All the cage
What’s this? An am-dram musical at The King’s with a full orchestra. a professional dance troupe. costumes from the Palladium. sets from LA. and a budget of £50.000. What’s happened to the church hall. the creaking boards. and Noel Coward? Sets from LA indeed. Since when has any company. amateur or professional. been so extravagant?
Things are certainly buzzing at Glasgow’s Pantheon Club which has chosen to produce La Cage aux Folles (Rhona. choreographer. ‘cxcited‘; Florence. conductor. ‘highlight': lrcne. director. ‘spcctacular') and there is much anxious rubbingof hands as ticket sales steadily rise. 10.000 people will need to see it during the briefsix-day run for the Pantheon to break even. but director lrcne Colman points out that the company’s 1990 production of Amadeus holds the Tramway record for ‘largest number of bums on seats’. Cheery optimism indeed.
Neither is La Cage aux Folles the usual stuffof amateur dramatics. with its combination of high-camp and farce. revolving around a gay couple and various drag antics. This is the musical that brought us the gay anthem [Am What [Arm and the first glimpse ofthe talented writer/performer Harvey Feinstein. who went on to write Torch Song Trilogy. Thankfully there’s not a naked vicar in sight.
Musicals have long proved a fascination, with their wildly romantic storylines. in which life is celebrated by a burst of song and a dance routine. They would have died with Fred and Ginger, but for new generations of writers and performers who adapted the musical fortheir age. Yet for all the change that is reflected in La Cage aux Folles, one thing remains the same: the excess.
Go. admire the 200 original costumes and 50 wigs. the props from New York and Los Angeles. the spectacular dance routines, and the 22-piece orchestra. Who needs real life when you’ve got a slice of Broadway on your doorstep? (Aaron Hicklin)
La Cage aux Folles, King's Theatre, Glasgow, Mon 9—Sat 14 March.
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You can't beat learning from experience and with the publication of ‘The Story of the Wars of the Boses’, a detailed account of the first four years in the life of the English Shakepeare Company, you get the chance to learn straight from the horse’s mouth. Co-written by founder members Michael Pennington and Michael Bogdanov, who visit Glasgow this fortnight on their educational tour of Enemy to the People, the book is a gossipy, opinionated, anecdotal and remarkably thorough account of setting up a theatre company which within a year of its foundation was already laying plans to mount and fourthe entire cycle of Shakespeare’s seven history plays.
Pennington, the actor, and Bogdanov, the director, seem to thrive on big, not to mention expensive, ideas and through a pattern of good fortune, shrewd management and unlimited energy they managed to establish an
organisation which quickly came to rival the Royal Shakespeare Company whose name it cheekily alludes to. Cheekiness and nerve are trademarks of the Michaels’ style, something that comes across in this candid account which gleefully takes the chance to throw vindictive barbs back at unsupportive critics, notably Michael Billington of The Guardian, (which isn’t to say they don’t wallow in their supportive press) and to mention by name the admin staff they rifled from other arts organisations.
Like Michael Coveney’s biography of the Citizens’ Theatre (The Citz, NHB £14.95), the book’s interest extends far beyond its immediate subject matter and paints a valuable portrait of British and World theatre in the late i980s. Taking it in turns to tell the story in their loose chatty style, Pennington and Bogdanov are as likely to talk about arts funding, actors’ training orthe state of the country’s repertory theatres as they are the specifics of their own company. But for anyone wanting an insight into the workings of Shakespeare’s plays, here you have a first-hand account of an actor and a director trying to get his dramas to work night after night, town aftertown; an experience more valuable than many an academic lecture. (Mark Fisher)
The English Shakespeare Company: The Story of the Wars of the Roses, Bogdanov and Pennington (NHB £9.99) Enemy to the People, Old Athenaeum Theatre, Glasgow, Tue 3—Sat 7 Mar.
aneweuul Boyd wonder
As the hammering continues in the Tron’s auditorium, Artistic Director Michael Boyd is continually reminded that Glasgow’s premier venue for new writing is in a transitional phase. Having just received a substantial increase in its Scottish Arts Council grant, (‘and not before time’, says Boyd), the Tron’s plans might finally come to fruition. A studio space and more tours are for years to come, but the start of the new direction comes with Under Wraps- a season of rehearsed readings taking place at the Arches while the Tron is renovated.
The Tron has had readings before, but never on this scale. ‘l saw a newspaper feature recently,’ says Boyd “in which well-known people were asked what they thought about the theatre and It was so depressing how all of them hated going to new work. One guy said “I’m trying to remember the last thing I went to see that wasn't Shakespeare.”
‘But part of me understands their feelings,’ he continues. ‘A lot of new work in the theatre is either not tremendously strong or it is caught in very straightened circumstances because it is anything but guaranteed box offlce. With that being the case, it doesn't get the space and the money for research and development that other things do. New work deserves all the risk-taking in camera that it can get. So from now on, we’re not going to do a
Jackie Kay whose Twice Through The Heart opens the Under Wraps season.
commissioned work before first putting it through this rehearsed reading process. it gives the writer the chance to see his play in protected circumstances, and gives the director and the companythe chance to begin to get the smell of lt.‘
The writers enjoying these protected circumstances include Lara-Jane Bunting, Tony Roper and‘Patrick Evans. There is also space for several new writers, who sent unsolicited manuscripts into the Tron, to see their work being read. ‘lt is a showcasing of writers’ work,’ says Boyd. ‘Maybe we’ll pick up the show and produce it, but if we don't, somebody else might. You learn a tremendous amount from a reading. Looking at people listening to it, picking up on it and reacting to it, you can see how the pacing works, the pacing of the humour, its plot, its structure. It’s not until you do it up front that some of its hidden charms or hidden pitfalls surface.’ (Philip Parr)
Under Wrapslbegins on Mon 2 March
This fortnight. Scottish Ballet opens its first ever production of Coppelia, a classical ballet which tells the story of a life-sized doll which takes on a mind of its own, baffling both its maker. Dr Coppelius, as well as Franz and Swanhilda, two young lovers with a sense of adventure.
Choreographed by Peter Wright. Artistic Director of the Birmingham Royal Ballet, and designed by Peter Snow, this version uses the original Delibes music and has only recently been acquired by the Scottish Ballet. ‘1 know that Coppelia is a good ballet for the public,’ explains Artistic Director Galina Samsova. ‘The music is absolutely delightful and the story is not difficult.’ .
But what relevance does the ballet have to contemporary audiences? ‘It was one of the first ballets I saw as a child in Lvov, Ukraine,’ she says. ‘Ballets like Coppelia are the easiest for young audiences to get interested in, because they’re not just pure dancing; there’s a story and there are young people in love, and the young ' ones can relate to that.’
There has been an on-going struggle in the ballet world between the pressure of presenting the full-length classics as opposed to the mounting of triple bills of contemporary ballets that may be more relevant to a 905 audience. But Samsova seems to be content. ‘The minute yOung people start to be interested in ballets like Coppelia,’ she argues, ‘then they will come and watch other things.’
Perhaps this is the way to build new audiences for the future. (Tamsin Grainger)
Coppelia, Theatre Royal, Glasgow, Thurs 12—Sat21 Mar, then on tour.
44 The List 28 February — 12 March 1992