mam- Sunset Sog
Having enjoyed TAG Theatre Company‘s adaptation of the Lewis Grassic Gibbon novel ofearly-century Aberdeenshire life when it was first staged. I‘m pleased to report that eighteen months on. it has grown into an even richer production. it’s not so much that it has been radically altered. more that it has been reﬁned into an ever more subtle. delicate and unshowy blend of theatrical elements; movement. music. lighting. perfomiance and story-telling heating to the same organic pulse.
The beguiling quality of director Tony Graham‘s production is that none of these component elements calls undue attention to itself. ()ften this style of performance combining a range of artistic disciplines is characterised by flashy coups dc theatre. breathtaking in themselves. but not always in balance with the rest of the show. The charm of Sunset Song by contrast. is in the way it gradually draws us in. not with shock- tactics but with a cool and measured poise as gentle as the undulations of Sally Jacobs' earthy set.
It's no criticism not to highlight Pauline Knowles‘ performance in the ‘lead‘ part of Chris Guthrie. rooted and composed though it is. because the production's great strength is in its capacity to balance and embrace the contributions of the whole team. There‘s a tremendously sophisticated use of stage space that allows the large cast to remain in full view. enriching the sense of an ever—present rural community without distracting from the main flow of the story. in this way. much of the imaginative work is handed over to the audience and by the sad lament of the closing sequence. we have the satisfying sense of having travelled the same emotional journey together. (Mark Fisher)
Sunset Sang. Citizens' Theatre. Glasgow. until 23 May and in Edinburgh Festival.
The List 7—20 May I993
Glen out of ten
Mark Fisher sees two opposite treatments of Shakesperian tragedy at Mayfest.
I guess the similarity ends at the tubs of water that hide beneath the sets of both the Citizens' Marowitz Hamlet and the Tron‘s Macbeth. Otherwise. there’s little to connect the former — an irreverant. disjointed. hour-long. high- tec experiment. performed with hard- edged. standard-issue Citz classicism - with the latter — a straight forward. untricksy tragedy. delivered with mellow warmth by the Scottish A-team. id like to say that Charles Marowitz’s reworking of Hamlet throws up the new ‘nuances and insights‘ he intended when be staged the show himself in 1965. but in truth. it is director Michael Boyd‘s delicious Macbeth that provides the real illumination.
This is not surprising in itself. but director Malcolm Sutherland‘s version of The Mamwitz Hamlet survives primarily because of its brevity. On a technical level. the production approaches Wooster Group standards. audio and video sequences splicing into the action with razor-sharp precision and slowing the pace down not ajot. Kenny Miller‘s costume and set design for the Circle Studio has the grandness and lack of restraint you‘d expect (if this were any other theatre) to see only
:EQ.‘ ii! i ‘ ~" ~ )
lain Glen scores in Macbeth
on the mainstage. The acting too is typically brisk and lofty. But put all together. it still seems like watching a particularly accomplished exercise; there’s little shock or comedy value that comes across and much of what‘s left is plain bafﬂing. What’s missing is not talent. but a sense of purpose. And nearly three decades on. is it not time to be irreverant to Charles Marowitz‘.’ Purpose. or at least understanding. is a quality certainly not lacking in Macbeth. Even competent productions of Shakespeare are often appreciated only in a dry. academic way. but this Tron/Dundee Rep production makes real emotional sense. it's steeped in genuinely chilling moments. most remarkably Alison Peebles‘ psychologically disturbing ’Out damned spot‘ scene — a theatrical highlight in itself— and repeatedly in the parts of the child-witches who skirt through the production like one of those weird Victorian fairy tales that upset the kids on a Sunday afternoon. Craig Armstrong's music. played live
on three cellos, counterpoints the action. one moment seeming like a decorative chamber piece. the next like the ominous rumblings of a tragedy in the making.
