lnthe ! studio
. Fifth Estate
All power to Fifth Estate
for drawing attention to j .
rsvlayvrjiglj‘tswhor: other I Mark Fisher watches as cottis t eatres ave - - 9
neglected. lfthe I the Cltlzens goes
How unusual to stand at an interval bar and not be sure ofwhat the person next to you has just seen. No shared experience at the Citz now. but a choice of three shows a night — ifone is sold out. there might still be another to suit your taste. Audiences mill about in every direction. the ushers scrutinise your tickets with care and the programmes list three separate casts. Stand down UCI.
While Giles Havergal sits tight in the First Theatre with Summer Lightning. the inaugural performances at the Second and Third Theatres have been bagged by directors Philip Prowse and Robert David MacDonald. Working within inches oftheir audiences in these tiny new studios. the two have adjusted their styles — and indeed their choice of plays — but retained many characteristic Citizens‘ qualities. ln Prowse’s 1953 in particular, there’s a familiar classical intensity that verges on the camp. but it‘s seen afresh. in close focus. in a space akin to Edinburgh‘s Traverse with the audience looking on from four sides. MacDonald‘s solution in the even smaller Third Theatre with his own translation of Niagara, is to tone down the delivery to a near televisual naturalism — all muttered words and restrained expressions — but even here there is the same love ofa dazzling speech and an intellectual argument.
company‘s sole function was to be agitational. proving to the main ‘ houses that audiences have not only a taste but also a hunger for new or demanding work. then it would be fulfilling an important function.
It's good to be reminded. for example. of the existence ofJoan Ure. a Scottish playwright who died in 1978. just as she was starting to receive a degree of acclaim. It's important to be aware of the flow of Scottish theatre history if we are to build and develop it further. Unfortunately. this doesn’t mean that all such work is necessarily brilliant. and Ure‘s Seven Character’s Out of the Dream. the second half of this double bill. although an intriguing curiosity. is far from perfect.
Set at an actors‘ fancy dress party where the theme isA Midsummer Night's Dream. Ure‘s short play is a disjointed rehash of the tired theme ofart. pretence and reality. lfanything. Caroline Hall‘s direction seems to emphasise the rootless and unfathomable aspect of these seven actors who are played by the company with a batty enthusiasm as ifto revel in the
I 7 “v ' 1953: Rich, brutal and imagis
Of the two. 1953 is the more successful. Craig Raine‘s vigorous update of Racine‘s Andromaque gives no suggestion of its origins as a radio play. except in its use of rich. brutal and imagisitic language. Watching at close quarters allows us to concentrate on the demands of the text. something that would be harder on a main stage. Projecting a less favourable end to the Second World War. Raine sets his play in Fascist Rome where a Nazi delegation threatens to undermine an edgy status quo as passion and duty come into conflict. Each principal character has two opposing interests - love versus political strategy. survival versus honour — and Raine manages to keep his sophisticated plot pulling in several directions. wasting nothing. and allowing all the various strands to contribute to the central dynamic.
In his direction. Prowse plays up to the tough. modern idiom, but keeps passions rumbling beneath the surface. There is a terrible violence in the language and delivery. amplified by our proximity to the
actors, but only once or twice does it manifest itselfin real physical aggression. It‘s a subtle and effective trick achieved in no small part by sterling performances. notably from a chilling Greg Hicks and a volatile Julia Blalock. Hicks as Klaus Maria von Orestes. a blunt. emotionally crippled soldier not unlike Shakespeare‘s Coriolanus. starts with the dull delivery ofa racing commentator. but as passions soar. his hard exterior cracks. his face quivers. and we see glimpses of a terrifyingly vulnerable man. His delivery finds new ironies in Raine‘s already ironic text through unexpected pauses and intonations. bringing a dangerous iciness to emotional lines and laughs to moments of high drama. Blalock is similarly compelling as the Princess lra. tempering her raging hysteria with an iron control and dissolving with a piercing scream at the height ofher angst.
