The House 1 Among the
Ifyou like plays where characters shout at each other from opposite sides of the stage before sobbing into their sleeves then the latest Traverse production has a lot to offer. Alternatively, ifyou‘ve always avoided saying ‘Just smell that air— it’s beautiful,‘ because it sounds like a horribly histrionic line from the sort of play they put on at the Traverse, then you can always chortle over the character billed simply as ‘Fat Woman‘. And if you‘ve a penchant for observing fresh genius at work than there‘s always Stuart McQuarrie.
Which is to say that while this theatrical TV movie (with appropriately intrusive music telling you what to feel at vital moments) might be everyone’s cup of tea. it‘s hardly going to be anyone’s aqua vitae. The script relies heavily on its central conceit, which simultaneously presents the triple tribulations ofthe three generations who have occupied the family home. It’s a clever, rather than engaging device, and several people who hadn’t the curiosity to discover the various thematic interconnections left at half-time. Or maybe they just couldn’t understand what was going on, as a significant percentage of the play is spoken in the sort of dialect that none of the actors got into drama school by possessing. As a result such dialogue is unconvincing, though this hardly matters, since most of the middle-class audience have never spoken it and those that did had it knocked out of them at primary school. The politicisation of language is a double-edged weapon; to some it might say Proud lndependant Identity but to others it says Jerk-Off Cultural Appropriation.
This is a good play, but one which substitutes long gazes into the middle distance for genuine emotion, leaving you with the suspicion that if this same production were performed at any other theatre, the critical indifference would be resounding. (Stephen Chester)
The House Among the Stars, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, until Sun 15 Nov.
Mark Fisher gets out to ; two Irish comedies g performed by Scottish
Brendan Behan‘s Richard’s Cork leg 5 is like what you expect Joe Orton plays to be, but rarely are. It’s carefree, ramshackle, boisterous, abrasive, black, rude and funny, and . in Andy Arnold's production for the Arches Theatre Company. it‘s highly3 enjoyable and quite unhinged. I
Set largely in a graveyard, the play is a procession of sharp-talking banter between a couple of God-fearing prostitutes and two left-wing ex-convicts, and the closest it gets to conflict is with the arrival of a band of fascist Blueshirts. Somewhere in there is the beginnings ofa political drama, but Behan is too busy poking fun at religious hypocrites and celebrating the joys of alcohol and the sins of the ﬂesh, to let anything like serious analysis come to the fore.
The nine-strong cast gives off the delightfully unassuming impression that it hasn‘t noticed how daft the show is, the actors tearing into their quick-fire Irish brogue as ifthey weren‘t wearing false beards or as if they weren’t about to leap into a jig with all the energy of the Pogues, and consequently it takes the audience a scene or two to tune in to the style. By the end of the run the company might have become sufficiently relaxed in the earlier scenes to send a clearer signal of the buoyant mood that quickly develops. Either way, there’s no denying the audience‘s appreciation by the end ofthe show.
Andy Arnold‘s production retains Behan‘s irreverent spirit, happily
throwing in contemporary ' references (the play was unfinished
on Behan‘s death in 1964) and tackling the up-front musical numbers with gusto and verve. The performances are invested with an unpretentious sense of the artifice of theatre, characters sneaking on stage in complete disregard of the dictates ofnaturalism, as others give knowing looks to the audience.
If Behan‘s comedy is a precursor of Spike Milligan‘s Q series, then Sean O‘Casey‘s one-act farces suggest little more than the slapstick bits on Crackerjack. That‘s maybe a little cruel, but ifhe‘d tried to write the trilogy billed by Winged Horse as The End oi the Beginning today, it’s unlikely that they’d end up as much more than two-minute sketches on Absolutley. The three episodes — A Pound on Demand about a drunkard’s battle with bureaucracy, Bedtime Story about the hypocrisy of Catholic sexual guilt and The End of the Beginning about male
impracticality — contain neat ideas, but none justifies its length. Thankfully. Winged Horse, under the guidance of new Artistic Director Eve Jamieson, employs excellent diversionary tactics through the strength ofgood acting alone. Vari Sylvester and Paul Morrow, in particular. turn in a range ofwell-observed. sometimes impassioned. comic character- studies that keep the three one-acters briskly-paced and gently amusing. I didn‘t see the recent production of the same three shorts by the O‘Casey Company, but the critical slating they received would suggest that Winged Horse has
found a tone and comic rhythm more appropriate to this slight but far from
worthless trio. A promising start for the new-look Winged Horse.
Richard's Cork Leg, Arches Theatre, 2
Glasgow, until Sat 7Nov. The End ofthe Beginning, Seen at Paisley Arts Centre. on tour.
THE TAMING OF THE l SHREW
Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh. Until Sat 14 Nov. Despite the eclectic costume design (which suggests that the Chaos Theory has iound eager converts within the wardrobe department) and the distractineg enigmatic choice oi 60s music, this invigoratineg dynamic production oi the Bard’s misogynist classic survives without a dent. The periormance might not redeem the play's basic message —that there’s nothing like a bit oi sustained psychological and physical torture to make a ireethinklng babe shut up and do the washing up - but it is ultimately as slick, last, iunny and entertaining a piece oi Shakespearian theatre as you’re likely to get.
The production does, unlortunately,
5’59MAfv/J'J 51'2"? .. ”' "~~" Kenneth Bryan: and Kathryn Howden: slick, last and tunny
suiier irom a drop oi pace in the second
hali, as the brain-dead Kate mumbles her subservient stuii and the lads ieel, like the audience, a little uncomiortable in the subsequent pauses. The interpretation oi the starved, brutalised but ultimately aquiescent Shrew as a human devastated by Post-Traumatic Shock
Syndrome rather than as a woman who
has lound her place in the natural order at things has become almost obligatory in modern productions, but the textual diiiiculties inherent in such a reading must be balanced against the changes in the audience's sexual politics since the late 16th century.
By opting tor a basic, bare set the production returns to the original performance context oi the play, putting its iaith in the abilities oi a talented cast which successiully meets the challenge at carrying the play without the assistance oi design pyrotechnics. (Stephen Chester)
48 The List 6— 19 November 1992