IZEHEEII Funk Off
Mark Fisher enjoys an inventive dance show en route to the Edinburgh Fringe.
lf Liz Ranken and Alan Scott- Moncrieff's Funk 0]] Green is a ‘work in progress‘, as it was emphatically billed on its Tramway debut. then it is a work progressing very much in the right direction. Made up of a dozen sketches. half dance. half theatre. the show takes twelve tongue-in-cheek stabs at pinning down the nature of love. sex and vanity. it is as gleefully open to influences as it is disinclined to make a deﬁnitive statement; live scratch-mixing counterpoints an on- stage violin. hip-hop dancing gives way to detailed gestural movement. throw away smuttiness sits alongside a harrowing rape scene. It's a hroadncss
[1313111371- THE cur
Seen at Tron Theatre, Glasgow. On tour.
Mike Cullen’s new play, performed by Wiseguise Productions, is that inexplicany rare beast, a drama about contemporary social politics. And slumped at the wrong end of nearly fifteen years of a governmental policy of divide and rule, those politics have little to do with the power-in-the- union vision of a previous generation of playwrights and everything to do with an insidious every-man-for- himself philosophy where personal preservation means keeping in with the management, not causing a fuss, playing safe.
In The Cut, the playwright, himself a miner for eight years, takes us 3000 feet below ground level where the successive defeats of an industry once romanticised for its solidarity have left it scarred with distrust and ugly competitiveness. Cullen’s characters are invested with more than lust a macho, working-class swagger; they are bitter, scared, disillusioned people, cynically manipulating each other - where necessary, profanely abusing the language of solidarity - or feverishly hiding from their own cruel compromises.
As well as the disjointed brutality of the language, a great strength of the play is the way no character is wholly likeable; no glib political tract this, but an absorbing conflict between truth, lies, prejudice, guilt and innocence. Even Salter, just out of prison for a murder he didn’t commit and the closest the play gets to a hero, is an imbalanced man, played by Frank Gallagher with a dangerous mix of brains, wit and pathological anger, right in his belief that his father’s death was murder, wrong in his vigilante obsession to find the culprit. Still, in contrast to Kenneth Glennan’s
of approach that creates not only a diverting performance. but also a truer reflection of our many sexual identities. As it stands. the production is strongest on dance (as you‘d expect) and female sexuality; weakest on theatre and male sexuality. Where women’s experiences are explored with sensitivity and complexity. men‘s experiences are relegated to the glib
slippery Hessel, the embodiment of callous free enterprise, Salter is a saintly combination of martyr and crusader, reminding us of a time when socialism had a fighting spirit.
No doubt suffering from a limited budget, Martin McCardie’s production gives little sense of the claustrophobia or the human activity in a mine, and i wonder if film would be a more suitable medium for a plot that rests so heavily on the devastating effect of two explosions. But if the transitions from scene to scene could be slicker, the production is acted with complexity and verve and gives a welcome airing to an absorbing new play. (Mark Fisher)
millili- ROOKERY uoox
Royal lyceum, Edinburgh. Until Tue 3 Aug.
The lioyal Lyceum company has gone old-fashioned for its third and final Summer Season farce. Rookery look is, we are told, a classic. indeed, all is present and correct: a couple of chaps holed up in a Somerset cottage with a silly name wanting to get cheerful with the local lasses. A dragon of a cousin-in-law (complete with wimp husband) and the cottage’s Scottish housekeeper to dog their every plan. An off-stage wife of the older chap, looking after a sick mother and finally a jolly decent chapess who turns up on the doorstep in skimpy bedroom attire, on the run from her stereotype llun stepfather.
This is distinctly rooky nooky, however. Too tame to titillate, it probably worked perfectly when it was written in the 20s. Today it seems to be more of a hangover from the laboured farce-within-a-farce of Noises 0ft than a worthy production for the Lyceum. Sadly, several of the company conspire with the sheer back-woodenness of it all by presenting limp shadows of the requisite caricatures. So Graham Poutney’s chap is never an erotic
(penis equals gun). the questionable (not ejaculating makes you live longer) or the comic (ditto). This is true to the mood of the times. but it‘d be nice if. when it returns as part of the enterprising Fringe dance programme at Edinburgh's St Bride's. the show could have developed the male side beyond the robotics (the curse of modern dance). break-dancing and half
danger to chapess-hood, although he I could doubtless bore the gender to death and Judith Sweeney’s dragon breath is loud, but never smoking with vitriol.
Where the production does shine, though, is in the clowning interaction between the two chaps and Kern Falconer’s excellent wimp, as they try to make him an accomplice in their
lust for the once-again scantily clad
apologetic Taoism towards a more illuminating reflection of masculinity.
That's no great worry however; there are already enough highlights in this 90-minute performance to make it more than worthwhile. Of the dancers, Viva Seifert stands out for her ability to blend acrobatics and dance without merely showing off, and Liz Ranken grabs the attention whether spinning endlessly on the spot or trying to mutilate herself with a knife. A set of comically imaginative costumes in a scene about the sex-control of the future combines Victorian prudery with 21st century technology both to amuse and to raise questions about why we are so hung up about sex. And the balance of live and recorded sound. though it could be integrated further. makes for an invigorating contrast.
The overall effect is an imaginative collage of style and form that makes both serious and trivial points without labouring any of them. And even at work-in-progress stage the company is already just about equal to its own artistic ambition.
Funk ()jj‘Green. seen at 'I'ranm'ay. Glasgow-3' returning to Continental S/u'fts at St Bride '3 Centre. Edinburgh. Sun I 5—Sat 2 I Aug.
Katy Brittain. The scenes where any three of the four are on stage together are a joy to watch, depending as they do on the exact application of technique and timing rather than a biudgeoning attack of over-acting. As the run continues and the former triumphs over the latter, the whole will undoubtedly improve, but it must be said that the first night was a disappointment. (Thom 0ibdin)
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