llolse And Smoky Breath Show
You’ve taken in all the pantomimes you can cope with and you’re at a loose end. Fear not. There are still theatre companies out there prepared to go easy on the Christmas spirit and spare you the joining-in bits at the end.
The jolliest of these is likely to be the Arches Theatre Company’s Noise and Smoky Breath Show ii, the follow up to its 1990 hit that threw together songs, poems and sketches with a Glasgow leaning. The new show promises to tell the history of the city in an hour and ten minutes which, with the talented team of director Andy Arnold and performers Grant Smeaton, Ross Stenhouse (both stars of TV’s 2000 Not Out), Lezlie Davidson and Raymond Burke, it should do with a good deal of charm, wit and invention.
If Elizabeth Inchbald was ever a household name, she’s couldn’t claim to cut much ice with the theatre-going public these days. Strathclyde Theatre Group is planning to change that with a revival after over 200 years of her social comedy Such Things Are. Beginning her career as an actor, despite a speech impediment, Inchbald became a writer of novels and plays, also turning her hand to translation and editing. Fact fans will note that it is her translation of Kotzebue’s Das Kind der Liebe that is rehearsed in Jane Austen’s Mansﬁeld Park. Director Susan Triesman maintains that it is her gender not her talent that has left her out of the history books. Find out at the Ramshom.
If tragic and gruesome tales of passion and violence are your cup of tea, then you’d do well to catch Bow Down a collaboration between composer Harrison Birtwistle and librettist Tony Harrison. A dramatic and sometimes graphic tale of love, sex and murder, it is a remarkable piece of music theatre based on the ancient folkhallad of The Two Sisters and performed here by Major Road Theatre Company from England. (Mark Fisher)
Noise and Smoky Breath Show, Arches Theatre, Glasgow, Wed 16 Dec-Sun 3 Jan.
Such Things Are, Drama Centre at the Ramshorn, Glasgow, Fri 4—Sat 12 Dec.
Bow Down, St Bride’s Centre, Edinburgh, Mon 7Dec.
mama!- Prairie blues
Edmonton man Carl Honoré sees the murky underside of his home town exposed at the Traverse.
Somewhere near half-time, the main character sits on the edge of the stage and observes that everyone born after 1960 is damaged. He blames microwaves. Once the laughter subsides, a cold truth hangs in the air: that 1960 and microwaves have nothing to do with it. In Brad Fraser’s new play, Unidentifed Human Remains, loneliness does most of the damage.
Fraser is sometimes dubbed the ‘angry young man of Edmonton’. Of
‘ Unldentilled Human lleains
where? Exactly. Adrift in the endless Canadian prairie, Edmonton is a frontier town writ large. Best known for the world’s largest shopping mall, the city is full of young people making plans to leave or cooking up excuses for staying. Sex is an escape, a chance to define the self and to forget the grim high-rises and long winter. Of course, it only sharpens the isolation.
Set in Edmonton, the play is full of misfits. David is an out-of-work actor who waits tables, screws
strangers in a city park and plays on the repressed homosexuality of his fresh-faced sidekick. Add to that a lesbian, a love-starved ﬂatmate, a violent Casanova, a serial killer and you have the makings of an urban love story from hell.
The staging is as unrelenting (and watchable) as a rock video. Players chime in from different corners of the stage, drifting into scenes and then receding into the shadows. Pushing through the bed-hopping bathos, there is a wrenching plea for help. This is what Katherine Mansfield called the profound and terrible desire to make contact.
Propelled by some superb acting, the production is hauntingly close to the bone. With every botched sexual encounter, we slither deeper into the heart of darkness and closer to unmasking the serial killer within. There’s a rueful whiff of redemption in the final line, but the one-night-stand broken-heart see-saw still feels pretty much intact. Unidentified Human Remains and the True Nature of Love, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, until Sun 20
With a perv-iactor ol ten, Aladdin at The King’s Glasgow must surely olier the highest number ol pert buttocks/rippling torsos in any panto this Christmas. You don’t exactly have to be Hoiand Barthes to realise the basic iodder oi pantomime is sex and deviant cross-dressing, but it’s still a surprise to lind the principles oi Body Fascism so lirrniy enshrined within casting departments.