The temptation to rave about lain Glen in the lead role has to be measured against the production‘s many riches. This is no imbalanced star vehicle. but an intellectually. physically and emotionally coherent interpretation that makes sense at every turn; Tom Piper‘s set - high panelled walls and wooden ﬂoors. interrupted by the debris of military destruction — gives the impression of real life going on both on and off-stage. yet is abstract enough not to constrain the imagination; Nick McCall's lighting is crisp and atmospheric. throwing mysterious shadows or water ripples onto the back wall without resorting to Gothic cliche; and tnost of all. the show is graced with a clarity of delivery that shuns oratory and grandiloquence in favour of meaning.
Despite his seven-foot entrance leap. Glen plays Macbeth not with bravado. but with a revealing humanity. He may have a tendency to maul the faces of his fellow actors. but his character is no brutish tyrant. just a man overswept with ambition. His speech is soft and light. not exactly naturalistic. but not boorishly versifying either. and as a result he takes us with him every step of the way from first desire to bloody murder and guilt-induced madness.
Michael Boyd has made this 400- year-old tragedy. for all its set-text familiarity. fresh and alive. newly gripping and brimming with ideas. A production worth two or three return visits.
The Marmvt't: Hamlet. Citizens' Theatre. Glasgow. until Stat 23 May. Macbeth. Tran Theatre. (Hagan; until Sun [6 May (then at Dundee Rep).
PLAY STRINDBEBG: THE DANCE OF DEATH
Seen at the Old Athenaeum Theatre, Glasgow. (in tour.
Somewhere between the cynical misogyny of August Strindberg and the everyday surrealism of early Pinter sits Friedrich Durrenmatt’s marital collision-course set, as the programme note has it, ‘in small town Anywhere, anytime’. A married couple celebrate their approaching 25th wedding anniversary by exchanging terse one-liners, forced pleasantries, ugly silences and straight-forward abuse, much as they have done for the previous quarter century. When an old family friend appears it is not so much to polarise as to delineate the couple’s self-defeating dance towards dth.
Gloying despair may be the keynote, but Eve Jamieson directs this Winged Horse production with a keen eye for the comic. Robert Paterson and Estrid Barton, as the married couple, ierk through a procession of mannered gestures, stretching out the moments of tension for maximum discomfort. What with the all-encompassing music soundtrack and a set by Malcolm Murray that at once suggests trench
warfare, 50s futurism and Japanese classicism, the show has the kind of off-beat stylisation normally only attempted by college companies on the Edinburgh Fringe.
That the play makes only a gradual and not at all surprising descent towards its sorry conclusion is a limitation, but it is performed with sufficient spark and sense of the absurd to produce an engaging and healthily curious evening. (Mark Fisher)
marm- OLD nos:
Citizens’ Theatre, Glasgow. Until Sun 23 May.
The first thing you notice when entering the Stalls Theatre is the sickly, sticky shade of dark pink, labelled old rose on the paint pot, which has been used to cover every wall.
Heinrich ilenkel, the author, also makes a living as a house painter and this play is about the relationship between an old woman and the young painter who comes to decorate her living room.
Glaustrophobic and cluttered, the action begins with Margaret slowly shuffling around, clearing her ant- infested room of old books, letters and carpets while muttering vaguely to
herself. The recent death of her mother has prompted her to carry out a complete clear out and freshen up her life.
Then Victor, the painter strides in - one earring, floppy fringe and cockney twang — looking like one of Take That. In fact he doesn’t burst into a croon, but adopts a cool professional attitude and gets down to work. At first both characters talk on different wavelengths and words bounce around uncomprehended. Then Victor’s guard comes down and he is slowly seduced by Margaret’s incessant batty chatter.
Old Rose has been translated and directed by Robert navid MacDonald. As an examination of a relationship spanning an age difference of 50 years, the play is unconvincing. The dialogue is turgid and the characterisation is limp. Victor, played by Ghe Walker is all brawn and no brain, as MacDonald seems to wish to stress with a strip-to-his-underpants scene, and Ellen Sheean struggles with a character who is woolly and humdrtln. llenkel’s script uses marching ants as a metaphor for the grind of daily life. But this idea isn’t handled Interestingly enough to give buoyancy to 90 minutes of drama, and the production never really takes off. (Beatrice Colin)