i THE LAMENT FOR ARTHUR CLEARY
Seen at Tron Theatre
With scenes strung like beads onto the thread ofa girl‘s lament for her loy er. 7:84's production of this play by award-winning Dubline'r Dermot Boiger is a proverbial string of jewels.
Using the grim arches of a railway station. the long shadows cast by its pillars and the filthy light cast down through the cracked glass roof. the set acts as backdrop for urban Dublin. Arthur Cleary returns home after fifteen years ofdrifting around Europe to rediscover the hometown he had always missed. In the initial euphoria of his return. he falls in love with a much younger girl. but soon has to face unemployment,
crime and crumbling estates crippled by the money-lenders.
Bolger‘s play was apparently inspired by a Gaelic poem. Yet the script is full of razor-sharp humour. tragedy and pathos concerning inner-city decay. Even the minor characters are drawn with a carefully observed detail. bringing out their humanin but never using them as orators for any didactic message.
Barry Barnes as Cleary conveys a man Whose spirit is wound up gradually until it is tight and tense as a spring. The supporting cast, including a fistful ofbroad. mean men played by James Ryiand. also all put in admirable performances.
But it‘s lain Reekic’s direction which really puts this show in focus. The intimacy between lovr‘rs, a drunken night on the town. a grim frontier inspection. are all captured with great invention and pace.
The transience of a generation, pacing across Europe, continually crossing the border but not being one side or the other, is at the root ofthis lyrical, bleak and in places almost cinematic drama.
7.84 have left the loud hailer at home at last with an extremely well crafted, acted and designed production. (Beatrice Colin)
Sex and death, arguably the two essential components of good drama, are both generously heaped on to all three of the current productions at the Citizens’. Love too hovers in the background like a nervous extra, but is all too often left in the shadows by the glamour, glitz and guts of the action.
Tennessee Williams’ Sweet Bird ol Youth, in the main house, is more about decaying from the inside out than succumbing to any deadly external force, but sex in this climate equates with disease. Philip Prowse’s design and direction take this bitter-tasting drama, wrap it up in ribbons and cover it with a sticky candycoaﬁng.
The opening scene is set in a sugar pink bedroom in a small-town hotel. Like seaside rock, it acts as a metaphor for the corroded souls of its occupants, gigolo Chance Wayne and a middle-aged ﬁlm star travelling under an assumed name , the Princess Kosmonopolis. After a couple of days spent in narcotic oblivion, trying to wipe out the disappointment of a failed comeback, she wakes up to find herself playing a bit part in Chance’s prodigal return to his home town to claim his girl, Heavenly. Chance‘s only asset, his youth, is fading fast and as the futures they both desire recede ever further out of reach, they battle and damn on borrowed time, snorting coke together, but scheming alone.
Andrea llart in Sweet Bird ol Youth
In the hotel’s black and silver cocktail bar, Prowse uses Walkmans, mobile phones and a television suspended from the roof to draw parallels between the political fanaticism ofthe late 50$. when the play was written, and present-day America. Heavenly‘s father’s election campaign is a glam and glitzy affair, the kind which might feature in a triple-page spread in Hello magazine.
For all its inherent style, the play’s first act is languid and loose, with Patrick O’Kane’s Chance too slinky by half. After the interval. however, sparks begin to fly, and it all seems to slip into place in an explosion of colour and activity. With flamboyance masking fermented. sour hearts, Williams’ poetic. tragic script is pulled taut.
Venus and Adonis — in the third theatre —- also deals in deceit and disguise. This adaptation of Shakespeare’s narrative poem details the lengths randy Venus will go to to seduce the reluctant Adonis.
And she will do anything and be anyone — from a wailing nightclub singer in gold lame, to a simpering wimp, to a whip-wielding matriarch — to get her man. But all Adonis wants to do is go off and be impaled by a boar.
Quirky, colourful and fast-paced. this production is a lyrical roller-coaster ride into the nature of lust and finally love. Both Siobhan Stanley and Matthew Radford (who co-directs with Malcolm Sutherland) take the stage by storm and give their all, yet the production can’t resist a cliche and often compromises the eroticism of the piece with an easy gimmick.
Meanwhile in the second house. Stephen MacDonald's new revival of his own play Not About Heroes is a much more sombre affair. It concerns the friendship which developed between Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen when both were in ‘Dottyville’. a mental hospital in Edinburgh. during the First World War. Owen, played with a mite too much saintliness by Colin Wells, is taken under Sassoon‘s wing and finds his feet as a poet. But the pull of first-hand experience and guilt is too strong and he goes back to the front to die, a week before the Armistice.
MacDonald plays Sassoon, and the age gap between the two men sets all the events in the after-glow of memory. He also infuses the production with a charged sexuality, suggesting unexpressed physical love and longing. Simply staged with a well crafted script, this tale ofwasted youth and lost love is powerful, emotionally charged and ultimately moving. (Beatrice Colin)
The Sweet Bird of Youth, Not About Heroes and Venus and Adonis . run concurrently at the Citizens’ until Sun 1 Nov.
THREE SHOUTS FROM A HILL
Seen at The Bamshorne.
Written lorthe music hall, big brother oi the 1950s American comedy series, these three one-act larces by Sean O’Casey are titled with slapstick and tickle, lrantlc antics and the odd ukelele song. The O’Casey Theatre Company's production is directed by Siobhan O'Casey, his daughter, and the plays are restored rather than re-interpreted. Straightiorwardly staged, the central locus is on the comic chemistry between actors Gerald McSorley and Rlsteard Cooper. lee an Irish version ol Laurel and Hardy or a couple at Marx Brothers, they wreak chaos in a kitchen while the wile is out, try to withdraw some money lrom a post olllce while one at them is paralytically drunk and, ridden with guilt, a bachelor attempts to keep his immoral dallying with a girl In his room quiet lrom his lellow lodgers.
They're Interesting, as they show O'Casey’s londness lor the absurd but also because they make social comment; men’s incomprehension oi domestic toil; prejudice against workmen, especially drunk Irish ones,
and the stupidity ol the pious. Nostalgic, sometimes hilarious, these plays are lively, unpretentious lun. (Beatrice Colin)
mm. ANNIE GET YOUR GUN
I did not join in the applause when Bullan Bill rode his horse on stage, lor tear that the beast might bolt and wreak havoc in the wind section. However, I
will admit that when a heavily Yorkshire Sitting Bull appeared I gasped loudly at Brian Glover’s choice ol agent.
i mention these things because they were the only two uneasily surreal blips in a production which was otherwise so stick it tell little trace at where it had been. This is a show which presents spectacular blandness not so much as a leature oi the musical but as its guiding principle; lines neither ; memorany bad nor particularly memorable are lormed into songs whose interminable linal verses milk the audience applause like they were giving out EC grants tor it; a multitude oi sets are built so huge and stunning that you spend the show wondering how they got them, and the horse, up the steps.
Everything is provided, except any sense at lrisson behind the singing, dancing and laughing. There are two notable exceptions to this: two sequences involving virtually the entire cast (apart lrom Brian Glover) are perlonned with such skill and passion that it makes it worthwhile letting the rest wash over you until then. (Stephen Chester)
Annie Get Your Gun, King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, until Sat 31 Oct.
M The List 23 October- 5 November 1992