There’s more to Aladdin than an expensive ogle however, as Gerard Kelly’s unmitigated energy and Una McLean’s jolly japlng make tor a generally joshing good time, with enough changes ol style and texture to stave oil the wearylng ellect ol wall-to-wall bonhommie.
The show does sulier irom its ambitions, being too ill designed to succeed as a West End song-and-dance spectacular despite the excellence ol the Busby Berkeley-style choreography. There are a low line songs too, sadly ruined by their appalling amplilication. But all can be iorgiven in panto, where the Laws ol Gratuity allow the inclusion oi an utterly irrelevant scene ol diabolically irritating ‘how do they do that?’ magic tricks hallway through the show. So ultimately, how can you criticise a show In which people stop, laugh and say “You never did that in rehearsal’?
The appeal oi panto must to some extent be in its liberation from theatrical convention; as a lonn it tells somewhere between stand-up comedy and the musical, and combines the best oi both genres. It’s the successlui cultivation ol the audience as participant that creates good panto, and the stars oi Aladdin certainly know how to manipulate their punters.
Moving out ol the Tarbuck/Forsyth plc-and-biog-ln-the-prog league, we ilnd Cumbemauld Theatre’s Hansel and Gretel, orthe Grimm Tales with
: «f Hansel And Gretel at Cumbemauld
Galier Tape. The seats are cheaper, the jokes crapper and the set budget probably a tenner (inclusive ol bus iares), but the show is none the worse lor all that and otters the kind at improvised immediacy slicker productions lack. That’s not to say that the slapstick doesn't tall with a mlsstimed thud or that Woody, the ieotarded Pan iigure, elicits anything but sneers irom primary live, six and seven, but having actors no longer concerned with positing their bodies in various poses oi periection seems somehow liberating.
it’s here that my earlier, glib comments about the Strength Through Joy brigade are given a more sombre hue by the sight oi tier upon tier ol tiny terror tots attempting to extract lethal vengeance upon the actors with the ‘I leel ever so evil' lines. Audience participation is one thing, mass hysteria another, and to sit amid 800 screaming intants is a theatrical experience in itsell, particularly when the chanting begins.
And interestingly enough, despite the \tonnage oi sweets consumed at Cumbemauld, the King’s audience contains the best projectile vomiters. (Stephen Chester)
Aladdin, The King's, Glasgow, until Sat 30Jan.
Hansel and Gretel, Cumbemauld Theatre. until Sat 2 Jan.
mam- LAUREL AND HARDY
Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh. Until Sat 5 Dec. As a die-hard lan oi Stan and Ollie, l
\ approached Tom McGrath's ‘ 20-year-old tribute to the boys with
some trepidation. Would it be, like
. Borderline’s celebration ol Tommy
Cooper earlier this year, an accurate and ailectlonate but soulless re-creation oi something that was ‘ better tell to celluloid? Or could it make the imaginative transition irom biography to art?
Well yes and no. On a purely technical level, Alasdair McCrone and Stuart McOuarrie do a line job oi imitating, respectively, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. A large portion at the script is borrowed directly irom the classic pro-1940 movies, and the two actors do much justice to the rhythm, intonation and style that make that material so special. it would be churllsh to complain that they don't generate the comic magic oi the originals- any play that demands genius is asking too much - but there are moments, notably the closing scenes ol both acts, where they come admirably close.
Perhaps where the play works strongest is in its storytelling. The injustice oi the lunny man living a compromised lite and dying an unhappy death is classic material tor a moving tale and, by the end oi the show, we are touched by the loss oi two oi the lunniest. Likewise Gregory Smith’s set, it rather dwariing, helps to undercut the up-iront jollity with its subdued tones and air oi melancholy.
it could be iunnier, perhaps it could be more moving, but in the taxi on the way home we were reliving those lavourite movie moments with glee. (Mark Fisher)