HEREI- i UNDER MILK wooo
Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh. Until Sat 21 March.
a To begin at the beginning: it is winter.
1954. The BBC, at the height of its most innovative period, broadcasts Under
f Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas. Across
Britain, sitting rooms are titled with Richard Burton's mesmerising voice uttering Thomas‘s rich prose. Radio
drama is instantly redefined.
A Welsh community, the dreams of its inhabitants, the details of daily life, is evoked through poetry and word-play
that speaks directly to each individual. Words dissolve into thin air, leaving a patchwork of impressions. The sound constructions and sprung rhythm have a musical quality; the surreal metaphors play on the inward eye. It is a remarkable feat of writing and, heard on the radio, the innovation is astounding. In contrast. the stage version distils the power of the language, making loran altogether less satisfying experience.
Sensibly, Robin People's production avoids compressing the play into a naturalistic framework, allowing for as much imagination as the theatre
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Under Milk Wood at me Bruntn
permits. An abstract set in the shape of a large wireless- in playful irony perhaps— is used exhaustively by the cast, so that it doubles up as town houses, fishing boats and various dreamscapes.
What a shame then to have so many scenes spoiled by unnecessary silliness; in fact the characters are less ‘universal types', as the programme claims, than caricatures and stereotypes. The pace is expertly controlled, butwhile they maintain the rhythm, the performers appear unrelaxed, even manic, with expressions that are sometimes ludicrous, and entrances that verge on the pantomime. Or perhaps it is Robin Peoples again calling for exaggeration. Only this time it has not paid off. (Aaron Hicklin)
Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh. Until Sat28 Mar.
Gregory Smith, the Royal Lyceum's
Head of Design, has a long track record of producing attractive and apposite sets which cope with the great height and depth of the Grindlay Street stage
Occasionally the opulence of his
; designs can camouflage a superficial 3 on-stage drama, but I don't recall his ‘ work everbeinginappropriatetothe
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5 mood of a play, something which is
sadly the case in his set for Uncle Vanya.
Two huge gauze curtains confine the playing area to the front half of the stage where a simple smattering of brightly lit period furniture suggests
turn-of-the-century rural Russia. lt’s ; not so much that a gloomy clutter would
better suit Chekhov‘s domestic tragedy of empty lives, far from it; the sunny airiness is an important ingredient in
, the characters' cloyingly comfortable ? despair. lt‘sjustthatthe . two-dimensional expanse of Smith’s
“The List 13 — 20 March 1992
set removes the intimacy from this low-key drama, which is about nuances and subtleties, not the grand statements of an open stage.
Scaled down, the set would fit a small studio space, as indeed would Hugh Hodgart’s production, which is full of
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Uncle Vanya at the Royal Lyceum
finely-observed character traits and
sensitive human detail. Ruth Gemmell in particular, as Yelena the beautiful wife of the old professor, is almost inaudible only ten rows from the stage, yet hers is a considered and controlled performance, enriched by nervous mannerisms and distracted twitches.
Gerard Mulgrew as Vanya is at the best 2
I've seen him. benefiting from direction by someone other than himself and bringing the bleakly ironic sense of humour so frequently absent from productions of Chekhov's ‘comedies'.
It’s actually a very balanced and
absorbing production, not exhilarating
and sometimes a touch too low-key, but mature and wryly amusing. I can’t help feeling, though, that it’s been put in the wrong theatre. (Mark Fisher)
IMPOSSIBLE T0 THINK 0FE
Seen atTraverse Theatre, Edinburgh. Returning to Old Athenaeum Theatre, Glasgow, 24—28 March.
There‘s something oddly alluring about
this double-bill by Alfred de Musset, celebrated in France as that country‘s greatest 19th century dramatist, but
virtually unknown over here. The allure
is odd because repeatedly this pair of one-acters seems about to sink into sentimental trivia or directionless inertia, and yet repeatedly a pithy line or a witty gesture rescues if at the cusp. Beneath the glamorous period dresses and the precise English accents, there is something, if not of substance, then certainly of sufficient insight to keep us interested. It's a delicate balance and one which the company, De Mussel and Co, treads finely. Caprice, a meditation on the nature ofjealousy, is particularly
low-key in its naturalistic presentation:
Adrian Brown and Cecil Hayter‘s direction plays down the creaky
: melodrama, but riskstediuminthe
process. In essence, it‘s a fairly crude
T morality play about marital fidelity, but there's a confidence to the production,
especially in Brown‘s fresh translation, that glosses overthe mechanistic
I element and draws out the surface texture olhumanrelationships.
It's Impossible to Think of Everything
is like an extended version of one of
' those Whose Line Is It Anyway sketches
where a contestant has to guess the mystery characteristics of his party guests. The Marquis and the Comptesse are hopelessly
scatterbrained, and the comedy rests
on their non sequiturs, terminal
forgetfulness and amiable eccentricities. There's not really
enough weight in the idea to sustain a whole play, but it‘s pleasantly amusing, and Sean Garvey and Imogen
Joyce make an attractively batty
The company doesn‘t wholly convince us that Britain's neglect of De Mussett is unjustified, but it does leave us a touch more ambivalent. (Mark Fisher)