The Street of Crocodiles
One day. in a Wim Wenders' Until The End Of The World sorta scenario, who‘s to say we won‘t be able to video our dreams. and play them back continuously till the already fragile thread partitioning the conscious and the subconscious snaps completely? On that day Theatre de Complicité might make sense; but equally it will cease to be curious, intriguing, stimulating.
Not that I'm saying The Street ()f Crocodiles is tricky to follow or anything, but an imagination that runs perpendicular to reality helps. especially if you neglect the comprehensive programme notes. The production is based on the writings of Bruno Schulz, a Polish Jew shot by Nazis. but not before channelling the fruits of his fertile imagination ‘in a state of perpetual fermentation' into a variety of novels and stories. Theatre de Complicité strains his work through its freaky perspective and the result is a physical theatre. wonderfully fluid in movement. yet capricious in conception.
The dank, sombre environs of a Nazi book depository are well evoked with gloomy lighting and a persistent drip in the opening scene. sending the Bruno character. Joseph, on a flight back to his childhood. adolescence and days as a high school teacher. What follows is a series of exquisitely choreographed set pieces, extemalising Schulz’s sepia- tinted recollections, cleverly exploiting the distorting nature of memory to produce surreal and witty tableaux — the playful anarchy of the woodwork class. the belligerent birds Schulz Sr roosted in the attic, the local community on promenade.
in a universally fine cast. Lilo Baur stands out as Joseph‘s Nemesis and surrogate matriarch, the dominatrix housemaid Adela. and Cesar Sarachu.
with his sunken features and glaikit expression. convinces as the perplexed and rudderless Joseph. Plus points also for the music. a haunting atmospheric anchor in a production which leads you by the hand through half-understood landscapes. (Fiona Shepherd)
Seen at Tramway. Glasgow. Playing at
Traverse. Edinburgh. Tue I 3-Sat I7 Apr.
THE BANYAN TREE
Seen at the Tron ‘l’heatre, Glasgow. (in tour.
Eastern mysticism attempts to meet western pragmatism but linds the cultural ravine a mite treacherous. TAB’s latest production addresses the perennial dichotomy ol Zen and the Art oi Motorcycle Maintenance, made pithy and personal tor a predominantly secondary school audience, and all the more ettectlve in that the antagonists come irom the same iamily.
Alter years apart, Beetha, a young Asian girl, decides to contact her brother Bopal, who’s been resident in Britain long enough to have adapted (or compromised, as Seetha would put it) to our social ladder cum three minute culture. Arriving in this country with only a couple oi saris and her tenacious religious convictions, Beetha seeks out her sibling and is disquieted by his total assimilation into western culture and its salt-
Shecarrleswithhertheseedoithe Banyan tree, a sprawling arboreal symbol oi her eastern ethics. it she can ilnd a suitable location in ‘the Far Vlest’ in which to plant it, then she can ilnd a degree oi integration. Subtle as a maraudlng mannnoth on the symbolism, but when the preiatory Bharata liatyam dance is greeted with bewildered reticence, it’s time to start looking to our liberal laurels and ask how iar we can truly claim to be cosmopolitan.
The play’s two native Scots exhibit an understanding that goes beyond mere tolerance. Mandy Matthews may take the portrayal oi a street-wise urchin to new pantomimlc extremes as Maggie, the wee lassie iae doon the street, but at least In narrative terms she surmounts her pugnaclty to oiier Beetha unconditional irlendshlp. Most exemplary oi all, however, is her grandiather, an omniscient old sage ready to dig the hole and plant the Banyan seed in his own backyard it necessary. (Fiona Shepherd)
lloyal Lyceum, Edinburgh. llntll Sat 27 Mar. From the real goat that graces the stage as the curtain rises, to the running pattern oi lewd visual gags - the phallic pepper mill, the lusty bowl oi lruit, the mistaken masturbation - llugh llodgart’s production at this Goldoni iarce is blessed with the kind oi attention to detail that turns an average comedy into a boisterous romp. it’d be ioollsh to make too many claims tor erandollna - in essence it’s not much more than a simple battle oi the sexes - but the lloyal Lyceum turns in such a good-natured, sprightly show that it’d be impossible to dislike it.
