mam— lphigenia in Tauris
r l '
K a .‘A‘ r Colden Age Theatre isn‘t doing itself many favours with a name that suggests a Reminiscence Theatre Project. Nor is a production of Goethe‘s lphigenia in Tauris (pronounce it Eff—Fidge-Gin-Ea if you want to avoid embarrassment at the box ofﬁce) the sort of thing which is likely to set the public imagination ablaze. For while the script abounds in lovely phrases — ‘The dark crevices of the night‘ — it never really makes an effort to get off the page, giving the actors so little business to perform that all they can do is turn from one another, look mystically into the audience then suddenly turn back at a point of suitable dramatic emphasis.
So it’s a tribute to the phenomenal skills of the cast and the lucid precision of the direction that this production makes for an enjoyable and occasionally gripping evening out. The whole concept of fate and bloodlines is now so alien that it‘s virtually impossible to become involved with the divine machinations of long-dead gods, so Golden Age has chosen to foreground the vividly human characters in which to invest our emotional interests.
The whole design is simple and direct; a set so minimal that there virtually isn’t one; costumes whose only function is to be blank enough to carry the projections of our imaginations upon them; and Emily Winter’s live music underlines the text in bold, stark and assertive strokes. Such techniques create an intimate sense of the Mediterranean‘s vertical sun, yet without the clutter of props and machines to distract from the poetry of the drama and the dynamics of the characters‘ emotions.
There‘s no attempt to ﬁnd contemporary relevance among the various themes of Euripides' original tale. but nonetheless Sheilagh Hynd‘s magniﬁcent lphigenia makes every word of this old play, based on an even older story, pertinent and immediate, and gives a courageous portrayal of the humanity shared by all ages. (Stephen Chester)
Golden Age Theatre. seen at the Theatre Workshop, Edinburgh. On Tour.
marm— Family feuds
Mark Fisher sees the old and the new at the Citz.
That Robert Beck gets through his role as Romeo without leading us to expect Jimmy Corkhill to pop out of the wings rasping, ‘I hate rapists' is an achievement that should not be understated. it's not that he looks particularly different from his Brookside counterpart Peter Harrison in this Romeo and Juliet - actually, his square-jawed good looks are remarkably in keeping with Citz house-
. style — it's more that he tackles the part * in such a brisk and forthright manner
that nobody, not even the massed ranks of school students, gets a chance to think of him as anything other than a star-crossed lover. And this being the stage, Beck has the opportunity to demonstrate a much wider range of acting strengths than on the small screen, creating a Romeo who, if a little humourless. is driven. passionate and not a little lovable.
Beck isjust part of a well-integrated acting team brought together by director Giles Havergal in a production of remarkable clarity and considerable style. Kenny Miller has taken a leaf out ofthe Philip Prowse design book for a simple but visually arresting set,
characters dressed in playing-card
colours positioned in front ofa velvety black back wall. The Capulets wear red stripes and sport Yorkshire accents, the
Montagues are picked out in purple and
)4 7 9 1*. 4/ s \- Robert Beck as Romeo speak in RP. What‘s interesting is that even though the production makes no contemporary allusions, it becomes impossible to watch this Romeo and Juliet without feeling the cold chill of devisive Balkans politics, which sets family against family, friend against friend. And here the violence, choreographed by Nigel Nicholson, avoids physical contact, making each punch all the more powerful.
The other tragic lover is played by Shirley Henderson, once seen in quite different form in Simon Donald’s The Life ofSruff, who cracks out of the china-doll poise and shrill teenage giggles with which she begins the performance, gradually to explore more subtle and mature emotions, revealing an unexpected range of acting resources. As a twosome, she and Beck create a relationship that is ﬁckle. alive and dynamic and, as is necessary with this play, they make us share in the
headines of their romance. Memorable
supporting roles from Anne Myatt as the Nurse and Matthew Whittle as a laddish Mercutio. plus a liberal smattering of classical waltzes on the I soundtrack, all add up to a production that serves more than just the set-text
audience with intelligence and panache. ,
There's also an intelligence at work downstairs in the Stalls Studio where
David Greig‘s Stalinland is enjoying a second production after its award- winning premiere on the Edinburgh Fringe last year. Greig’s concerns are with the changing face of Europe, with our attempts to redeﬁne national identity. with our reassessment of the values of the past and with the conﬂicts, contradictions and ironies produced when East meets West. His setting is a ﬁctitious country where the old communist regime has been overthrown and the vulgarities of free- market capitalism welcomed. A family, previously split on either side of the iron Curtain, is reunited to expose the different values of old-style communism, moral socialism. caring capitialism and the slippery ability of art to ﬁnd a niche in any system.
