Star quality

Fifth Estate do sometimes escape from t

the 17th century, but not often. After ‘We, Charles Xll’ and ‘The Jesuit’, the current doyens of Scottish theatre are now about to wrestle with the man, the

mystery and the Mars orbital plotting of

17th century astronomer Kepler. Fifth Estate productions are also not afraid

to deal with weighty matters guilt and

religion (The Jesuit), power and glory (We, Charles Xll), but the company‘s artistic director, and Kepler’s director, Sandy Neilson sees the new play as tackling even higher issues.

‘He had the boldness to ask questions

on subjects that nobody had dared to question before,‘ he explains. ‘So his impact, not just on the development of astronomy but on the development of human thought, on philosophical

development, was profound. The major

importance of Kepler was that he was the bridge between medieval concepts of the cosmos - the theologically- based explanation of the universe - and the modern idea.’

The play, by Robert Forrest, is set during the last four days of Kepler’s life, as he wastes away in a downmarket boarding house. His story is recounted through the delirium which eventually leads to his death, and this lends the piece an otherworldly, surreal quality. But if

Kepler was such a great man, why not choose a straight biography to tell the story? '

‘Because of the symbolic importance of his living at the time he did,’ says Heilson, ‘providing that bridge. And the richness of the work, of the man, of the time, he lived in. It’s a much more impressionistic piece, which gives us a much stronger idea of the beauty of his work, the sheer beauty of his ideas, because it was all to do with harmony, linding harmony in the heavens. You can’t bring that out in a straight biographical account. He wrote down the relations between the orbits as musical notes, so there was a musical harmony and a geometrical harmony. Everything had to be harmonious, and that’s what we’re trying to create.’ (Philip Parr)

Kepler (Fringe) Fifth Estate, Netherbow (Venue 30) 556 9579, 11 Aug—5 Sept (not Suns), 8.30pm, £6 (£4.50).


Few newly-weds can boast such a wedding present: at this year’s Fringe, actors Russell Hunter and Una McLean, married last year, will

the word, from the historical liaisons between Antony and Cleopatra or John Knox and Mary Queen of Scots, to couplings in the abstract: mechanical, bestial, heterosexual, homosexual.

Are men and women made to fuse? Can the individual be successfully submerged into a joint enterprise? w. Gordon Smith thinks they are and it can. ‘I suspect that it is in the nature of the beast. Very few of us are so prepared for life and all its problems that we can do without the sustenance of another human being, whether it is a lamin relationship, like lather-daughter, or simply lriendship. A deep iriendship can be just as important as the kind of relationship we usually think of as a “couple”. People who are so strong and resourceful that they can be independent have maybe lost something: the giving in a relationship is just as important as the taking.’

The more you think of it, the more significance the concept of ‘couple’ has for Smith, Maclean and Hunter: all



Last year, American Connexion won a Fringe First with Boardroom Shuffle. a play which used the T58 bank as a theatre and east the audience as shareholders in their company‘ for the duration ofthe play. This time around. audience participation comes in the form ofa Dionysian procession to the company‘s latest venue. the Acropolis on (‘alton Hill.

‘We‘ve been looking at the Acropolis since last year‘s festival.‘ says playwright Keith Bayliss. ‘The idea of using that came first. and the play came second.‘

Having snatched it from under the noses ofother companies. the group intends to make the most ofthe magnificent setting. The play focuses on an anarchic troupe of wandering players. who stage their show on a cart in front of the monument. as well as on the Acropolis itself. A plot is provided by George. a widower. and his daughter Maureen. who as part of the ‘audience‘ ask the players to act out the story of Oedipus for them. Bayliss is not so much concerned with storyline. however. as with physical theatre which pushes his actors to the limits and ‘affronts‘ the audience. ‘I want to instil into the actors the aim olpleasing themselves. and ifit annoys the audience so be it. I think the inevitable consequence is that the audience will get more from the play ~ they will be challenged.‘ (Frances Cornford)

I The Clearing (Fringe) American Connexion. Acropolis(Venue 26). 18 Aug—5 Sept (not 23. 30). 8pm. £4.50 (£3.50).



You (Jo? is about three strangers who collide and discover their innermost desires. Founded in Japan by Jane Watson. the group‘s current line-up has diverse eclectic talents ranging front Buto. contemporary dance. mime. physical theatre and stand tip-comedy.

"I'he show is about

falling in love.‘ explains Watson. ‘ln cities you meet people and are attracted all the time. even when you pass them in the street. And that was the basis of the story. that energy ofstrangers meeting and getting to know each other. To collect material we spent the first week tellingour own very personal stories about love. sex. and relationships. The final product is. I think. very fresh and honest. because we were very truthful with each other.‘

Although the company members have different theatrical backgrounds. they‘ve worked hard to develop a voice that is unique. working intensely on the physicality of emotions. with an emphasis on small expressive movements. "That comes from the influence oflapanese

theatre where minimalism j is an art form.‘ says Watson. ‘It was a real



BELOW THE BELT ‘It was a subject that was very much underthe carpet of British society. so it seemed important to bring it out. because when something‘s hidden like that it‘s unhealthy.‘ Playwright and journalist Daniel Scott is talking about men who always hurt the one they love- or. less romantically, domestic violence. His most recent play. Below the Belt. is a two-hander about an abusive relationship. based. Scott says. on six months‘ intensive research. Among the surprising facts to emerge wasthat domestic violence transcends barriers of class and education. ‘It is so absolutely across the board.‘ says Scott, ‘and l was very eager to avoid

the classic stereotype of

working-class-husband- comes-home-drunk-and- beats-up-timid-wife.‘ Accordingly. the couple in Below the Belt are an upwardly-mobile career woman and a ‘new-man-ish‘ writer whose relationship goes

dangerously sour.

'My wish for the playis that the audience go away talking about the subject. We want to bring this out

l challenge for us to match j that style ofatmospheric ' and poetic expression with . the raw vulgarityand g directness ofstand-up ; comedy. But we I managed. somehow.‘ ' (MichaelBalfour)

I How Far Can You Go? j (Fringe) Watson and (,‘o. . 5 Theatre Workshop l An exploration through (V'cnuc 2”) 226 5435‘ dance.movementand l 17‘29Aug(”m23)' comedy. How For ('(m l 8‘45pm‘ “'50 (£350)‘

have recently re-wed; Smith and Hunter are old friends and Maclean and Hunter are a theatrical as well as a marital partnership. Their coming together lor this production must be the closest thing to a theatrical marriage made in heaven- if you can have a marriage of three. (Miranda France) Couples (Fringe) Russell Hunter and Una Maclean, Stockbrldge House (Venue 29) 552 6829, 17 Aug—5 Sept (not 28, 30), 8pm, £5.

of the shadows and into the area of public debate so that people who are suffering this sort ofabuse don‘t feel so isolated.‘ (Andrew Burnet)

I Below the Belt (Fringe) Comedy Practice . Assembly Rooms (Venue 3) 226 2428, 14 Aug—5 Sept (not 17. 27 Aug). 8pm. £7.5()/£8.5()

I (£5.5(l/i6.5()).

present a production written specifically for them by their close friend-and best man -wrlter w. Gordon Smith. Smith describes his latest literary work, Couples, as an entertainment ratherthan a play. ‘lt’s a variation on the theme, it has its serious side, but the principle is literally to entertain.’ Rather than a plot, Couples presents a sort of encyclopaedic jaunt through the various definitions and connotations of

The List 14 20 August 1992 43