Mark Fisher checks out the current productions by and the NEW Stage Theatre Company.
Sophocles was not known for his wisecracks. ln 4008C a tragedy was a tragedy and none of your Shakespearian mode-mixing. His Antigone is a catalogue of disasters triggered by a king‘s refusal to bury a traitorous nephew. ignited by his niece's outrage at seeing her brother so dishonoured. and rounded off in an off- stage blood-bath. Unsurprisingly. there is little scope for levity.
These are grand themes which need to be tackled in a grand way. The poetry is the stuff of extremes. the characters propelled by the unﬂinching belief that they have moral right on their side and the drama created when these characters clash. The looming danger in lain Reekie's production for 7:84 is that the whole thing will collapse into a small-scale domestic melodrama for want of tackling this grandness head on. For all the bare simplicity of the set and the stark industrial rumblings of the soundtrack. much of the play‘s delivery falls back on an everyday naturalism that belies the great stylised sweep of the language. And even when the cast tries to give it due weight. the performers~ earnestness — all slicked- back hair. deep breaths and constipated gazes of frenzied horror — end up looking rather comical.
That said, it‘s far from a bad production. Sandy West as Creon. the
intransigent King. brings finely-judged fluidin to the role. appearing as neither monster nor saint. thus keeping the moral debate taut. And once Pauline Knowles. in the title role. is set on a crusading collision course. the performances get into gear. powered by the play‘s uncompromising emotion. in an attempt to prove the play's ‘relcvance‘. especially when performed . by a company called 7:84. lain Reekie sees fit to project images of war onto the back of the set at the climax; fortunately. by that stage in the performance. the company has done enough justice to Antigone to make such underlining superfluous. lion Juan Comes Back From the War
is the kind of play that turns up from time to time at the Citizens'— intriguing, theatrically mannered and giving the impression that it has some profound point to make, despite amounting to very little in the end. I'm open to suggestions. but as far as I can make out. the moral of Odon von Horvath‘s play, performed here by New Stage Theatre Company. is that Don Juan-style philandering will do no good for either the lusty man or the love- struck women involved. The strength of Leslie Finlay's production is that it suggests the play is at any moment about to say something rather less glib than this, and that when it doesn’t we don‘t feel too let down.
Performed in an arch. declamatory style. the play runs through two dozen snappy scenes telling the story of a Don Juan whose experience of war has persuaded him that he should be faithful to one woman. He then goes on a fruitless joumey in search of that woman only to discover that his powers of heart-breaking attraction are undiminished. In a curiously and deliberately unsexy production. Mark Coleman‘s Juan gives few hints about the nature of his charm and charismatic appeal. indeed the symbolist stylisation of the piece makes everyone‘s motives and relationships somewhat enigmatic. but the brisk pace and pared-down theatricality of the show draws our attention away from character and towards the episodic development of the plot. The only thing we're left to ponder is what the plot was trying to prove.
Antigone, 7:84. and Don Juan Comes Back from the War. New Stage Theatre Coma/my, both seen at the Tron Theatre. and both on tour.
um- 84 continue cnoss ROAD
Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh, until Sat 20 Mar. In bringing an adaptation oi Helene ilanii’s epistolary tale to the Brunton stage, director Robin Peoples has managed to create a piece oi theatre capable oi satisfying Musselburgh’s blue rinse brigade while remaining entertaining enough ior everyone else. The play itseli is a charming ii slight tale oi the correspondence between a Jewish law Yorker and the chiei buyer oi an antiquarian bookshop in London, and one oi the major strengths oi the piece is in the precision oi its resonant, unguarded language.