Malcolm Sutherland's production inevitably brings a focus to the play that was hard to create on its low- budget Masonic hall debut, though I don‘t feel that his design and staging ﬁt too comfortably in the difﬁcult. tiny \ studio. Fascinating, amusing and timel) though the play is, i ﬁnd it lacks a degree of human warmth for us fully to engage with it — the characters' concerns and preoccupations are real enough, but somehow their level of interaction is too cerebral. too distant, too elusive, l'm not sure which, for us really to share in their conflicts. What is important, however. is that Grcig is mining an area, as he did in this year's Europe, that is ofhuge relevance to life in the 90s and isjust the sort ofthing we need our playwrights to be doing if theatre itself is to be of relevance. Romeo and Juliet. Citizens' Theatre. Glasgow, until Sat 30 Oct; Stalin/and. until Sat 6 Nov.
? THE STRANGE CASE OF DR JEKYll. AND ME HYDE
Citizens’ Theatre, Glasgow, until 6 luv. 3 Jekyll is the same person as llyde!
: Sorry if that’s given the game away, but one of the major problems facing any stage production of ii. l. Stevenson’s classic tale of duality and deceit is that everyone knows its fatal final twist. The climax oi the original
l story, which is told from a multiplicity of perspectives and employs numerous styles, occurs when the final scribbled ; notes oi Dr Jekyll explain the entire
; mystery while bringing the story to a
suitably violent finale. But any efforts
, to dramatise the story have inevitably led to an abandonment oi the ‘what’s
t happening’ element in favour of a ‘how’s he going to get out oi this one’ narrative, with the result that much oi the horror’s subtlety ls jettisoned.
But there is another significant factor which mitigates against any successful stage adaptation; notably that, well, Jekle is the same person 3 as llyde. On stage, transformations 5 can be good, stylish or slightly hammy : (this production favours running into 5 the exit while being Illuminated by l flickering fluorescent lighting) but i almost invariably the effect is that of , changing one actor for another,
' If you accept the above as to some
: degree invalidating any re-
; interpretation of Stevenson’s story,
i including this production, than what's
left is well worth a visit. The cast plays with a vicious certitude which is chilling and pacy, and gives the dialogue’s poetic desperation a new and venomous edge. The action centres on a dissecting trolley, stacked with skulls, knives and chemicals. Eyeballs and other bloody organs are occasionally picked from an open body bag, while overhead the invidious bqu of Hyde prowls the suspended walkways. It’s an immediate, aggressive direction/ design, which sits well in the claustrophobic space of the Citizens’ uncomfortable studio; no slow fades of house lights for this show, but rather a sudden snap to black with a shock-inducing crash of synthesised chords. You leave the theatre with the impression of having been involved in an aesthetically pleasing minor car accident; it’s just a pity that all this intelligence and skill hasn’t been spent on something more innater dramatic. (Stephen Chester)
DEEM— rwrucrrr surrr
= Seen at Theatre Workshop, Edinburyr.
Cne’s a married miner and the other’s a hairdresser, they’re gay, in love, and living in the sort of small Scottish mining community which takes an extremely dim view of these things. Will they be spotted snogging among
i the split ends, or will love triumph and
our hero extinguish his pit lamp as he steps out of the closet?
Jackie Kay’s play has all the right ingredients and seems formulated to hit the right dramatic points, but unfortunately in striking them it fails
to produce any significant emotional
responses. There are occasions when the structure of the play protrudes so severely that it would probably be much less jarring if a card was held up with ‘plot point’ printed on it, instead of having one of the characters refer to the time, ‘When your mammy died in childbirth’.
This wouldn’t be a problem if it weren’t for the slow pace of the piece, which seems to be stretching thin material to breaking point in order to cover the required 90 minutes. This leisurely narrative gait is further
' nobbled by being driven not by
dynamic conflicts between characters but by staged monologues delivered in the language of muted lyricism. The result isn’t extreme enough to be stylised or drab enough to be naturalistic, but sits uncomfortany between the two, and without an adequately presented context the whispered platitudes of love remain as platitudes.
Superb acting manages to redeem much of the play (it's always impressive to see a few live tears on stage) but ultimately it can’t save a slight, if watchable, piece of non- drarna. (Stephen Chester)
50 Tire List 22 October—4 November 1993