THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT
Like Bosnian cease-fires and the comedy of Carry On ﬁlms. there are some things which just have to be taken on their own terms. Take a look at the poster for Wildcat’s current touring production and you‘ll know what to expect: it‘s a monochrome line drawing (suitable for economical photocopying) ofa man in a jacuzzi. and reads, ‘you can‘t criticise a show which aims at nothing more than a pleasant evening out‘.
Accordingly. the plot of The House ThatJack Built is slight and undemanding: media exec J aek‘s des res has becomes a refuge for an attractive young addict fleeing the debt collecting attentions of her dealer. Via mobile phones they resolve to rob Jack and have a giggle between turgid political discussions.
Unfortunately, the simplicity of such a narrative depends on a quickfire style almost destroyed by writer, director and lead actor Dave Anderson‘s on-stage lethargy (just count the seconds between his last sighed line and his next bit of listless stage business). This zimmer-assisted pacing is abetted by the frequent breaks for music — Wildcat calls itself a music theatre company, so by golly you’ll get a few ﬁne ditties, relevant or not.
But ultimately the show does survive as more than a pleasant evening out due to an utter lack of pretension — enabling the whole paraphernalia of a pop group to litter the set without incongruity. and an illiberal belligerence which rejects kneej-erk xenophobic nationalism for an unfashionable (if still valid) type of socialism. (Stephen Chester)
Seen at The Mitchell Theatre, Glasgow. On Tour.
Mark Fisher raves over Tramway’s latest touch of the Dutch.
There we were. scavenging round the Edinburgh Fringe. desperate to find the Next Big Thing. ploughing through the mediocre. the missable and the merely good. And all the while we could have shut up shop. taken a rest and waited until Glasgow got back into gear. Dogtroep‘s Camel Gossip is simply the best find Edinburgh never saw this year. and ifthere are finer fruits in the rest ofTramway‘s Autumn season we will be lucky indeed. Taking place in yet another previously unexplored corner of Tramway. through the bar and round the back. the production challenges you to find parallels. The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, Forkbeard Fantasy. Dr Suess. the stranger bits of Vision 0n . . . but it‘s an exercise that quickly leaves you behind. Dogtroep defies comparison. Camel Gossip is
As rich in image as it is in invention. the show plays on themes ofthe domestic. from the suspended human alarm-clock winding itself up as we walk into the performance space. to the miniature line of laundry that works its way across the stage at the end. In between. there are sandcastles. illuminated linen tents and an over-crowded tenement; there is consumption. urination and. . . and I'm making too much order where surprise and a kind ofcontrolled anarchy reigns. for there is also a teenage heart-throb on double bass. lots of water. a robot creature. more water. irrigation. androgynous girls in
Dogtroep: childlike imaginative lree-lall
Elizabethan wigs. water. live music. a man with watering cans for shoes and still more water.
Narrative and precise meaning are not important — although you could construct your own story around these wordless characters and half-familiar goings on - rather. the production works on an abstract level. enriching us with its child-like. imaginative free-fall. delighting us with its continual barrage of surprise.Technicallybrilliant.yet cosily home-made. this is theatre you want to play over and over like your favourite LP. lfyou see it just once. that‘ll be a start.
Camel Gossip. Dogtroep. Tramway, Glasgow, until Sun 27 Sept.
[HEEL- SCHOOL FOR wwes
Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh, until Sat 26 Sept One of the things that made The Marriage oi Figaro such a success earlierthis year was the way that Ian Wooldridge played up the creakler plot elements instead at trying to hide them. The director has applied the same il-you-can’t-beat-’em-join-'em principle to Moliere’s mechanistic comedy about a misogynist bachelor and his designs on the young woman he has educated and housed. Thus an unsophisticated morality tale becomes an uptront music-hall routine with snatches ol popular songs breaking out between knowing nods to the audience. And it almost works. There are plenty oi laughs in Hell Bartlett’s newish translation that has been adapted by the company to a Calton Hill setting, and John Bell takes on the lead role with gusto. But tor all the company’s energy, the play comes across as laboured and relentless, hammering its no-Ionger-revolutionary message j home with sledgehammer subtlety. Moliere's skill as a comic still shines across the centuries, but Wooldridge’s intelligent diversionary tactics can't hide this play's stnictural weaknesses. (Mark Fisher)
‘ millil- ! PlAF
Bninton Theatre, Musselburgh. Until Sat 26 Sept.
There’s no denying that Pam Gems' musical biography ol rags-to-riches
Maria Miller as Pial
chanteuse Edith Plat places incredible demands on the lead actor. Not only does she need to sing and act convincingly, but also, on stage virtuallythroughout the play, she has to go lrom down-at-heel prostitute to magnetic perlormer to spoilt-brat junkie to premature invalid in the space at one evening.
To act charisma is one at the hardest things to do and, much as she hits the right notes, Maria Miller as Piat gives no sense oi the singer’s mystique. For all the character suggested by Miller’s singing persona, she could be starring in a Radio 2 drama about Vera Lynn. Harely do we get the sense in Robin Peoples’ production that Plat is a product oi the street; despite the copious swearing, it’s all too polite, too timid, to express real, raw passion.
It Miller doesn’t have the range, she does suit some scenes well — the production’s close is quite touching — and there are moments when the characteristically awkward smallness ol the perlormances breaks out into
something more interesting. Otherwise the highlight of the show remains Malcolm Murray’s splendid set. (Mark Fisher)
Seen at the Arches Theatre, Glasgow On tour.
Flickering candles, howling winds and jagged accents are the backdrop for this chilly tale of doomed love. Adapted from Emily Bronte’s classic novel, Birds of Paradise Theatre company has condensed the story to create a highly visual and dramatic piece, questioning the nature at relationships.
The set is simple; two huge window trames, lurniture draped in white and a large gilt mirror lit, tor most oi the production, by candle light, suggest an eerie grandeur. Imaginative direction by Liz Gardiner and Annie Newell let the play roll lrom scene to scene and hem year to year with polished ease. But it’s the acting which is most impressive. The company is at mixed ability— 50 per cent have a disability. Annie Newell's petulant Cathy rejects and then agonises over Heathclilt, powertully played by slight, be-crutched but incredibly agile Kevin Howell, while Nellie Dean, Cathy’s Iong-sultering maid narrates and takes part in the action in herwheelchair. This mixture at physical ability is used to suggest the prejudice which restricts their love.
Wuthering Heights is an inspired, passionate and enjoyable production where each player puts in a strong perlormance which is not detined by their physique. (Beatrice Colin)
48 The List gig—September — 8 October 1992