FE sum I.
The Life of Stuff
All the ingredients are right. The new Traverse, airy as an airport, combines efﬁciency with smart, avant-garde ﬁttings and sets. The storyline is good too: a Glasgow night club and cover for drugs dealing is overtaken by wide-boy, Willie Dobie, under mysterious circumstances. Gradually it emerges that the club’s previous owner, who briefly introduces himself at the beginning of the play, has been got rid of, burned to death in a van. Then there are the reviews. The reviews have been unceasingly glowing, heralding writer Simon Donald as a new Scottish talent.
So why did I find The Life of Stuff so tedious? To start with I think it was the fact that I couldn’t work out what was going on. The first hour of the performance was like a rally of machine gun fire. The calm was so frequently, relentlessly, punctuated with gags, that I couldn’t hear the plot. And it wasn’t as if the gags were very original, they mostly had to do with a man wearing nothing but underpants, a woman being sick and people taking drugs and feeling very
' Desdemona -
if only you had spoken!
Eleanor Bron’s apparel on stage is unassuming, even drab; it is her features and their individuality that are arresting and it is this contrast that sets the tone lor the pertormance. Bron presents three dramatic monologues based on historical characters and translated by her trom a German work by Christine Bruckner, which explains the Germanic slant oi the play. What the three characters have in common is that they are all women, previously largely ignored and woven into the backcloth oi history. What Bron does brilliantly is to turn these ciphers into believable characters lull oi quirks and idlosyncracies.
As Katerina, Luther’s wlie, she is the earthy realist, kneading bread to feed
By getting in and out of a ‘Iift‘ at the back ofthe stage (I liked that idea) characters conveyed that they were travelling to one of the nightclub‘s three ﬂoors. Each scene was a few minutes long and took place either on the roof, on the administrative floor or on the dance floor. But these scenes were more like sketches. you could have jumbled them up and shown them in another order and I don’t think it would have made much difference. The worst thing about them was the constant. ear-splitting
shouting, a remarkably
-..=~ my - -; s-~-» -
the hungry hordes oi Luther’s disciples while reilectlng on her tile with the great man. Katerina‘s thoughts are not particularly original - how she provides actual sustenance and holds the household together while Luther has his head in the metaphorical clouds- but they seem authentic to period and place. Thwarted desire is at I
unimaginative and unrealistic way to convey a range ofemotions. The direction must be to blame for this, because the actors were good. particularly the drug-desperate Shirley Henderson.
By the time we were three quarters of the way through the production. five people had walked out and I felt irritated enough to join in the shouting myself. The plot was unravelling. but where to? I still don‘t know. (Miranda France)
I The Lite 0! Stuii (Fringe) Traverse Company, Traverse (Venue 15) 228 1401. until 5 Sept. various times. £7.
the centre of the second monologue. Petrarch's Laura tells the story at how her lile was ruined and her humanity eiiaced by Petrarch’s obsession. ‘He lobbed me oii with words,’ she opines lrom her deathbed as she waits to die oi the plague. in the last speech, Bron plays the warm, generous and boozy Christiana von Goethe looking back on
, hertimes with the poet.
Bron is not so much concerned with polemic in these pieces as with humour and realism. These are vividly imagined characters who can be enjoyed in their own right but who also put a diiierent perspective on past events. Goethe as the proud parent but vacillatinghusband? Petrarch as the sell-absorbed prig? Maybe, but the play is not about them. Bron pushes no points home but instead evokes wonderfully the warmth and humanity oi three iorgotten people. As to history, you can draw your own conclusions. (Frances Comiord)
Desdemona - It you had only spoken! (Fringe) Eleanor Bron, Pieasance (Venue 33) 556 6550, until 5 Sept (not 23 Aug, 1 Sept), 4.45pm, £6.50 (£5.50).
Miranda France tunes into some iirst week afternoon hits.
I Desdemona - it You Had Only Spoken! Eleanor Bron‘s stage adaptation and translation of Christine Bruckner‘s original script in which three of history‘s slighted or side-tracked women finally get a work in edgewise.
Desdemona — If You Had Only Spoken! (Fringe) Eleanor Bron, Pieasance (Venue 33) 556 6550, 14 Aug—5 Sept (not 16. 23, 1), 4.45pm, £6.50 (£5.50).
I Breaking the Sound Banter Fresh from Montreal‘s Just for Laughs and a spell off-Broadway, Hanoch Rosenn presents a performance drawing on the blend of mime and humour, music and video that has made him famous in Israel.
Breaking the Sound Barrier (Fringe) Hanoch Rosenn, The Roxy (Venue 27) 6508499, until5 Sept, 5.30pm, £4 (£3).
I Gone with Noakes Remember the immortal words ‘sticky-back plastic"? Ben Miller didn‘t just remember them. he took them to heart, developing an obsession with John Noakes that took him to the South of Spain to meet his idol. This is the result (get down. Shep). Gone with Noakes (Fringe) Ben Miller, Pieasance ( Venue 33) 556 6550, until 5 Sept. 4.15pm, £5 (£4).
I Pom Boyd Irish blarney from the comedian and creator ofcharacters like Soulful John. the phone-box poet and Cindy Clumph. the paranoid New Yorker.
Pom Boyd (Fringe). The Counting House (Venue 66) 226 2/5]. anti/5 Sept, 3pm, £5 ([4).
I The Show's Not Over 'Til the Fat Lady Sings Magnet Theatre puts a different perspective on obesity in a show featuring an apparent anomaly: a fat trapeze artist. Jenny Reznek (in reality far from fat) uses a dazzling array ofcircus skills.
The Show '3 Not Over 'Til the Fat Lady Sings ( F rin ge) Magnet Theatre. Demart‘o Gal/er)~ ( Venue 22 l 55 7 ()707. tmti129 Aug (not Sun).
4. 45pm. £5 (£3.50).
The List 21 — zinger 1992 29