Seen at the Tron, Glasgow. On tour. Opening like a Scottish version of Cheers and ending with a Chekovian ache, To takes place over one typical evening in a busy local bar. While the landlord and his wife keep the drinks flowing, the bar is inhabited by a shifting clientele of comic, pathetic and tragic characters. An old lady dreams of the butcher over a sherry before going home to an invalid husband whom she no longer loves. A boyfriend intimidates his girlfriend with a chilling blend of violence and manipulation, and the intermittent banter oi the brusque landlord and his breezy wile hides a deep mutual revulsion and a shared experience they cannot face.
With a cast of two, To summons up characters from thin air, perfectly formed, without missing a beat. Blythe Dull, better known as Taggart’s iemale side-kick and Vincent Friell, a Restless Natives veteran, switch effortlessly from one persona to the next in a seamless display of versatility.
The production, directed by Liz Carruthers, is minimalist and leaves all the colourto the actors' performances. The bare bones of a bar serve as a backdrop and only the slightest costume changes are needed to shuffle through the dozen or so different cameos.
Award-winning author, Jim Cartwright, has a sharp ear for dialogue but the script is not only banter. While brisk conversation hints
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COLUMBUS - BLOODING THE OCEAN
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at underlying tension, the monolgues are poetic and graceful, written in rich singing prose.
To hangs together as a sharply observed look at the many facets oi love in a variety of relationships. As diverse as the drinks which are
consumed, lt exemplifies love as,
There’s a real delight in hearing the
3: witty one-liners or the supposedly
A Joycean limericks cutting through with dazzling lreshness. But that’s offset by ~ an equally strong irritation in hearing
ego-flattering jokes that appeal only to
; an audience’s smug sense of
amongst otherthings, disappointment,
fear, manipulation, resignation and freindship. An admirable and enjoyable production, To works due to the excellence oi its cast and the resonance of the theme. (Beatrice Colin).
Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh. Until Sat11 Jul.
Don’ttake my word lorthis. I’m not a reliable witness. For a Royal Lyceum first night, the audience was unusually animated and appreciative of Tom Stoppard's mid-70$ surrealist hit comedy set in a Zurich populated by Tristan Tzara, James Joyce and Lenin. Perhaps l was the only one to find it sometimes tedious, often confusing, mostly too clever for its own good and only sporadically amusing.
I won't deny that when Travesties is funny, it is veryiunny. Few writers could pull off Stoppard’s trick of-using some of the most formidable minds of the 20th century as raw material for a knock-about farce without doing more than a minor injustice to their ideas.
m: wayward clowning '
achievement for ‘getting' them in the first place. It’s a weird mix of elitism
: and populism that any director has to
handle with care. Forthe most part, director Richard
- Baron musters an energetic production
that allows lull reign to the wayward clowning talents oi Jimmy Chisholm - (Tzara), Kern Falconer (Joyce) and
Robert Carr (the servant Bennett) - and finds an uncanny Lenin look-alike in Kenneth Bryans to boot. Where the production falls down is in the narrative. Stoppard already has a tendency to tell his tales back to lront,
? so it’s a shame that Graham Pountney as the amdram diplomat, Henry Carr, through whom the story is told, gives a
muffled, undelineated performance as
1 his older sell (in effect the narrator),
i despite a zestful interpretation of his j younger role. It’s typical oi a
3 production in which hall-way serious 5 passages come across as dull and
x , purposeless,breakingthellowand
‘ snapping the fragile threads oi plot.
I also question the sense in limiting
: the playing area to a restrictively
: narrow mid-stage envelope for much of
the production, and in taking apart
5 Gregory Smith’s set to reveal S nothing-in-particularfora
meaningless finale. But perhaps the rest of the audience will question me for failing to enjoy something that they clearly did. Just don't take my word for it, that’s all. (Mark Fisher)
Seen at the Drama Centre at the Ramshorn, Glasgow. Returning to Theatre Workshop, Edinburgh, Mon 17$at 22 Aug.