Prowse positions his eight actors with precision. giving all sides of the audience a view of at least one actor‘s face in virtually every scene. It‘s a real thrill to see this kind of acting - even if it is of the neck-up school — taking place as if it was in your own front room. Losing the interval would make firm the play’s emotional drive. but it‘s a gripping production either way.
The issues at stake in Alonso Alegria‘s two-hander Niagara are neither as universal nor as essential as those of 1953. but Robert David MacDonald nonetheless gives a thoughtful performance as Blondin. the 19th century tight-rope walker, opposite Daniel Illsley‘s endearing assistant. Carlo. The play frames a debate about whether we should challenge ourselves or make do with pleasing others and as such it is an absorbing and satisfying discourse. engagingly acted, but ultimately lacking the vigour of 1953.
1953 and Niagara, Citizens' Theatre, Glasgow, until Sat 14 Mar.
meaninglessness ofit all.
Large chunks of the play passed me by. as the characters talk loudly and
make grand statements.
butdon‘t listen or try to ’
reply, GIVIN IT FISH Less ambitious. but Seen at the Mercat Theatre,
consrderably more Drumchapel . 0n iOllf.
successful is the evening‘s first play. Lambrusco Nights. a series of monologues by Kathleen Crombie drawn directly from her experience oflife in Pilton. Crombie‘s is a distinctive voice, witty. lacking in self-pity and politically astute. and she has a fine ear for naturalistic speech. If that talent could be directed into a more specifically theatrical form. then
Deep in the heart of Drumchapel, in the brand-new, somewhat draughty Mercal Theatre (not hall-lish, hall-mammal, but the Scots spelling at market, you understand), Dave Anderson and assorted members at Wildcat give it ‘llsh’. ‘Fish’, lorall the uninitiated, is a selection of songs from previous productions, a couple of cover versions, a few short sketches, and Anderson’s inimitable witty repartee. With all the intimacy of a talent contest In a village hall, the show is a
Crombie could develop shambolic toray into Anderson’s ego.
into a vibrant and very As he leaps across the stage lrom
funny writer for the 90s. synthesizer to drum machine to congo
R drums, it’s obvious that he believes he
Nemerbow . can sing and write songs just as well as
' Pat, Stevie or Sting. Methinks not. I mean, don’tthe songs in Wildcat productions give you time to go to the Ice and not miss anything? In sub-Hue and Cry style, stuff like, ‘Family Llle’
Arts Centre, _ Edinburgh, until 50:29 I,
(be a good mother, be a good wile) and the rather dubious ‘Culture City', which slags oft other arts organisations, is badly played on a mass at techno equipment.
As well as brutally murdering a low classic songs by Elvis, some sketches are chucked in for good measure, but aim at cheap, easy laughs. Will somebody tell that man to shut up? (Beatrice Colin)
ABSURD PERSON SINGULAR
Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh. Until Sat 29 Feb.
Like Brunton Theatre’s last production - Shaw’s Arms and the Man -Absurd Person Singular is lrighttully middle class, and so lamillar it feels almost cosy. It still has the powerto disconcert, but Ayckbourn's concern with the lrustratlons and disenchantments of very ordinary people is a line long since adopted by the TV sitcom.
it remains a potent piece at work, delivering in just over two hours, three sets oi lives seen alternately lrom the lront, the back and occasionally lrom the inside. Robin Peoples has gone tor the same manic exageration that infused Arms And The Man, so that when we really do catch a glimpse at the pathos it cuts down the laughter instantly, leaving just a stray giggle or nervous shuttle.
What is clear is that the new company, under Peoples’s guiding hand, is enjoying itsell, and it is inlectious. Sure, there is a darker side to the proceedings which is lost at times, but the over-riding impression is as it should be: individuals unable to relate either to each other, orto anything beyond their immediate selves. It is all so ridiculous that we can only laugh, however close to the bone Ayckbourn comes. And as each of Eva’s desperately pathetic attempts at suicide are unknowingly dlttused by the party guests, unable to recognise Eva’s actions for what they are, we are reminded that Ayckbourn comes very close indeed. (Aaron chklin)
46 The List 28 February — 12 March 1992