menar- Synge it loud
Mark Fisher at the Citizens’ and the Royal
institutions need to be shaken up from time to time and Kenny lreland‘s arrival at Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum has brought the promise of innovations like star-name directors, co—productions and a redesigned performance space. So far so inspiring. but not all new ideas are good ideas and, judging by
my experience of The Recruiting
Oiiicer. it was a bad idea for the Royal Lyceum to invite reviewers to the free preview night as an alternative to the official opening night. I’m not questioning the concept of free previews. far from it. they‘re a great opportunity for people to catch a show with no financial risk and for the actors to get into their stride in front ofa real audience. The down side is obvious: you can end up watching a show that isn't yet ready. but have no cause for complaint because you haven‘t paid anything. Pretty reasonable deal. i reckon. but it's a practical one. not just a well-meaning way to be nice to the Poor People like the theatre was a branch of the social services.
1 say this because of the quite different responses others have had to The Recruiting Officer on subsequent
nights. What I saw at the preview was a s soulless, dull affair with few laughs and V
a cast that garbled its lines to the point of incomprehensibility. it was nothing that could be alleviated even by the
easy-going Poor People (who create a
g Wittgensteln's Daughter i far more genial atmosphere than the stuffy first-nightcrs. but i knew that ‘ already) and i feel it is unfair to comment further on a production that . was not up to paying-for standard. If you go now. you might well see a 3 production of George Farquhar‘s army recruitment comedy that has pace and wit, and doesn't rely only on the odd cameo highlight by Andy Gray for ? laughs. What won‘t have changed. though. is Russell Craig's set. a huge square archway on a revolve, which for , all its technical ingenuity. too often restricts the acting space and constrains a the director‘s imagination. appearing clumsy as often as it does aesthetically balanced.
Better news over at Glasgow's Citizens’ Theatre where fine productions are running in the two ; studios. Wittgenstein’s Daughter is a 3. new play by Dic Edwards in which a
woman who believes herself to be the daughter of the moral philosOpher Ludwig Wittgenstein. discovers that she was actually brought in to the world by his colleagues as a cover for his homosexuality. Her hatred of cliche and quest for truth is compared to his hatred of pretence and desire to achieve linguistic perfection; and both are set against the deceit that has affected her whole life. As with Casanova Undone. Edwards' last play for the Citz. this new piece has the sheen of saying something more clever or profound
. than it actually does. but it also has a
greater sense of purpose and forward drive and adds up to a more satisfying whole.
Directed by Robert David
f MacDonald. who appears both as a
neo-Nazi in Mickey Mouse underwear and as Wittgenstein's ghost wrapped in bandages. the play is performed in a clean white boxing ring. the characters’ costumes crisply colour-coded by designer Rebecca Loncraine. Anne Marie Timoney gives a compelling performance as Alma, the assumed
daughter, trying to make sense of her 5 end-of-millenium blues without malice
or anger. just genuine spiritual curiosity. Her search is offset by
i Beckett. the boxer and companion to
Wittgenstein. played in his younger
: years by a spikey. amoral Daniel lllsley
and in his later years by a world-weary, more politically adroit Patrick Hannaway. Die Edwards fires in unusual directions to try and hit what I
imagine he sees as the moral vacuum in ? contemporary society. Thanks to an
intelligent interpretation. here is a
} production that does justice to his theme.
Upstairs in the Circle Studio. the most
; accomplished of the current batch of
Citz shows is the J. M. Synge double— bill, The Tinker’s Wedding and Riders to the Sea. Both director Jon Pope and designer Kenny Miller have sometimes been guilty of producing more style than content in the past. but here they achieve a perfect synthesis using the simplest of elements. in The Tinker Is Wedding the audience and actors sit under a canopy of twinkling stars, while a real fire burns centre stage. In Riders to the Sea. a churchful of melting candles is spread along four planks of wood hanging forlomly from the ceiling. Where Pope has played with light for its own sake in previous productions, here he and Miller have found sources of light that are both beguiling and appropriate to Synge's portraits of turn-of—the-century ln'sh peasant life.
But it‘s not all looks. For these two short plays. Pope has assembled a ﬁrst- rate cast that manages to capture both the hard edge and the humanity of Synge’s brutalised characters. As a play. Riders to the Sea is too relentlessly bleak to be dramatically successful. but the company. notably Anne Myatt as the matriarch deprived of her six sons, plays with conviction to create a fully believable impression of the harsh life of a seafaring community. More fun. which isn‘t to say more trivial, is The Tinker is Wedding, which is graced by a ﬁery perfomiance by Mairead Cany as the would-be wife of a stoic Martin McCardie, and which works as a telling analysis of the culture clash between tinker and establishment church.
