‘I heard ofone woman who writes in chalk outside your door the date that it‘s your turn to clean the stair and she‘ll come and see that it‘s been wiped off.‘ says playwright Rona Munro. ‘Somebody dropped a crisp —a crisp — and she left a note saying. “would the person who left this rubbish tidy it up".‘
It’s these kind ofsmall-minded foibles that form the backdrop of Munro’s new murder mystery. Your Turn to Clean the Stair. which is the first Traverse production of the year as well as the last in its current Edinburgh Grassmarket premises. Set in an Easter Road tenement ‘where you never see your neighbours unless they‘re camplaining‘. the play is a dark-edged thriller that mixes nosy neighbours with a common-stair killing. ‘It‘s more of a whydunnit,‘ explains Munro. ‘Why does this guy end up on the stairs with his head smashed in? The reasons are quite complicated. It's about people lying to other people and to themselves. and about making a better house more important than what‘s really going to make you happy. which is maybe a better way of making human contact. It‘s about how you can occupy your whole life with a set ofthings that aren‘t important.‘
The scale ofthe play. says Munro, is much the same as that of her award-winning Bold Girls which. despite being set in Northern Ireland. was to do with relationships, not war and bombs. But for Your Turn to Clean the Stair she has aimed at something that is both more complex and less naturalistic — the more straight-forward Bold Girls. she says. is not typical of her writing. ‘This is a lot weirder and in some ways more difficult to do. because I tried to put a lot more in.‘
Studying tenement life hasn‘t however altered Munro’s own behaviour. ‘Everyone preserves their privacy quite fiercely.‘ she says. ‘I do it myself— you lurk behind the door so as not to meet them.’ (Mark Fisher)
Your Turn to Clean the Stair, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Fri 3—Sun 19Apr, and on tour.
As well as the blend ol workshops, talks and classes that have characterised the Scottish Student Drama Festival since its inception in 1981, this year’s week-long event also heralds the arrival at an organisation aiming to broaden the vision at student theatre. The European Association ot Students at Theatre - EAST tor short— is a network 01 groups from lourteen countries, which, now in its third year, has welcomed Scotland into its stable. ‘What we’d like to see in Scotland is not just an association, but also a European-based national theatre company at student level,’ says organiserToby Gough. ‘There is already the National Student Drama Company in England - which Scotland chose ten years ago not to be a part al- but EAST would be looking much more towards the teachings ot Europe. The NSDC concentrates on text-based perlormances, EAST would concentrate on breaking that stranglehold and on looking towards the art of creative theatre.’
These interests are rellected in the SSDF programme which brings together an impressive list at practitioners— actor Brian Cox, mime artist Claude Chagrin, director Rike Beiniger, to name but three — and which gives early hints at experimentalism in its pertormances, in particular Edinburgh University’s physical-theatre production, Sich Bewegen. ‘The workshop programme
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Brian Cox in the NT's King Lear gives a very coherent analysis 01 different cultural approaches within creative theatre,’ explains Gough. ‘They have been designed to set a standard level at creativity.’
Central to this year’s lestival is a mid-week debate whose speakers, including directors, pertormers and choreographers, will elaborate on the European theme. The high level oi protessional input is part of a process to raise standards within the SSDF and which, in the long term, EAST of Scotland intends to capitalise on. ‘EAST would recruit lrom the SSDF and set a level at excellence,’ Gough explains. ‘It would lend a sense that SSDF is a show-case lor talent and a place tor discussion and new ideas.’ (Mark Fisher)
SSDF, Edinburgh, Sun 5-Sa't11 Apr. See listings tor details.
Jane Watson began her theatre training at the tamous mime schools at Le Coq and Decroux in Paris, afterwards studying in Japan with Kazuo Ohno and lwana Masuki, the renowned masters ot Butoh contemporary dance. ‘In Japan I had an urge to combine the Eastern philosophy with Western-style performance - the very internal, almost meditative style ot Butoh and the very up-tront Western style ot Le Coq,’ Watson explains. ‘The aim at Watson and Co is to get a teel lor both of those origins, combining text and narration with comedy.’
Watson attributes the company's method of devising new work to her two years with Le Coq. ‘You have an improvisation class every day and at the end 01 each week you have to create a short piece. Friday was always a territying day. There was a lot ot pressure on to make sure you came up with something brilliant. Obviously you tailed all the time.’
Reﬂections, the company's latest show, was lirst seen in Edinburgh on the 1991 Fringe, and attracted so much interest that it is currently embarking on a Scottish tour. The show, about
Watson and Co: cathartic experience
friendship and griel, was originally planned tor a trio but, as Watson explains, ‘We couldn’tlind a third person who was suitable, so the show ended up being about the third person who was never on stage.‘
With music by Andrew Lovett and minimal stage design, the two pertormers- Watson and Beatrice Pemberton, who joined the company last summer—tell a sad but illuminating story. ‘Hopetully it’s a cathartic experience. It people are receptive to the style then it’s quite a moving piece —we’ve had a lot of people come out in tears- but there is an uplift at the end and the audience does not come out depressed.’ (Tamsln Grainger)
Reﬂections, Theatre Workshop, Edinburgh, Fri 27/Sal 28 Mar.
I Intematlonal Workshop Festival There‘s a chance to see Lev Dodin in action before his Maly Theatre of St Petersburg production of Gaudeamus visits Mayfest. when he leads a professional theatre course in Melrose from Mon 30 Mar-Fri 10 Apr. With his principal collaborators in movement, voice and acting, he’ll be working with 25 British and European actors on developing emotional responsiveness. The catch is that it‘ll cost you£l90. details on 071 4908746.
V IN PRINT
ill FRONT OF THE AUDIEHCE
I Not in Front olthe Audience: Homosexuality on Stage Nicholas de Jongh (Routledge) Ex-Guardian critic Nicholas de Jongh casts a look across a century of gay male representation and misrepresentation on the British and American stage. As you‘d expect from a writer ofhis stature. it‘s a lucid, well-argued and entertaining read that takes us from the prosecution of Oscar Wilde to the AIDS plays of the early-80$. analysing the legal and social restrictions that have shaped the dramatic form ofgay drama. An important study of prejudice that reveals much about social attitudes. (MF)
I The Strange Case ot Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde David Edgar (Nick Hcrn Books £6.99) Playwright David Edgar gives Robert Louis Stevenson‘s ever-popular story the stage treatment in a version commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company and ﬁrst performed at the Barbican in London late last year. Praised for its serious treatment of what could slip into cheap science ﬁction, the adaptation does justice to the original‘s combination of popular thriller and intelligent morality tale.
The List 27 March - 9 April 1992 41