in the title role is Fiona Bell, all grins, pirouettes and cutting asides, whose aim in lite is to enslave every leerlng male with the charming power oi love. Pathetically pursued by liobert Barr’s obsequlous and ostentatious Count and Michael Mackenzle’s mean-
Fiona Bell as erandollna minded Marquess, erandollna sets her sights on the mysogynlst liipairatta (a slickly-timed Paul Spence) and effortlesst casts her spell over him.
Apart from the ilercely iemlnlst lambast against slimy men, there’s nothing out oi the ordinary about this 18th-century play, but by recognising as much, the actors take neither it nor themselves at all seriously and proceed to have a damn good time. Staged with pace and a lightness oi touch, the play produces plenty oi laughs and scores high in the tool- good stakes. (Mark Fisher)
Seen at Paisley Arts Centre. (in Tour. The initial thing that hits you about PABE’s production oi the first oi John Byme’s classic trilogy, is that down to their shoelaces, the actors look as it they have walked straight oil a page oi .lohn Byrne’s sketchbook. To the sold-out audience, they are a iamiilar bunch; the Slab Boys are to Paisley what Tintin is to Belgium.
Set in the 503 In a carpet tactory, Byme’s tale oi disenchanted youth is a tragedy made tiny with one-liners. Spanky and Phil are two angry young men, primed tor a good time but hindered by their dead-end lob mixing paint. their days are spent tonnentlng iellow slab boy and social inadequate, llector, and summoning up the courage to ask Lucille, the iactory’s blonde bimbo, to the works dance. When Alan Bownle, a university student taken on
to learn the ropes, strides into the slab room, the lnlustlce oi their situation is thrust into sharp reilei.
David Wallace’s direction brings out the larclcal element in the script and the production is quick-paced and well choreographed. Louise Piacentlnl as long-suitedng Sadie, the tea lady and ltevln Mackenzie, the boss with the suspect past in the army, supply the most poignant moments. But the production never really exposes the darker side oi the play. The rest oi the characterisation is cartoonlsh, with the actors playing ior laughs rather than tor any real resonance.
in an audience warm to the plight oi Palsley’s tavourlte rebels, it doesn’t matter. This is a coiourlul and iunny production relying heavily on nostalgia and well trodden themes. Yet any relevance to present-day Scotland, with its mass unemployment, is hard to tind. (Beatrice Colin)
Bent, Martin Sherman’s indictment of Nazi persecution of the gay community. is a play of two halves, Wolfgang. The first a mélange of different locations, bit(ty) players. camp frippery, petulant hysterics. tactile but tokenistic
‘ homoeroticism. and
largely paper-thin acting
; abilities; the second a
chance, at last, to
. penetrate beyond a ﬂesh
wound. to pick at the
festering scab of
fascism, to poke around the psyche of the physically and socially confined. as the action focuses on one location - the yard in a Nazi-run penitentiary — and two
. characters - the ; protagonist Max, whose
portrayal by co-director
: David De Croy gains in
' stature and credibility
throughout. and his
. fellow intemec Kapo. a l man possessed of such
insight and sensitivity he must surely major in martrydom in the college campus we call life.
Here in a barren. static environment, the play becomes fruitful and dynamic. Criss-crossing the yard, increasingly dead to their fruitless task (moving a pile of boulders from one end of the compound to the other, then back). incieasingly alive to each other, the two men’s dialogue is by turns, witty, touching, challenging and captivating, lending the broad political statement about the mistreatment and marginalisation of homosexuals in Western society the requisite personal resonance to ensure that the audience leaves with its laurels disturbed. (Fiona Shepherd)
Bent. The Drama Centre at the Ramshom. Glasgow. until Sat .7 7 Mar:
‘5 The List 26 March—8 April 1993