunction with radical playwright Noel Greig, began to compile tapes oi conversations, interviews and oral history lrom those attected by the demise ot Scotland’s great steel-making plant. Using this material as his starting point, Greig made the imaginative leap from dry reportage to a poetic, passionate drama that encompasses the Massacre oi Glencoe, wars in the Middle East and even a kilted angel irom Heaven.
‘We were very clear that we weren’t going to produce an industrial-politics work that diagramatically explained
what’s happened to the steel works,’ says Greig. ‘That’s been documented well elsewhere. We wanted something that was more expansive and less particular.’
So while the play does tell the tale oi a tictional lamily in Motherwell, it is as much about displaced people the world over- be they Kurds taking to the mountains during the Cult War or likewise the survivors oi Glencoe. ‘Displacement is aglobal disease,’ says Greig, who has moved away lrom the personal ‘victim politics’ oi his 70s plays to a broader world outlook. ‘That arrogance oi the Tories in the 803 saying “Get on your bike, it doesn’t matter what community you want to live in, economic lorces are going to dictate what’s going to happen to your lite.” They can just say that all those jobs are going and that a whole community is redundant now. That is happening all overthe world. I think the more that we recognise that, the less we will teel victims at it.’
While making it clear whose side it is on, Jump the Lite to Come avoids being prescriptive, placing Bavenscraig in a historical context, but not iorwarding any simple solution. ‘The experience at the play itsell is not a depressing one,’ says Greig. ‘It’s an upliiting piece at theatre because at our ability to survive, but not in a naive sense -the play recognises that a great injustice has been perpetrated.’ (Mark Fisher)
Jump the Lite to Come, on tour irom Thursday 6 February.
Think oi crowd-pulling authors, and Shakespeare, Ayckbourne, Shaw, even Ibsen spring to mind. Altred de Musset does not, and a new theatre company wants to change that. Formed entirely at ex-RSC actors, De Musset and Co hopes to put the playwright onto the British theatrical map with a tour at Caprice and It’s Impossible to Think oi Everything.
‘I found the plays alter an RSC tour and because I had some money in my pocket tor the llrst time in some years, I decided to put them on,’ explains de Musset’s director, Paul Spence, who was seen here at Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum a couple ot seasons ago. ‘Only one at de Musset‘s plays (Lorenzaccio) had ever been perlormed in Britain, so it was a bit like OscarWiide- only one oi his plays ever having been pertormed in Paris. De Musset‘s a very big name in France but he’s just not performed here.’
In dealing with sexual politics in French high society, the subject matter oi both one-act plays bears a striking resemblance to one at the theatrical successes at the 80s, Les Liaisons Dangeureses. Spence, however, ieels that de Musset's work has a quality all its own. ‘The plays are high class and high sophistication and need to look wonderlul and rich,’ he says. “We’ve
Cara Konig as Mme de Lery in Caprice
had to spend a lotto get the look right, because they have to be authentic and sumptuous. The playwright, like all the greats, understands the opposite sex and the two plays both look in a deeply penetrative way at ieminine psychology. They’re like a cross between Les Liaisons, Lady Windermere’s Fan in the inlidelity sense, and a Feydeau tarce -they’re extraordinary hybrid plays.
‘Caprice is so delicately wrought,’ he continues, ‘it’s like a cut-glass bottle and I think that’s why the English theatre shied away trom de Musset’s work- it‘s so delicate and subtle, raritied and psychological. He goes into what the people are about in a very understated way, but there are deep waters there. it’s Impossible is more of a souillé — it’s light and lrothy and lull ot ridiculous eccentric nonsense.‘ (Philip Parr)
Caprice and It’s Impossible to Think ol Everything, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Wed 5—Sun 9 Feb.
Also Old Athenaeum Theatre, Glasgow, Tue 24—Sat 28 March.
Formed by five professional actors in 1991. Glasgow’s Raindog is committed to keeping alive the flickering spirit of 1990 and to breaking away from the timid cosiness of so much Scottish theatre. And it‘s no idle commitment. The company is unsubsidised, relying on the proceeds of its cafe in Glasgow Arts Centre and the support of friends. yet its core members, with a track record of stage, TV and film work behind them, have agreed to turn down lucrative paid-for work for the duration ofeach Raindog production.
They may be poor. but they’re making an impact. Last Mayfest, Raindog drained Scotland‘s acting pool with its fifteen-strong debut production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo 's Nest, and for the latest show. The Conquest of the South Pole, it has developed one scene which increases Manfred Karge‘s original eight characters to twenty. ‘We believe that Scottish actors are at their best in an ensemble,‘ says founder member Robert Carlyle. ‘lt‘s to do with interaction on stage and the more people you get, the better.‘
Conquest of the South Pole was first seen at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh in 1988, and was later made into a film (designed by Andy Harris who is now working on this production). It‘s a stylised portrait of seven young men on the dole whose survival instinct is paralleled by a fantasy journey across the Antarctic. For this production, director Stuart Davids is emphasising the play’s urban Glasgow relevance with a backdrop of youth drug culture and a top-volume soundtrack provided by Sub Club DJ Harry. ’I saw it at the Traverse and thought it was a great play, but I didn‘t think it had been executed in the right way,’ says Davids. ‘Joyce McMillan said it was a play that speaks for a generation, but I didn’t think it did. Our idea is to do something about a generation that exists at the moment - the Ecstacy and the clubbing. It’s got the drugs and the drink in it, so it’s just a case of hardening up the language.’ (Mark Fisher)
Conquest, of the South Pole, Arches Theatre, Glasgow, Tue 4—Sun 9Feb.