DEE!- Eat, drink and be sorry
Excessive one-man consumption is the order
, of the day top theatres.
Mark Fisher pigs out.
Crafty managements may use them as a recession-beating ruse. but one-man shows need not equate with impoverished theatre. At its best. the
' form can build the kind of imaginative
relationship with an audience that is only matched on radio. i remember being half-surprised. for example. the first time l saw Willy Russell’s Shirley Valentine and only one actor took her bow at the end of the show; every other character. fleshed out and seemingly
better for being so as the full-cast
movie version proved. Neither Venedikt Yerofeev‘s MOSCOW
Stations nor Barry Collins‘s
Judgement share Russell’s concern for
1 character. but both create vivid worlds
through the power of words and a lone actor. Where Tom Courtenay staggers through an alcoholic mist of Russian tube trains in Moscow Stations at Edinburgh‘s Traverse. Giles Havergal
picks his way through a rotting pile of
cannibalised corpses in a Second World
War prison cell in Judgement at
; Glasgow's Citizens'. Both performances rely on the ability of
actor and author to draw us near. wrap us in their stories and. perhaps most of all. engage us in their moral dilemmas.
Judgement. in particular. presents an
, edgy ethical debate in which the
audience is cast in the role of accuser
i and Havergal. playing sole sane
E survivor Captain Andrei Vukhov. the
; honest. factual. unemotive accused.
technically guilty of abhorent crimes
i against his fellow man. yet morally
innocent because of his barbarous
l circumstances. Moseow Stations is
l more ambiguous a piece. casting
Courtenay as Venichka the intellectual
i drunk. neither guilty nor innocent.
‘ complete. was in my head and the l
Judgement likeable nor detestable. but nonetheless sunk virtually helpless in a despairing society that tolerates alcoholism as a justifiable form of descent and escape. One to one with these characters. we are forced to identify and empathise
with them in their unsavoury situations.
And inevitably. what we focus on is the art of the performer. To hold an audience for stretches of upwards of an hour requires tremendous presence. poise and precision. Unsurprisingly. Tom Courtenay pulls this feat off with most accomplishment. living his lines with freshness and spontaneity. tweeking out rhythmical patterns with
the assuredness of someone who has been working on them for the best part of a year. But Havergal is no less persuasive. playing down the actorly aspect of the performance. even keeping his script with him on stage. and instead delivering his lines with a sonorous. moderated. detached tone that pushes the horror of Collins’s grim story to the fore. We praise Courtenay's mesmeric sweep. his rooted control. his deft handling of an audience‘s responses. but Havergal is sharp enough to play to his own strengths. an unshowy vehicle for Collins's debate. Neither play makes for easy viewing; something about the intensity of a one- man performance means that even after the many comic twists of Most'mr' Stations. we must confront the character with the same relentless scrutiny as we do the bleak and serious star of Judgement. Where the script of Moscow Stations skirts and blurs along its drunkenly meandering route. the text of Judgement treads a clear. methodical path. but in both cases we are drawn into their imaginative worlds to be left a little more sober at the end. Judgement. Citizens" Theatre. Glasgow, until Sun [4 Mai: Moscow Stations. Traverse Theatre. Edinburgh. The 2—Star [4 Mar.
WHEE- MY BROTHERS KEEPER
.4" ‘~ I
Seen at Cumbernauld Theatre. On tour. One of the several good reasons for going to see a John McKay play is that as a rule he uses the opportunity to broadcast his favourite records in between scenes. It’s not )ust that he has good taste in music, it’s also that his choice of songs invariably lends a punchy, popular rhythm to his pacy urban comedies.
That no such soundtrack exists in Cumbernauld Theatre’s premiere of My Brother’s Keeper is hardly cause for malor complaint, but It does seem to typify a production that, on the strength of the first night, is still working towards its full comic momentum. Other mitigating circumstances were the howling wind rattling the ceiling panels, giving rather too much atmosphere to the play’s lighthouse setting, and also the feeling of distance that anything other than a full house creates at the theatre. But despite the odds, the play does come across as a tightly-crafted, witty thriller that, given some running and a sympathetic space - the Tron should work a treat — might well develop into a cult hit.