The clash between ilanii’s wit - she was the Yankee bibliophlie - and the
bourgeois reserve oi her book dealer I is dramatically supported by the
I narrative oi their developing
5 relationship. Since the story takes
: place over twenty years and is
i separated ior the most part by the
1 Atlantic the suspense is not exactly
I llitchcockian, but the ‘what happens next’ iactor establishes the play as
something more than a series oi
v interlinking monologues. The staging
. could be more imaginative and the
; emotion less over-stated, but
generally it’s a production oi some
? calibre. (Stephen Chester)
1 FALLING IN LOVE WITH
i Seen at The Arches, Glasgow. (in Tour
j Aiter the success oi I Cover the
3 Wateriront, which looked at the Iiie oi
Billie Iiolliday, and Fiat, about Edith, the musical play based on a popular
: icon oi the past has established a
! keen iollowlng ior ltseli in Scotland.
The songs, the image, liberal lashing
oi nostalgia and a tragic ending keeps
a hungry public rolling in.
Take No’s production poster ieatures the hali-closed eyes and sticky lips oi Marlene Dietrich at the height oi her iame. This production, however, is a drama about a mother and daughter living in Partick during the Second World War. Exactly why writer/director Stuart Thomas chose to
market his show on the peg oi a movie star’s lace and repertoire oi songs is questionable.
Alison Orr plays May, a 33-year-old unmarried seamstress. llaive, hopelessly romantic and obsessed with going to the pictures and the glamour oi Hollywood, her tile is stunted by poverty and loneliness. Acting as an emotional punch-bag to her moods is her long-suiiering mother (‘llon’t call me that, call me Maw’). Portrayed with the oompi and cackle oi a Stanley Baxter dame, Dawn Boss, is warm, iunny, but restrained by the two-dimensional
nature oi her role.
Set mostly in the kitchen, the show is ! broken up with songs made iamous by i Dietrich and sung in Streisand-style
' and a German accent by Orr. The
narrative, which is liberally sprinkled with Glasgow patter and historical iact about the period, is uniortunately weak. The action is all told in hearsay and relies too heavily on the sentimentality oi the turbulent and unconvincing relationship between mother and daughter.
Although oiten appealing, the production marries a cabaret-style approach with the nostalgia oi the The Steamie, to concoct a show with the predictability at a soap but without the pace. llotes on the back oi the programme documenting Bletrich’s liie only highlight how much more interesting a show about her would have been. (Beatrice Colin)
. for that. The only criticism is that.
the gags with right-on politics. at least
mam- At Her Maiesty’s Pleasure
Rab C. llesbitt
It’s two for the price of one at a Rab C. Nesbitt one-man show. Not only do you get Ian l’attison‘s script. hard-edged. politically astute. free-flowing and unsell‘corisious (and yes. yes. very. very funny). but also you get Gregor Fisher. a clown of the highest order who knows he has the audience eating out of his hand. yet still gives 'em more. Indeed. marvellous as the Pattison patter is — whole paragraphs rasped out from the grinning corners of Nesbitt‘s how- could-you-hale»me mouth as if they were a single sprawling word ~ the most sublime moments in the show are actually when l‘isher ditches the script. rocks on his heels. preens himself like a budgie and twitches through a range of facial expressions from little-boy—losi to psychopathic head-banger all the while pleading with us to be loved. And of course. we do love Rab C. Nesbitt. We love him when he sings off pensioners. when he glorifics pubs. when he lampoons middle-class wifics and when he rails against the DSS. There's a measure ofjust how much we’re prepared to love him when he slips into his pensioner routine; there's an initial air of reservation. surely senior citizens are one taboo too far. but Nesbitt pushes his luck. gnaws at his theme and cajoles us into hysterics about post office queues. bowling greens and the finer points of CAP
underwear. And still we love him.
i should mention that At Her
= Majesty's Pleasure pretends to be a
f for our drunken hero. But putting Nesbitt behind bars isjust a handy way
of making sure he doesn't escape from
I two—act play about a night in the clink ’ the audience to wood his incbrtated
‘ way down Sauchiehall Street. The show ~
in nearly every other respect is a stand up comedy routine and none the worse
despite the show‘s ability to spring-load
three of the jokes are dependent on a homophobic fear of gay men. which is
quite out of place. (Mark Fisher)
At Her Majesty 's Pleasure. seen at
Pavilion Theatre. Glasgow. on tour. J
The List 12 —25 March N93 47