W‘ nerunu TO I THE FORBIDDEN PLANET
l'mjust a miserable old sod. i made my brisk exit from the King‘s to the i sound ofenthusiastic cries g of ‘encore'. the mid-week audience giving a uninhibited standing ovation. it could have
been a standing ovulation for all i could see what the fuss was about. With such 1 a response. it would be wrong of me to warn you off Bob Carlton‘s rock 'n‘ roll. space-age
Shakespeare pastiche. Go and see it. you‘ll probably love it. but i have to say it does little for me.
For a post-London. eight-times-a-week. touring show. it is undoubtedly performed with tremendous verve and energy by a twelve- strong company which doesn‘t let up from the time it greets the arriving audience with handy intergalactic travel tips to its raucous all-hands-on- deck ﬁnale. The score of 50s and 60s standards is slick and accomplished. (though i could have done without the indulgent five-minute Hendrix- inspired guitar solo). and the actors double as musicians with professional ease.
But where the script's bastardisation of The Tempest (with liberal borrowings from the Shakespeare canon) could have been camply surreal. adding to the deliberate tackiness of the hair-drier guns and the roller- skating robot. it seems instead to be clumsy and impenetrable. neither elitist nor downmarket. just awkward. And by the : time they‘ve made space for the two drumkits and a ‘ keyboard bank on the Star E Trekky set. they‘re left i with an unusably small ; pocket of a stage on which to perform what A pathetic crumb of a plot has been retained. This wouldn’t matter if the show was more trashy. more larger-than-life. but from a theatrical point of view. Return to the 1 Forbidden Planet. for all its conviviality. is but a watered down version of the cult comedy it could have been. (Mark Fisher) Return to the Forbidden Planet, seen at the King '3 Theatre, Edinburgh; ' showing at the K ing ’s Theatre. Glasgow. 2 [—26 L Jun.
:— Oxygen tense
Mark Fisher enjoys two low-budget productions by enterprising Edinburgh companies.
Once again Scottish theatre professionals are doing it for themselves. Unfunded and under- resourced. Fifth Estate and Oxygen House are back on stage for the love of it. proving that the talent doesn’t run out just because the public subsidy doesn‘t stretch. It's not a sensible way to run things — would you be happy eating in a restaurant if you knew the chef was only on expenses? — but it is to the benefit of audiences that these companies are prepared to stage amusing. engaging and unnerving theatre regardless.
Fifth Estate is an old hand in the bargain-basement drama business and has repeatedly proved itself capable of creating the sheen of professionalism from the most limited ofbudgets. The last of the Lairds is no exception. displaying Paul Ambrose Wright's uncanny ability to create enormous- looking sets on the tiny Netherbow stage and presenting a seven-strong cast. elaborately dressed. elegantly lit and pacin directed. as if it was playing a house several times the size. Fortunately. after the unevenness of recent productions. the company is back on form and the raucousness of this adaptation ofJohn Galt's comic novel ensures that the audience’s appreciation makes it sound like a house several times the size as well.
i don‘t quite see the particular ‘enduring relevance' that adaptor Allan Sharpe claims for the piece (he frames this tale of the decline of the Scottish gentry with a group of boozy modern- day down-and-outs). though a keenly- observed character comedy about bad
debts. bad manners and bad luck will never lose its bite. lfyou want contemporary relevance you need only look to the displeasure ofthe British upper-class about the brief encroachment on ‘society‘ by vulgar monied yuppies after the 80s stockbroker boom. People with power will always be reluctant to let go of it and there will always be a few who will abuse the privileges it allows. For as long as there are new challengers to the old order. there will be satire enough in Galt’s novel to keep it relevant.
And for as long as there are teams as bright and brash as that which director Sandy Neilson has assembled here. there will be no danger of the laughter drying up. Performing on a level just this side of pantomime. the uniformly strong company invests the play with an intelligent attention to comic detail. creating big personalities with the unbridled ugliness of real life. Neilson keeps the pace brisk. but knows that silence can be funny and treats us to a couple of delicious sequences of twitching. scratching. deep breaths and something almost happening which. though they border upon indulgence. demonstrate how the production has been crafted with care and sensitivity.
The poverty of resources is more evident in Oxygen House's double bill of The Cellar by Lance Flynn and Rattlesnake by Robert Dodds in which limited lighting and a thrown-together design don‘t help a fuzziness about the use of space. The Cellar in particular loses much of the intensity it had on its
Stuart Wilkinson andESean Kavanagh in The Cellar
airing in the same building two years ago simply because the actors wander too vaguely about the space. often ending up on opposite sides of the theatre at the most crucial moments. That said. there‘s a clarity about the narrative and a sense of humour that I don‘t remember from the original Traverse production. This is helped considerably by the physical contrast of the actors —‘ Sean Kavanagh. as a bulky. no-nonsense ex-soldier gives an especially impressive performance. dwarﬁng his stage flat-mates and partners in murderous crime. played by a feeble Stuart Wilkinson and a plucky Louise lronside.
The Cellar remains an absorbing and unsettling play (and Flynn’s least gratuitously brutal). and like The Last oflxiirds. it is good to see it being revived and reinterpreted. Rattlesnake. meanwhile. is Robert Dodds' ﬁrst stage play and presents an uncomfortable study of physical and sexual abuse in the seemingly innocuous setting ofa sleepy American gas station. lfthe play finishes uncertainly. the production is graced by a chilling performance by Vari Sylvester who excels herselfas the victim of a violent husband. untangling the web of self-hate. confused emotions and repressed anger. it is the highlight of this welcome return by Oxygen House and ofa satisfying and substantial evening.
The last oft/re Ixtirds. Netherbow Arts Centre. lulinburgh. tutti] Sat 3 Jul.
The Cellar and Rattlesnake. Stepping Stones. Edinburgh. until Sat 3 Jul.
In rep at the lioyal lyceum, Edinburgh, until Thurs 5 August.
Second of the three farces to grace the Royal lyceum this summer, lloises Off hits the boards running, helped enormously by the impeccable structure of the first act. An incompetent provincial rep company are destroying the dress rehearsal of a rather laboured farce: llothing On. Though beautiful in its simplicity, the in-out innuendo still requires a well oiled company to do it justice, and skill to present the full dimensions of the lovey types and their one- dimensional stage personae in the farce within the farce.
So tar, so farcical. Andy Gray is suitably omnipotent as the director of the piece, smoothly manipulating personalities in his vain attempt to finish the rehearsal before dawn breaks. Scantlly clad Katy Brittain vacantly delivers her bimbette lines to naive Ben Porter while Judith Sweeney looks knowingly on. The whole
deconstruction of the term is not played to squeeze maximum gag-value from every line, but to establish the characters. Consequently it is tear- wipingly funny.
But that is just the first act. The second, going back-stage half way through the llothing On tour, requires even more grease to keep the frenetic pace at fever pitch. Despite a very tight and slick presentation, the lubrication wasn’t there. In the third act, when the full force of the farce of
Farce within a force in lloises Off
the farce within the force tinally turns into tragedy during the dying nights of the tour, geater depth, passion and even seriousness are needed to prevent that lazy descent into slapstick. Sadly, the decline was there. lot that it wasn’t funny. it was. Extremely so. But in order to sustain the mega chuckle factor achieved in the first act, the punters’ best bet would be to ensure that they were well-oiled themselves, in the bar. (Thom Olbdln)
42 The List l8 June—l July I993