' in assocltion with Michael Dale and The Pavilion Theatre




by David Belcher "...simply Jagatastic!... " The Herald

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A soldier’s lot for Andy Gray Nowadays they do it with little arrows saying ‘Frank’ and pointing to a man skiing and playing with computers. In the old days things were very much the same, but deprived of computer graphics the recruiting officers of the British Army had to rely on slightly more deceitful methods. And lost as the response to ‘What’s Frank doing now?’ isn’t an arrow to Frank in Bosnia or Belfast, so the young recruit of 1706 was often in for a bit of a surprise when he finally realised that the promises of wealth were a tad optimistic and the only medical treatment he’d ever receive would be from the cleaver of an animal butcher.

Nonetheless the armies of this time

still offered an alluring spectacle to small rural communities, and if the charismatic spiel of the finely-dressed recruiting sergeant should fail to enlist the locals then there were plenty of other methods to impress them. The Mutiny Act decreed that anyone who didn’t have a livelihood when brought before a judge would be forced to join the army, so acccordingly officers stirred up enough trouble to keep the courts full during their stay. Restoration playwright George Farquhar was such an officer himself, and wrote The Recruiting Officer with first hand knowledge of such trickery. it’s an angle which, according to actor Andy Gray, is being pushed to the fore in Kenny Ireland’s coming production at the Royal lyceum. “Obviously it’s a comedy so there’s a love interest, a bit of disguising, deception and all-round fun, but we’re showing that it is based on a real time. We don’t sit around and talk about how awful the soldier’s lot was, but that is inferred.’

Cray, who plays the roguish Sergeant Kite, has spent time researching just how awful that lot was, and has acquired several gruesome stories from that era: sergeants forcing their men into battle with halberds; soldier’s lips turning black with terror and troops being plied with masses of rum in order to get them drunk enough to fight. Comedy it may be, but the play’s also, he claims, ‘A great documentary of its time.’ (Stephen Chester)

The Recruiting Officer, Royal lyceum. Edinburgh, Fri 10—Sat 25 Sept.

Funeral games

Tartan parochialism is a common disease among the smaller, more far- flung Scottish theatre companies, where a sugar-sweet couthy wee production takes presidence over grittier theatrical offerings in order to fill an auditorium. According to the Artistic Director at the Brunton Theatre, Robin Peoples, it is not an ailment that is likely to infect his forthcoming season. What Peoples hopes to offer potential audiences is an amalgam of ‘theatre with an artistic and social value yet of a level which is accessible without being condescending or going downmarket’.

Certainly there is a heavy Scottish bias with The Funeral and The Steamie, the former being Rector McMillan’s follow-up to the tragi- comedy, The Sash, and the latter being Tony Roper’s Glasgow nostalgia-with- an-edge. Well-known classics Educating Rita and Of Mice And Men are also to be given an airing, plus a series of more specialised one-off events including liz lochhead, Terry Reason and Craig McMurdo.

Peoples’ decision to stage The Funeral dates back to his collaboration with McMillan when they were both working on the Traverse’s production of The Sash. ‘McMillan was under pressure to write a crass Sash II or Son Of Sash,’ says

Robin Peoples’ new season is accessible and credible Peoples. ‘llowever, he held out because he needed time to see whether this tribal conflict stemming from the characters’ attitudes and social conditions would change.’ The Funeral, in much the same humorous vein as its predecessor, takes up the story seventeen years later with the funeral of dyed-in-the-blue-wool Orangeman, Bill McWilliam.

As for the remaining productions, Peoples makes no bones about his candid and tactical choices and their potential to capture a young audience, given that all three are school texts. As former Artistic Director of the Scottish Youth Theatre, Peoples is keen for the Brunton ‘to live up to its full potential as an educational tool’. To this end he is developing an outreach programme where school groups will take part in workshops and discussions with casts and directors in order to underline, not only the relevance of particular themes raised by the respective plays, but also to encourage anew generation of theatre-goers. (Ann Oonald)

The Funeral, Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh, Fri 10—Sat 25 Sept.

48 The List l0—23 September I993