V NEW PLAY
Andrew Yule is standing among a group of actors bunched around a piano in the Moir Hall all bashing out the words to a song that don‘t quite ﬁt. It’s a new experience for Yule. who has established himself as a successful writer of 20th century biographies, but until he tackled the Chic Murray story. had had no experience of collaboration beyond the odd comment from an editor. The success of his 1989 book. The Best Way to Walk, about Greenock‘s ﬁnest comedy export, led to a commission for him to turn playwright and retell the story for the stage.
‘lt‘s scenes from Chic‘s life, rather than the chronology, that the book follows,‘ says Yule. who has beneﬁted from the support and involvement of Maidie Murray. Chic‘s stage partner. wife from 1945 (until their divorce in 1972) and life-long friend. Placing original songs taken from their original act alongside a couple of new numbers by Lena Martell to push forward the plot, The Chic Murray Story follows Scotland‘s most mimicked comedian from his early struggles up the ladder to top music hall billing, national and international success, the inertia of the 70s and the renaissance of his career in ﬁlms such as Gregory '3 Girl before his all-too-early death in 1985.
‘Obviously people will want to hear Chic Murray‘s material so we don’t want to disappoint them,‘ says Yule, ‘but it is a play about Chic Murray as well, so we have to try and balance the musical content, the love story and the drama with actual extracts from Chic‘s work. Eric Barlow who plays Chic is absolutely wonderful. He‘s doing his own interpretation which to me is absolutely redolent of Chic. He‘s extremely funny. His timing is immaculate.’
The Chic Murray Story. Pavilion Theatre. Glasgow. Tue 25—Sat 29 May.
um- Witch craft
‘The Witch Boy is a dramatic ballet based on the legend oi American 0 Barbara Allen and is set in the Deep South - you know cowboys and gingham irocks,’ explains llarold King, Artistic Director oi london City Ballet (LCD). ‘lt’s a smoky village where there is a witch who gives birth to a son who is very mysterious and tails in love with one oi the village girls. The village is iull oi very nice, deeply religious people. There’s a preacher who gets everybody hysterical about the fact that the young girl is lniatuated with this witch-boy and the whole village turn into very nasty people and hang him - rather a horrendous ending. What’s more,’ . . . and here i begin to wonder how much more is possible in a one-act ballet . . . ‘the girl then gives birth to another witch-boy.’
However improbable the plot, the ballet was nominated, together with Donizettl Variations, ior an Olivier Award in April, and will be lolned ior the Scottish dates by the Romantic ballet les Sylphides. In contrast with The Witch Boy, Les Sylphldes dates irom 1909 and has no plot, but shows a poet dancing with ghostly sylphs against the backdrop at a mined monastery. Donizetti Variations is a lesser-known work by the acclaimed George Balanchine, who is best known
ior his association with llew York City Ballet. His style is coolly classical, elegant and, again, has an emphasis on the aesthetic rather than the narrative.
King’s early dancing career included a tour-year stint with Peter Darrell at Scottish Ballet. In 1977 King initiated london City Ballet with lunch-hour perionnances and in 1978 ‘regional’ (ie out oi london) shows with stars irom The Royal Ballet. ‘llalvely I thought we would attract Arts Council iunding irom the beginning,’ says King, ‘but it is only now, iliteen years later, that we’ve received some touring money.’ (Tamsin Grainger) london City Ballet, King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, Tue 1-Sat 5 Jun; King’s Theatre, Glasgow, Tue B—Sat 12 Jun.
Ireland in the sun
’Tls the season to be lolly. llard to think it with my clothes still damp irom the rain outside, but the summer season is upon us and the Great God at Punter Preierence dictates that that means laughter, laughter, laughter all the way. like the Drama Centre in Glasgow, Edinburgh’s Royal lyceum is spending the next couple oi months doing nothing but comedy, recognising that little else will lure the customers in out oi the rain.
“i wouldn’t have chosen to open with a season oi iarces,’ admits Kenny lreland, aware that his debut as the Royal Lyceum’s Artistic Director represents only one corner at his generally much more ambitious policy. ‘lt was made very clear to me that iinanclally it wasn’t an option to go dark during the summer and iarce was the best option I could come up with because it’s something that l’m interested in. But I’m aware that people are hanging on to see it it’s any good beiore the magic wand oi approval is brought on. I'll breathe easier when they’re all on and everyone says what a wonderiul Idea it was.’
Arguing that the three plays - Georges Feydeau’s A Little Hotel on the Side, Michael Frayn’s llolses Oil and Ben Travers’ Rookery ilook - are supreme examples oi the genre, lreland is rightly dismissive oi the
cynlcs who appear to believe that iarce is beneath them. He’s made the bold move to cast the same ten actors - including Andy Gray and Jan Wilson - in all three plays which are to be played in repertoire throughout the summer. The theory is that the extended run will develop the kind oi tightly-disciplined company spirit that will do justice to the rigours oi iarce. And the practice is proving good already.
’This would normally be the end oi a run,’ says Benjamin Twist, director oi llolses Dii, a week before the ilrst night, ‘but they’ve had lull-time six- days-a-week to get used to each other and learn to trust each other. By the time we open, they’ll have been nearly nine weeks together. I think that has paid oii already.’ (Mark Fisher)
A little llotel on the Side, Royal lyceum, Fri 21 May-7 Aug; llolses Dii irom Fri 4 Jun; Rookery ilook irom Fri 18 Jun.
Having successfully pulled back the shutters on Canada. Germany. Spain and Austria. the Traverse‘s next ‘Window on the World‘ will be opened on France and Algeria. two countries joined by the memories of a bloody civil war.
For the French the struggle for Algerian independence has remained, in the words of Bertrand Travernier’s powerful ﬁlm documentary ‘La Guerre sans nom‘. Those who fought in the war — and due to the comprehensive conscription of the time. most males did — have become known as ‘The Silent Generation‘ due to their collective reticence. it is to these people that French playwrights are beginning to give voice. and the weekend of events will begin with a theatre essay by David Bradby which considers contemporary French theatre responses to Algeria. One such play. Return to the Desert by Bemard-Man'e Koltes. will be given a rehearsed reading by Sian Phillips and the Midnight Theatre Company.
The ﬁnal event of the weekend is a workshop led by the Algerian-bom intellectual heavyweight (which translated into French usually means witty. attractive and interesting) Héléne Cixous. who'll be discussing her play Portrait of Dora. Traverse Dramaturg Ella Wildridge describes the aim of the event as a cross-fertilisation of ideas. ‘The Traverse has Scottish work as its priority.‘ she says, ‘but on the other hand Scotland needs to be aware of contemporary playwriting throughout the world. We want things that make us look at things with new eyes. Not necessarily deliberately shocking. but eye opening.‘ (Stephen Chester)
Windows On The World, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Sat 29 May—Sun 30 May.
45 The List 21 May—3 June 1993