t appreciation ofa poem is

momentous sweep. : Images of the old Wild West flicker on the


I The Collected Works of Billy the Kid Seen at The Drama Centre at The Ramshorn, returning to the Edinburgh Fringe. In a successful effort to extend the theatrical experience beyond the four walls ofthe auditorium. the Ramshorn has engaged the services of a group of musicians to sandwich Freakshow Theatre Company‘s performance with some chaotic freeform workouts on percussion and brass and to usher the audience in and out ofthe theatre. It has nothing to do with the show itself. but stokes anticipation for what we are about to receive, the promise of potential which is never fulfilled.

The main problem is that Freakshow is translating one artistic medium poetry into a variety ofother forms— drama. mime, dance and visuals. and it becomes too much to take in in one sitting. While

enhanced with each fresh reading. here Canadian poet Michael Ondaatje’s reflections on the birth of a ‘civilised‘ nation are rushed past us in one

backdrops as a reminder ofthe premise of the whole piece. but the mood and the message white man‘s battle with the notion versus the reality of the ‘frontier‘ are grasped only fleetineg as the four performers hop, skip and jump from scenario to scenario.

Taken in itself. the measured diction and the taut synchronisation of the actors is admirable. but their competence spells only a partial victory in communication. Asa didactic presentation. The ( 'ollet'letl Works of Billy the Kid suffers from too many approaches to the one lesson. (Fiona Shepherd)

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Bottom of the bill

Mark Fisher checks out an underground drama, a golfing comedy and a very Scottish tragedy.

You do not need to see Good Morning Bill. Miss this show at Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum and you will not be ostracised at trendy parties for your cultural oversight. Hugh Hodgart’s production of this P.G. Wodehouse comedy is inessential viewing. Not bad, not offensive, not even dull, just so supremely trivial, so utterly lightweight, so completely throw-away that any undue effort to get to the theatre could not possibly be adequately rewarded.

Should you, however, drift into the auditorium, casually, as if by chance, not overly-expectant, you will find a passably amusing and inoffensively jolly semi-farce with a handful of sharp one-liners, performed with some charm by the six-strong company. Stuart McQuarrie plays would-be playboy Bill Paradene with the same good-natured zest that he brought to Mortimer Brewster in Arsenic and Old Lace, his plaintive love-quest comically off-set by Robert Richmond‘s gormless Lord Tidmouth, played like a cross between Giles Havergal and Adrian Edmonson. The two are solidly backed up by Donna Wilson’s resolute Doctor, Louise Delamere’s self-absorbed Lottie and Robert Carr’s redder-than-ever Sir Hugo Drake. No complaints there at all, it’s just that Wodehouse‘s play has no substance worthy of further comment.

I’m not sure how much you can blame the lighting operator for muddling up a play, but on its first


night in the Citizens’, Rain Dog’s Macbeth lacked both visual and dramatic clarity. Billy Russell‘s lighting design certainly has some striking moments - brilliant white shafts cutting through three cross-shaped windows, or a blood-red throne fiercely illuminated in a cubby-hole at the back of a darkened stage but whoever was behind the operating desk the night I was there was not keeping pace. I began to wonder whether it was a challenging new interpretation, a sinister Shakespearian message, that left key characters consistently in the dark. Such technical problems are easily ironed out, but regardless of that, I feel that Robert Carlyle’s production suffers from an imprecise sense of

' place and a weakness in its

story-telling. Strange that in the programme notes Carlyle should emphasise his work on character, because distinct characterisation is one thing that the production lacks. These faults, coupled with some poor diction, mean that the play blurs past, engaging us sporadically but just as often leaving us confused. An attempt has been made at a stylised staging, letting speaking parts take centre stage while others fade into the background, but despite a generally fast-paced and fluid production, the transition from one tableau to the next can be jarring and unclear.

I’ve long thought that the Scottish register has more in common with

Macbeth: rough and ready

the toughness and vigour of Shakespeare’s language than the sanitised coldness of standard southern English, so it’s good to see Rain Dog give the Scottish Play an unashamedly Scottish production. It is largely dull convention that stops other companies doing the same. And what Rain Dog does bring to the tragedy is a real sense of the bleakness of these feudal times; all traces of humour are ironed out no comedy even in the porter scene and the delivery is as rough and ready as the blankets in which the cast is dressed. However, in Shakespeare, language is paramount and here much of it is lost in the company’s eagerness to speed through the play.

I’m not sure how much morbid resonance is added to Speakeasy Theatre’s lament, The Trouble Ilth the Dead, by having it performed in Mary King’s Close , in effect Edinburgh’s secret mausoleum buried beneath the City Chambers, but certainly the vault-like chamber is an intimate and atmospheric ‘found’ space that suits Angus Reid’s poetic requiem down to the ground (and down a bit further). It’s an elusive performance that slips in and out of focus, losing us in a fog of poetry one moment, catching us with a striking theatrical image the next. Reid’s performance is deceptively controlled; just as you decide he must be improvising, he careers into an intense and passionate monologue, his body taut with anguish. Gregg Corbett’s soundtrack, full of whispers and echoes, reverberates through the chamber, precisely matching the ebb and flow of Reid’s stream of consciousness. It loses us a few times too often to be truly satisfying, but it’s an adventurous performance worth seeing for its moments of theatrical beauty.

Good Morning Bill, Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh, until Sat 13 Jun. Macbeth, Citizens’ Theatre, Glasgow, until Sat 13 Jun.

The Trouble with the Death, Mary Kings Close, City Chambers, Edinburgh, until Sat61un.


Seen at King’s Theatre, Edinburgh. At King’s Theatre, Glasgow, until Sat 6 Jun.

Edinburgh’s King's Theatre is very small for a ballet, particularly one with the potential for such dramatic large-scale choreography as Swan Lake. One could imagine ruffled leathers if not cygnets in the orchestra. It is a credit to the London City Ballet that, with the help of clever lighting and well-designed sets, it has managed to make the intimacy of the space a positive advantage.

This production is a wonderful example of how the details of the highly disciplined movements of ballet can be made to express the formal grace —at once stiff and fluid of the swans, but also, the imprisonment of Odette, the

girl in bird form. The paradox of her beauty and her pain finds its perfect metaphor in the beauty of ballet and the pain inherent in it. Of course, the success of this is a reflection on the quality of the performances -their ability to bear close scrutiny without ieopardising the magic of the atmosphere. Tracey Newham Alvey, as Odette/Odile, dances with such emotional intensity that it is hard to believe that the desperate, quivering, swan-girl is the same person as the sinister seductress Odile who appears in Act III dancing with harsh mechanical movements to the tune of the wicked magician.

Hers is not the only performance worthy of note. Victor Barykin as Siegfried is elegant and assured, and Jack Wyngaard, playing the jester, has the audience chuckling at his antics

and gasping at his athleticism.

As is so often the case, this production is at its height when representing the drama of Odette, or the Magician’s orchestrated display of minions at the palace, the tensions of both situations giving great scope to the choreographer’s imagination; but when it comes to the simulated spontaneity of the prince frolicking with peasant girls, it is less successful. The harderthe dancers try to act naturalistically, the more they point up the artificiallty of their balletlc movements, and the anachronlsm of the coyness and gallantry they are affecting.

Having said that, apart from a surprising moment when four swans bob up and down like manic moorhens, the London City Ballet is hard to fault. (Catherine Fellows)