Two ofthe ever-increasing circle of young Scottish companies. and passion is the name of the game. With Fifth Estate it‘s The Passion - the holy one, as embodied in the suffering of a Jesuit in 17th century Scotland. Fifth Estate founder Sandy Neilson is the eponymous hero, being arrested. tortured and eventually, inevitably. hanged by his persecutor— the Archbishop of Glasgow (Robert Thomson). From beginning to end, this isa play about fundamentals—- not only faith. but also morality. piety and self-doubt. lfthc subject matter might at first seem dated in these atheistic times. it provides the perfect peg on which to hang a discussion of these relevant issues. Director Allan Sharpe and his cast have created a spectacle which is never less than storm force and. frequently. goes offthe hurricane scale. A must, if you‘re feeling spiritually and physically strong. Miss Julie has similar potential which Pen Name Theatre Company never quite realises. Here the passion is solely the province ofthe humans— all lust, sweat and shirt-tearing— but while that is what the script demands. the cast do not deliver. There is an inhibition among the two principals.damagingto the production's authenticity. This shortcoming does not fatally wound the play by any means there is much to be enjoyed in David McVicar‘s lively adaptation not least Patricia Read‘s promising debut as the spurned fiancee. Christine. But while Nicholas Monu and Daniela Nardini keep their passion in closer check than their clothing, this production is never going to fire the imagination. or anything else. (Philip Parr) The Jesuit, Netherbow Theatre, Edinburgh, until Sat In May. MLssJulie. in Mayfestand

0'2 tour.


48 The List 8-— 21 May 1992

Ready Brecht

Mark Fisher is bemused, bored and beguiled by the Mayfest offerings at the Citizens’ Theatre.

lfit is the job ofa reviewer to illuminate, then with The Hypochondriacs I must fail. There is a certain sort of play that bewilders as it entertains, staying one imaginative leap ahead of you but keeping you chasing. This play by celebrated German playwright, Botho Strauss. is not one of them. It leaves you standing at the starting post and irritates intensely until two hours later when the plot something about a man who expresses his love for a woman by lavishing ludicrously expensive gifts on her from afar. but don‘t take my word for it finally starts to fall into place long after you‘ve ceased to care. The intervening to-ing and fro-ing has all the allure of a random word generator. and none ofsuch a machine‘s surrealistic charm. No. I don‘t know what it‘s about and my sense of curiosity was defeated very early on.

I‘m not particularly inclined to blame the production; the six-strong cast certainly gives the impression that it knows what it‘s up to. which is a remarkable achievement in itself. Perhaps a more developed sense of humour would better celebrate Strauss‘s absurdism. but I can‘t make the imaginative leap that would




1 Jill Spurrier in Other Places

suggest that any tinkering could make much ofa difference. Guest director David Fielding has designed an attractive set that shares the Citz‘ disinclination to think small when working in a small space and cleverly fills the centre of the stage with a huge glass fish tank that manages not to block our view. Call me old fashioned. but it‘s scant compensataion for a wilfully obscure piece oftheatre.

One reason the Citz introduced its two studios was to allow for small-scale experimentation. and by implication that means that sometimes shows will not work out. At least with The Hypocondriacs there‘s the sense that something out of the ordinary is being attempted. The same can‘t be said for Giles Havergal’s production of Harold Pinter‘s Other Places trilogy downstairs in the Third Theatre which. while being a considerably less frustrating evening, fails to impart a sense ofexcitemcnt or danger. Passably interesting and certainly diverse, the three one-acters One for the Road, fairly powerful but risking the banal sentiment that torture is bad, Family Voices. an amusingly Pinteresque observation on the nature of filial love, and A Kind ofAlaska an

.;. absorbing but unresonant reworking

of the Oliver Sacks research come across as an averagely diverting Fringe show. Only Ellen Sheean transcends with her harrowing performance as the ‘awakening’ Deborah coming to terms with having spent all her adult life in a state ofinertia.

So it‘s left to Philip Prowse to make amends in the First Theatre with a hard-edged production of Brecht‘s Edward II, a study ofpolitical power-struggle where regal responsibility gives way to human passion. There‘s little ofthe didacticism with which we associate the later Brecht. rather it is a historical drama sharpened by the tragedy ofuncompromising behavior. That that behaviour leads to interminable years ofwar for the whole country is the broader tragedy that Brecht points to, unlike Christopher Marlowe, from whose play ofthe same name he drew inspiration.

Laurance Rudic as Edward gives an uncharacteristically animated performance, ranging from Buddhist tranquility to defiant sexuality to soulful lament. playing with cold-hearted misogynism to Julia Blalock‘s resigned Queen Anne, and with unabashed tenderness to Patrick O’Kane's Gaveston. It‘s a bleak production in which by the second act even the Prowsian gold is stripped from the set to leave us with metallic greys, brutal blacks and one splendidly soggy coup de theatre that leaves the stage trickling with substantial quantities ofwater. Perhaps not an uplifting piece of theatre, but certainly a gripping one, played with control and continually imaginative stagecraft backed by mature. rounded performances. Other Places, The H ypochondriacs and Edward 11, Citizens' Theatre, Glasgow, until Sat23 May.


Drama Centre at the Bamshorn, Glasgow. Until Sat 9 May.

With the fifteenth anniversary of his death this August, Elvis Presley has become a quasi-religious icon forthe latter part of the 20th century; the journey to the high tack of Gracelands, Tennessee, the pilgrimage of many a devoted Elvislte. So this brand new play by prize-winning playwright, Jane Duncan, is a timely look at the quiffs and quibbles of a clutch of Ole’ Snake Hips fanatics. The setting is the back room of a bar, the walls hung with pictures of other dead cult figures and

of course, a huge mural of the King himself.

Strathclyde Theatre Group’s production is staged at the brand new Ramshorn Theatre in lngram Street. A suitably reverential atmosphere is created in the converted church by the austere Gothic entrance and a hint of incense in the air.

The King is Dead is a black comedy that touches on spurned love, sexual frustration and hero-worship, without knowing exactly what it wants to say about them. it starts well with quick-fire dialogue and gritty characterisation reminiscent of John Byrne - but the outcome is unoriginal, silly and unresolved. Just as we

become interested in the lives of Skid, Ruth and Avril, an Elvis-hating anti-Christ interrupts proceedings and the plot goes AWOL.

This is a shame because there are some promising performances. Linda McLaughlan is convincing as Connie, the sassy middle-aged fan with the foul mouth and the heart of gold, and John Comerford's dunderhead Doug provides the production’s funniest moments. The direction, by Fiona Walton is also competent: some scenes are beautifully choreographed, and the pace rarely lets up.

But the material lets the show down. Return to sender, I'm afraid. (Beatrice Colin)