The Recruiting Ofﬁcer. Royal Lyceum. Edinburgh. until Sat 25 Sept. Wittgenstein 's Daughter and Synge Double Bill. both Citizens" Theatre. Glasgow. until Sat 2 Oct.
ROMEO AND JULIET
Seen at The Arches, Glasgow. On tour. The age-old dilemma with ‘ilomeo and Juliet' - how do you subordinate the appeal oi the intelligent but manic Mercutio to the more limited attraction at the solemn, introspective, old-beiore-his-time Romeo - looms large in ilew Stage Theatre’s sparse new production. Tony Curran as Mercutio towers over the rest oi the cast - his mastery oi Shakespearian rhythm, his expressive range and the physical bouts he and iellow cast member Ashley Collishaw have choreographed are the undoubted highlights oi a production skating on a iew paper-thin key roles. Paul Oaputa as Romeo displays lyricism without coming over like some Shelleyan drip. His murder oi Tybalt is all the more convincingly portrayed as the work oi a victim wronged. However, Louise Montgomery’s exaggerated portrayal oi Juliet as dimpled, precocious schoolgirl teeters on the brink oi slap- my-thighs pantomlmic overstatement. In the second haii, her portrayal oi ingenue caught in a vortex oi tragedy amounts to petulant tantruns. Naturally a soon-to-be iourteen-year- old would run to mummy in a crisis, but does she have to rugby-tackle her quite so histrionicaily? When you should be wrenched with sympathy ior
her tribulations, instead you just wish she’d dispense with the Iogorrhoea,
g whip out the kniie and embed it right 3 in the gut, post haste. (Fiona
runnv monsv 4W _ “
‘ Seen at Mercat Theatre, Orumchapel. On tour. 5 It’s a bold idea and explaining it ? makes tor a good programme gag: ‘ilo, not an Opera, more an Oratorio. That’s an Opera without the budget.’ What an Oratorio is is demonstrated, tuneiully, in the iirst iew minutes; it means the entire show’s going to be sung, and as usual Wildcat hasn’t got enough cash tor a decent set.
itotthatltmatters, slncethestage is so cluttered with musical lnstnunents and perionners there isn’t room ior a set. liow Wildcat manages to get a
cast capable oi playing so many diiierent instruments is one oi liie’s
enduring mysteries, and the irenetic i swapping and changing required irom
5 these politicised Boy Castles has
reached a crescendo in Funny Money. Such invigorating exuberance is brought to the decline and tall oi
1 middle-management executive
Alisdalr Baliour, and the lite oi the low-lite which surrounds and iinally overwhelms him. Uniortunately this worthy high concept is undermined by the undeniable banality oi the lyrics - or libretto as it’s called. Occasionally
i this is redeemed by a witty
undercutting oi the production’s portentousness: ‘That’s a sob story,’ iollows a song whose most memorable line is ‘And it’s so sad/But so very very true’. it you don’t look beyond the
i myopic humanism then it’s entertaining enough, and the cast
communicates a raw and honest energy which can’t be ignored.
But tor a group with a reputation built on agitato protests, the ultimate moral oi the piece - ‘give money to beggars’ is a disappointing cop out. So much ior radical solutions to the inequalities oi wealth distribution. (Stephen Chester)
Seen at Brenton Theatre, Musselburdi. Ilntil Sat 25 Sept. Also at Pavilion Theatre, Glasgow.
This is the second part oi a trilogy which began with The Sash, and takes place eighteen years after the events at that initial play, with iully paid up Orange Order bigot Big Bill Machlliam now dead and his iriends and iamlly gathered ior his wake. The backstory to the present play is woven iairly eiiortlessly into the iirst iiiteen minutes, and it's a mark oi ilector’s Macidilian’s skill that you leave the theatre with a desperate craving to see the other plays.
Part oi The Funeral’s strength comes irom the manner in which the ugliness oi sectarian politics is illtered through the prism oi humour to evoke the many hues oi religious stupidity - it’s the sort oi situation where characters end up having iace-oiis by trying to crack iunnier jokes about the Pope or Protestants. The result is inn and iarcical, but gains an edge oi pathos due to its ioundation on a tragically divided culture.
The show gets about as good a production as it could possibly wish ior, with a tine cast able to mix their excellent cornlc skills with the iiner subtleties which tragi-comedy demands. And surprisingly enough they’re supported by a well-designed show, which secure to suggest the Brenton Theatres’ briei dalllance with I: iaintly embaan sets was lust part oi a perverse and lll-iated theatrical theory. it this is the start oi a new era then it’s a stunning one.
The List 24 September—7 October 1993 si