Cornering his characters into the confined space of a deserted lighthouse (splendidly realised in Carolina Scott’s spiralling circular sot), McKay sets the scene for a tense
comedy of manners in which a hardened criminal on the run, a retired barber, a small-time crook and his upwardly-mobile brother play a delicate status game. Reaching its comic apotheosis in a mimed game oi poker in which the best player doesn’t want to win, Liz Carruthers’ production picks up on the awkward silences just as much as the racey badinage of McKay’s script, and if the reliance on mime, only averager executed, can seem pedantic, it does ensure that the pace remains brisk.
It’s not profound, it’s not radical, but it is sprightly and good natured, and if you turn up expecting to be entertained, you won’t be disappointed. (Mark Fisher)
The last production of Marlowe’s classic fable of diabolism and damnation that i witnessed — performed in the round and with spirits and apparitions popping through trapdoors like gophers on a golf course - was staged five years ago at the Tron. And here we are again - in the Tron - attending to Pen Name Theatre’s admonishing apologia. In a previous life, the Tron was a church, seat of divine righteousness, spiritual ‘ bastion from which Satan’s legions . flee. Is this significant? Was that a draught or did someone walk over my grave?
Actually, Pen Name plays down the spook element of Faustus, hingeing its production instead on the play’s original purpose as a Renaissance cautionary parable. Despite the 20th century costume, the broad 16th century precepts are adhered to: the comic interludes are as knockabout as the limited performance space allows, and Faustus is very much cast as the renegade in conflict with the world he feels stifled by. Seeking his kicks in knowledge, be summarily dismisses the accepted realms of learned
achievement to arrive at the ultimate scholarly taboo — the occult.
John Kazek’s Mephistopheles, as Faustus’ guide to the black arts, effects the right balance of oily, conditional camaraderie and Satanic sinistemess, but Tom McGovern steals most of his swaggering thunder and that of the adept ancillary players as the ever-curious but ultimately helpless Man Who Knew Too Much, a solitary, (sym)pathetic milksop who wants to know the denouement before the curtain rises. His performance, all boyish inquisitiveness, and later plaintive anguish, deservedly stands at the apex of this estimable production. (Fiona Shepherd)
Or Faustus, Pen Name, seen at the Tron Theatre, Glasgow. On tour.
THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY
The Citizens’ Theatre, Clasagow. Oscar Wilde was the Woody Allen of the late 19th century. His sharp, witty one-liners on the nature of relationships, marriage and culture reverberate like an antiquated version of ‘Husbands and Wives.’
In Philip Prouse’s adaptation of the novel, the Wildeisms come thick and fast as they punctuate this tale of the slow corruption of the soul.
Rupert Everett as Lord Henry Wotton spouts his lines with wonderful disdain as he corrupts the mind of the impressionable Dorian Gray. Henry lan Cuslck infuses Oorian with a brittle energy but not much personality.
Prouse’s set is crammed full of symbolism; a huge Oali-esque clock face slants over the set and is reflected on the floor markings, pastel-coloured leaves rustle underfoot and two skeletons sit clutching scythes on chariots of, presumably, death. Just in case you didn’t catch it, Wilde’s themes of the
. passing of time and the glory of youth
are pounded home with the loud ticking of a clock and the arc of a huge semi-circular sofa which acts as the waiting room of Oorian’s conscience.
While the adaptation and direction are cleverly woven into a colourful whole, the trappings of the set are way too deliberate. fiice pie, too much custard. (Beatrice Colin)
THE BIG PICTURE
Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh. Until Sat 27 Feb.
The maior problem with this production of Liz lochhead’s nostalgic drama is the way it leaves you scrabbllng for terms of reserved praise: it isn’t disagreeable or unentertaining, but for all that, neither is it an important piece of theatre. The blame for this must lie to some extent in its predictability. Once the plot, in which two West Coast girls grow up, grow apart, then meet 30 years later
with different accents, has been
established, the themes of sex, art and Catholicism are hardly surprising. You see the set laid out in its symbolic geometry and think ‘ah, memory play - which one’s the surrogate author?’ Nor do the )okes, while remaining funny, stun you with their originality.
Out the references to the influence of American cinema and to the lack of adequate contraceptive guidance during a 503 childhood may strike a chord, particularly with an older audience which certainly appreciates the play’s whimsical view of provincial pubescence. And the production goes some way to saving itself through a moment of devilish theatrical cunning; by acting hideously. badly in the first ill-directed ten minutes, the actors gain the instant good will of the audience as soon as they abandon their appalling attempts to drink out of empty coffee cups. (Stephen Chester)
45 The List 26 February—l 1 March 1993