When I was engrossed by the adventures of The Treasure Seekers, Five Children And It and The Railway
Children at a tender age, little did I
, SI" r t I , . ' 'L ‘ Pene Herman-Smith: pain and anxiety
realise that the author of these
charming Edwardian tales of magic and
morality was living in a bizarre menage
3 a trois with her feckless husband, his
mistress and their child, and sharing him three nights a week with yet
; anotherwoman, churning out her
- stories to keep them all. Edith Nesbit, , in her spare time, helped to set up the Fabian Society, which worked to keep
the emerging Labour movement on a reformist path, and was propositioned
‘ by George Bernard Shaw, who called
her ‘audaciously unconventional'. Pat Gerber’s play focuses mostly on
her personal life, showing a woman conditioned to think herself inferior and
accepting her husband’s dubious
political justification for his
selfishness. This could have been infuriating —there‘s nothing worse than
when you want to shout ‘Ieave him, ' he’s a swine!’ at the stage — but Pene
Herman-Smith as Edith just manages to keep our sympathy with a chattering, bravura performance which veils the pain and anxiety beneath.
I always find one-woman performances uncomfortably unnatural and this is no exception; the audience here are supposed to he visitors who have popped by to see Edith, who suddenly starts telling us her life story, a technique which makes you squirm at first, but later feels more plausible. The use of Nesbit's rather duff poetry also seems unnecessary, but Herman-Smith saves the play with her firm control of the character, who struggles to maintain hertrust in the face of betrayal, finding in the happy endings of her books comfort for her unhap y life. (Andrea Baxter)
I Goodbye to Fahlevision As we go to press it looks like Glasgow‘s pioneering Fablcvision company. a champion of professional. community and mixed-ability performances. has had to call it a day after its expected grant from Strathclyde Regional Council was cut by
£55 .000 to only £30,000. Because of accumulated debts. the company has had to recognise that it can no longer trade viably in these circumstances. The loss of the company will strike a particular blow to the many people with disabilities and other minority groups for whom Fablevision provided a rare chance to develop theatre-based skills.
I Orange in prison TAG is ; planning to mount an adaptation of Anthony
: Burgess‘sA Clockwork Orange in September. but in the meantime the company is learning from real-life prisoners about life on the inside. Dance Director Andrew llowitt is currently heading a two-week Summer Arts Project at Greenock Prison. engaging inmates in the themes of the novel and finding a means of expressing them.
I Name a Chair Glasgow‘s newest theatre. the Drama Centre at the Ramshorn. is trying to improve its accessibility to ~ people with disabilities and to raise the necessary fundsit is launchinga seat-sponorship scheme. lfyou‘d like to name one ofthe 170 chairs for£150. you should call Lousie Naftalin on 041 552 4400
I Culture Triangle Open E Day Everyone wants to get ‘.
a look inside the brand
new Traverse Theatre in
Street and probably your
best chance to do so is on
Saturday I 1 July.
| Royal Lyceum and the
g Usher llall are open for
‘ inspection.Explore backstage facilities. props cupboards. lighting
i boards and so on. or enjoy
. Traverse Trailers — of forthcoming productions.
: V IN PRINT
, I Theatre Scotland Issue
TWO The second edition of 1 Scotland‘sindependcnt
quarterly theatre magazine has just been published. featuring the complete script of Simon Donald‘s The Life ofSluff. a contentious interview with Brian Cox. a round-up of the designs
for the Edinburgh Festival's C. P. Taylor plays and an analysis of Scotland's failure to make a mark on the international theatre scene. The 56-page magazine is available from selected bookshops and theatre box offices or direct from Theatre Scotland. 9a Annandale Street. Edinburgh EH7 4AW. price £2.50 (or£l3 subscription).
50The List 3- léJuly 1992