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Playwright Liz Lochhead could be said to be having a good recession: her play Mary Queen of Scots Got Her Head Chopped Off has just played at Perth. The Magic Island — her adaptation of The Tempest — is on at the Unicorn Theatre in London and The Big Picture is being reincarnated at the Brunton Theatre in Musselburgh. ‘Reincarnated‘ because much of the script and the whole timbre of the play has changed since it was first produced in Dundee in 1988.
The Big Picture reunites erstwhile best friends Dorothy Brown and Deanna Durkin at the funeral of Dorothy’s mother. years after their childhood friendship has dissolved (we won't spoil a good story by telling you why). As young girls their lives revolved around the popular culture offered by life in a small town — somewhere between Glasgow and Edinburgh — in the l950s: American movies, the Staneybum Amateur Dramatic and the Light Operetta Society. Their real lives have offered comparatively little in the way of romance, although Deanna has emigrated to America. ‘It‘s about the way lives are intertwined and about how people are driven apan,’ says Lochhead. ‘and about which of the women got their dream, if any. It‘s light and funny and celebrates life in a small town. I hope it’s not sentimental.’
For her, the Brunton production represents the finished version of the play; she has always felt that the relationship between the women had still to be explored ‘all the way‘. In the revamped version the script has been pared down and the vaudeville singing and dancing routines of the original production are gone. The result is a humorous, but more poignant investigation into friendship, middle age and the bitter-sweet business of memory. There is an extent to which remembering things the way they really were, without the haze of nostalgia, can set us free, says Lochhead.
The two meanings of the phrase ‘the big picture’ explain the play’s twin themes. On one level this is a celebration of small-town life in which movies and romance are the main diversion for two young girls with stars in their eyes. On the other hand it discovers them at that point when they are waiting for the main attraction of real life to begin in earnest and catches up with them at a mid-life interval. ‘When I married my husband,‘ says Lochhead. ‘I remember saying “Well this is it, The Big Picture", and I thought that's a nice wee phrase. Very romantic.’ (Miranda France)
The Big Picture, Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh, Fri .1 2—Sat 27 Feb.
Wing and a prayer
flew Moves is off to a flying start after the superb Maria Voortman company performed disturbing, toe-curling, contemporary dance with the aid of five pairs of red pointe shoes. liopes are high that the next fortnight will bring equal amounts of excitement.
Mehmet Memo Sander is a choreographer from Turkey who now lives In Los Angeles. ‘My work is geared towards finding new movements and getting the audience to experience a sense of geometry, of bodies and an unhabltual use oi space,’ Sander explains. lie also aims for a klnaesthetlc and physical response from his audience. ‘I use risk-taking to defeat the audience’s constant analysing process. line of the problems In dance is the audience’s story-making habit, and I think moving at high velocity solves that.
‘The only thing that doesn’t change when we wake up in the morning is gravity. It’s been said that my work is horrifying, but It is because I use gravity as a movement Initiator. I use a lot of falling techniques without any recovery -l don’t camouflage the real situation, we fall from 5 to 6 feet onto our backs.’
like so many other choreographers these days, Sander admits he likes pushing his dancers to the limits and testing the survivallst element of human beings. Ills dancers are cross- tralned in boxing, weight training and ballot to enable them to accomplish
ti Turkey’s Mehntet Memo Sander, one of the many new faces In the liew Moves season the feats he sets them. ‘My dancers are asked to go through walls or to run as fast as they can and slam into each other,’ he says proudly.
Women are treated equally, they lift and fall and are in as much potential danger as the men. ‘Becoming strong is not a gender issue, but is to do with wanting to. If human beings wanted to fly and had practised every day since cave times, we probably wouldn’t be able to fly, but maybe we would have wings by now. it’s all about mind power.’ (Tamsin Gralnger)
Solos, 06A, Glasgow, Thurs fB—Sat 20 Feb.
V NEW PLAY
John McKay ‘A plumber came round to do my heating the other day,’ says playwright John McKay, ‘and he asked me where I got my Ideas from. I hadn’t thought about that for a while and I said, from thinking about my bank balance.’
it’s not that the ex-Merry Mac is the
theatre world’s first soldier of fortune, more that he’s a pragmatic playwright who responds well to changing circumstances. Ills new play, My Brother’s Keeper, had to be written in six months after another project fell through at Cumbernauld Theatre. Typically, McKay has risen to the challenge, producing what the theatre describes as ‘an offbeat comedy thriller’, which has surprised even himself. ‘l’m not saying It's great or deep or brilliant or anything,’ says
Strike a lighthouse,
McKay, who recently took only three weeks to come up with a sitcom idea (and have it accepted) when the
. second series of My Dead Dad was
unexpectedly cut, ‘but the practicality of having to write a play by mid- llecember for a maximum of four actors for a tour allowed me to be a little more serious — or to remix the combination of serious bits and funny bits that I normally have in a play.’ My Brother’s Keeper involves shoot- outs, car chases and romps round a lighthouse, any of which would normally require a major Hollywood budget, but McKay makes the most of the actor’s art. ‘80 many times I go to the theatre and its not exciting or Involving,’ he says. ’l’ve noticed in a couple of plays recently - Six Degrees of Separation and Giles liavergal’s Travels With My Aunt — that you can be very involving if you accept that the theatre is more like sitting around the fire telling a story than It Is like a movie. if you allow the actors to do something that the audience can easily admire, it’s like putting the family silver on the table. if the actors are doing surprising, exciting things, then the audience can get a bump every few minutes.’ (Mark Fisher)
, My Brother’s Keeper, Cumbernauld : Theatre, 18—20 Feb and on tour. The
script ls published in the new edition of Theatre Scotland.
the sneak preview we gave you in our preview of the year two issues ago. the Edinburgh lntemational Festival has given a further taster of this year's event. Of particular interest to theatre fans is the plan to stage work by four of the world‘s most innovative directors. namely Peter Stein, Robert chage. Klaus Michael Gruber and Robert Wilson. TAG will stage its Lewis Grassic Gibbon trilogy A Scots Quair and dance fans will enjoy the return of the Mark Mon‘is Dance Group and the Bill T. Jones/Amie Zane Dance Company.
I Open Day Edinburgh‘s Royal Lyceum and Traverse theatres are holding another of their popular Open Days on Sat 27 Feb from
I lam—5pm. Una Mclean and Russell Hunter will be on hand to kick the proceedings off and then there will be free admission to a programme of guided tours, technical demonstrations and live music including a perfonnance by the Edinburgh Quartet. The cafes and bars will be open and. as a special treat, there's a Dr Who display featuring a genuine Dalek. I Performers wanted Tm Edinburgh Players are looking for performers for their forthcoming production of The Miser. Any interested amateur actors should call 03] 337 2521 for further details.
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.4 1' I Plays and Players 1993 Year Book Ed. Gwyn Morgan (Multimedia Publishing £14.99) An ambitious first volume from the makers of theatre monthly Plays and Players. providing an exhaustive. if not quite comprehensive, 6(X)-page summary of the British stage in 1992. The substantial Scottish section provided by your very own Theatre Editor is of course impeccable, though necessarily weighted towards the beginning of the year. and the fully- illustrated volume is a must for anyone with a love of . reference b(X)kS. Complete with a package of additional articles. from the introduction by Prunella Scales to the one—page round-up of Hairdressing and Wigs. (MFF)
M The List 12—25 February 1993