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Theatre audiences have come to expect provocative passion and challenging intimidation from Steven Berkoff. With his new show, One Man, Gabe Stewart discovers that this time, it’s personal.
Within One Man lies a godless trinity of three short one-act plays: The Actor and Dog push the tenuous metaphor to its extremes with unlikely images of an unholy Father and Son; whilst an adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s Tell Tale Heart provides the Ghostly element.
Adapted from Berkoff’s own short story, The Actor evolved out of Marcel Marceau’s mime ‘Marche Sur Place’ (immortalised by street performers who walk while remaining in the same spot). Berkoff’s unemployed actor symbolises his life’s struggles, narrating his frustrations whilst walking through endless auditions.
‘Actor expresses loss, rage and futility,‘ explains Berkoff. ‘An actor barely exists, and an out-of-work actor doesn't exist at all.’ No one could
line that and his liog accuse Berkoff of ‘barely existing’, but then he is Blessed, with The Word, which of course equates to Power, necessary to turn on The Light. Lesser actors, however, are entirely reliant on others: directors, critics, audiences. ‘There’s an incredible self-loathing in many actors, because they are such arselickers.‘ it must be tempting to lick arses when you’re a nobody and you never know for whom or with whom you’ll next be working, but it’s hard to imagine Berkoff was ever a nobody. is there a faint sneer when he talks about his compatriots? No, it‘s a strong one, but he saves his most violent invective for that false god, The Director, and that promised land of the Devil: The Establishment. He despises non-actor directors and is disgusted by ‘the establishment that is so cowardly, so frightened of taking risks.’ It’s hardly surprising that such a system should spawn such neurotics as epitomised by
Berkoff‘s Actor. The second short play, Dog, was
thought up during the recent spate of attacks by ‘dangerous breeds’, and takes us through a day in the life of an East End thug and his pit bull terrier. As the only object of his affections, his dog can do no wrong. When it mutilates a child, all the thug cares about is the bloody mess all over his van. ‘lt’s a violent, abrasive, humorous study of the face of Britain today.’ The idea of a brutal yob unable to show love for anything, except his equally brutal dog, paints an ironic wash over the picturesque image of the ’caring 90s’.
The third tale in the trinity is Edgar Allan Poe’s Tell Tale Heart, last performed seven years ago. Berkoff keeps returning to Poe; he says he most admires the haunting, demonic qualities in his writing. Berkoff also ﬁnds in Poe a mirror image of himself: ‘Obsessive. raging, penetratineg true and anti- bourgeois.’
Returning to the title, One Man, there is a real sense that Dog and The Actor sum up the essence of Berkoff‘s own extremes, with Poe emphasising a more distanced image of his character, a genuine trinity, three in one. ‘Yes, they are facets of my character,’ he agrees. Put the three short plays together, and you have a play called Berkoff, you have One Man, who cannot be ignored. I One Man (Fringe) Steven Berkoff, Assembly Rooms (Venue 3) 226 2428, 21—26 Aug, 1—4 Sept, noon, £8.50 (£7.50); 28—29 Aug, 12.30pm, £9.50 (£8.50).
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ewotional responses, in order to think afreshabontwhatoneshonld do.l think we all feel very powerless at the newest. Political ideology isn’t as clearly delineated as it has been. those who used to have confidence in thelefureasking, “whatarethe new ideas? Where will they corne from?” ’
Set in a lythical war zone - ‘a non- specific kind of psychic landscape; a checkpoint between the living and the dead’ - Crossfire is peopled by war- tranatised who are discovering sex ’n' drugs while Beirut (or Baghdad, or Sarajevo) burns. the cowpany‘s research waterlals included videotaped Interviews with young lebanese IO! and wonren who grew up in the line of fire. “It’s very distarblng,’ says Parse, ‘when you hear kids of nineteen saying, “now that there's peace I can’t sleep at night. the sound of gunfire was a melody that sent as to sleep.”
A lapsed Catholic, Ame has tilled the play with references to Bible stories, to the search for the Promised land, to religious fanaticism, and to theBrnsades-the prototype holy war. ‘it’s not naturalistic, and it resonates
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in many different directions,’ explains Purse. ‘lt says we don’t have the answers in the religious and economic systems that exist. The human mind has got to find new questions, because the old ones are hopeless.’ (Andrew Burnet)
Crossfire (Fringe) Paines Plough, traverse (Venue 15) 228 1404, 24 (Agog-4 Sept (not Mons), tirnes vary, £8
Five shows worth getting up rly for, singled out by Gabe Stewart.
I One htan There are many reasons why you‘d be strongly advised not to miss Berkoff’s new show: to argue against it, to empathise with it, to be horriﬁed, or to laugh with relief. Or, just 'cos he’s Berkoff.
One Man (Fringe) Steven Berkoff, Assembly Rooms (Venue 3) 226 2428. 21—26 Aug, [-4 Sept. noon, £8.50 (£7.50); 28—29Aug. [2.30pm. £9.50 (£8.50).
I In Search Of Other Words This Italian company uses light as text in an exploration into the relationship between real and virtual imagesJust sit back and let the experience wash over you.
In Search of Other Words (Fringe) ll Puldore Bene In Vista — Italy, FEAST at the Fringe (Venue 73) 228 9666. 16—26 Aug (not Mon 23) noon, £5 (£3). I You’re thinking About Bonghnuts In the privacy of their own homes, kids love Michael Rosen’s books
The magical adventure stories are just an added extra bonus . . .
You 're Thinking About Doughnuts (Fringe) Michael Rosen. Nottinghamshire Venue (Venue I6) 667 2388, 16-27 Aug (not Sun 22) 10.30am, £4 (£2).
Plough touring theatre company return with Michel Azama’s cracking play about life in a war zone. Top
credentials abound - decidedly promising.
Crossﬁre (Fringe) Paines Plough, Traverse Theatre (Venue 15) 228 I404, 24. 27. 31 Aug, 3 Sept, noon; 25, 28 Aug, 1. 4 Sept. 3.30pm; 26. 29 Aug, 2 Sept, 7pm. £8 (£5).
I Who Are We? if you’ve been entirely on the receiving end so far this Fringe, hem’s your chance to indulge your creative urges for four hours. This workshop explores how we see ourselves using paints, paper and chalk, and it’s not just for kids: all ages and abilities should have a go. . Who are We? (Fringe) Wteslaw Karolak, FEAST at the Fringe (Venue 73) Marquee. 228 9666, 16—26 Aug. ' noon, £3.50 (£2.50).
The List 20—26 August 199319