mustar- Street life
1: K -3 1,?
The press release booms out: ‘The biggest cast ever seen. One hundred tap-dancers. An £80000 production. Over £100,000 in advance ticket sales.‘ A flurry of facts and figures that would be of passing interest were they emanating from a big-budget Broadway production. but when it transpires that the hyperbole originates from a Glaswegian amateur theatrical club then the impressive figures suddenly merit closer inspection.
In fact the Pantheon Club is in the process of breaking UK and world records in terms of ticket sales for its ‘spectacular and glossy‘ British amateur premiere of 42ml Street at the King's Theatre. Glasgow. Given its sell-out performance of last year‘s I.u Cage Aux I-‘o/les and the 'l‘ranmay box- office breaker Amadeus in I‘M), the company is obviously privy to a secret of success that has eluded fellow amateurs (and professionals for that matter).
Club President Carolyn Russell is in no doubt as to why the Pantheons are scaling new heights. ‘We rttn a very strict regime. rehearse five nights a week and our membership has a very professional attitude.‘ she states matter— of-factly. However. the ambitious driving-force propelling the company out ofthe amateur league and into the big-time is David Shaw. Producer. artistic director and. at times. says Russell wrny, ‘a swine of the first order.‘ Shaw combines a unique business-like outlook with 30 years of amateur theatrical experience
‘You can't tackle things without a commercial attitude.‘ says Shaw. ‘We are competing with the high-quality musical background reinvented by Andrew Lloyd Webber rather than say. the twee church concert that costs £3. People want a big show. big sets. big casts a rd glamoroUs costumes. You‘ve got to match people's expectations.‘ (Ann Donald). 42nd Street. King's Theatre. (Museum; Mon 28’ Feb—Sat 5 Mar.
45 The List 25 February- ll) March 1994
Not so long ago a big london theatre company got so backed off with critics slagging their shows that they decided to ban all reviewers from the theatre. The situation soon reverted to normal however, when someone pointed out that the critical column inches devoted to theatre, be they good or bad, are far greater than are
.; awarded to any other minority
It’s the sort of situation that BBC Drama Producer Patrick Rayner must be aware of, for having made up to fifteen radio drama productions a year, each of which have reached a vast audience, he has yet to be subject to an in-depth profile by Billington or Wardle.
‘l’ve always called radio a Cinderella 1
medium,’ says Rayner, ‘no one gets rich by doing it, no one gets famous by doing it and, compared to television,
no one wants to know what the private
lives of radio actors are. Possibly there’s a sense that unless you’ve achieved success on the stage people will never think you can cut it.’
But now Rayner is taking time off his
1 ~ 1 Radio-free theatre figures of Lucia Joyce (James’s schizophrenic daughter), her father and Carl Jung.
‘l’m not worried about acting or the text,’ says Rayner, taking the switch from studio to stage in his stride, ‘because in many ways people don’t realise that when you’re doing radio you carry a very clear vision of what’s happening - what the characters look like, what they dress like, and how they move. My concern is bringing the whole thing together so it entertains people for two hours. That’s the trick.’
But while theatre might bring in the critical kudos there are certain
elements of the art which might not be too appealing. ‘Radio’s an artificial
1 medium because it’s separate from
f the audience - we can hide in our
day job to direct Fifth Estate’s Lucia, a ;
Robert Forrest play about a ioiner who refuses to see his seriously ill wife, and subsequently summons up the
offices and not be barracked by people coming out and saying that was rubbish.’ (Stephen Chester) Lucia, Netherbow Theatre, Edinburgh, 7-26 Mar.
In previous Windows on the World series at the Traverse, the dramaturgical telescope has been brought to bear, through workshops, talks and readings, on the theatrical cultures of distant lands such as Hispanic America, Algeria and Canada.
This time the window chosen is one which is oft obscured by the net curtains of political censorship and smeared with the accumulated filth of historical antagonism, for it is the window that looks out across our own socio-political back garden and onto the neighbours, a semi-detached home which proudly bears the name-plaque ‘llibernia’.
Relations with these neighbours has always been tense, and struggles over where to put the garden fence have led to the longest civil war in Europe. It’s the artistic fallout of 25 long years of violence and bloodshed which will be the subject of an ‘Encounter Programme’ entitled Telling the Troubles, which aims to look at the relevant plays from the 703 to more
Half the trouble, half the population: Men
recent pieces. Christina Reid, award- winning author of My Name, Shall I Tell You My Name, and Joyriders, will also be present at the discussion, talking about her own experiences as a playwright growing up in Belfast, and giving a personal response to the overall situation in Irish playwriting.
The final event will be a performed reading of Brothers of the Brush by house painter-turned-playwright Jimmy Murphy, which should provoke the informal debates and discussions that the programme aims to generate. The event is nicely timed to introduce the Siol Phadraig, an Irish Arts Festival, which includes an exhibition and conference to be held at the Traverse a week later. There will also be a performance of Men, an example of a modern Irish musical by Kevin MacClinchey.
The next Windows On The World promises to be delivered by satellite, from Australia. (Stephen Chester) Windows on The World, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, 26 and 27 Feb.
‘lt‘s set in a Partick beauty salon in l963 with a gin-swigging. over- made-up matriarchal figure who dominates her members of staff. one of whom's called Lillian. The other plot line is about the developing relationship between Rita and Barbara. who are the two other ones that work there. and who‘ve been childhood friends fora long time - well. obviously.‘
That's writer Stuart Thomas‘s synopsis of his latest musical play Salon Janette. which follows on the cowboy-booted heels of Take Two Productions‘ commercial success Sweet Hearts ()fT/tt" Yellow Rose. Then it was a show about country and western singers; this time it is. according to Thomas. ‘camper than the Rocky Horror. funnier than all the Curry ()ns put together and with better hair than Steel Magnolius.‘
But such high campery is not merely the stylistic protuberances of a flip aesthetic: no. the play has a serious message. Which is'.’ ‘If you've got a dream or desire it's important to chase after it even if you have to wander through shit to get it. Rita‘s dream is to be a massive modelling success. and in the play she's pipped at the post for Miss Salted Peanut. which hurts quite a lot.‘
So there's tragedy in there too. So tnuch so. in fact. that it cotnes as little surprise to learn the whole production is based on the dramaturgical excesses of period songs such as [fa/2v Low. which are sung by Rita and her friends in the salon.
‘I like the little kitsch dramas of those songs.‘ explains Thomas. ‘Their teenage dilemmas are melodramatic as fuck. it's dead funny. but they always take it so seriously — which is why it works. It's about believing in those mini-dramas.‘ (Stephen Chester)
Salon Janette. Yoke 7ivo Productions, ()Il tour Sat 26 Feb—Sui 2 A pr.