narrat- Greek moments
There are a few problems when it comes to productions of Oedipus Tyrannos. First of all, not many audiences speak Ancient Greek, so you’ve got to translate it: but do you create an accurate prose version or a compromised translation with accurate metre? Then there’s the drama itself: can we really regard it as drama, or should we treat it as a didactic ritual, as the Greeks did?
But radical problems, as Urban Warrior Alan Parker might say, mean radical solutions, and you probably can’t get much more radical than Kenny Ireland’s solution at the Royal Lyceum, which is to board over the entire stalls and create a promenade performance. The blue n'nse brigade might be trembling at the very prospect of being stuck like rabbits as the lights rise on them for a scene change, but the new environment should give back to the theatre that sense of ‘event’ which was crucial to the Greeks.
‘it’s a help when you’re addressing the children of Thebes that they’re there,’ explains Tom Mannion, who plays the eponymous man of destiny. But the relationship between actor and audience isn‘t the customary modern one: ‘lf you try to make it naturalistic or realistic it won’t work. l’m worried about talking about acting style, because you can get wrapped up in that. Call it the style word.’
The ‘5’ word has ground down many a show, not least Tim Supple’s recent Young Vic production, which had the original cast walking out after disagreements in rehearsal. ‘The original audience in the 5th century BC were much more clued up about characters being metaphors,’ continues Mannion. ‘They’d see the allegory and say, “mmm, yes, we’ve got to be careful of arrogance in our society." So an emphasis on naturalism can get in the way of the actual debate.’ But silly haircuts won’t, for once, get in the way of the view. (Stephen Chester) Oedipus Tyrannos, Royal Lyceum. Edinburgh, 11 Mar—2 Apr.
Joads on the road
The last show director lain Beekie tookontlreroadwitlr7:84lradacast of four. Ile was happy with the results, but as budgets bite, he’s aware that small-cast plays become a commercial not an artistic necessity. lot so, fortunately, with the latest 7:84 project, a collaboration with Dundee Bep that has freed up resources to allow a sixteen-strong adaptation of John Steinbeck’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Grapes of Wrath. ‘lt’s a good thing for both of us to do,’ says Beckie, explaining how Dundee Bep’s name will be spread far and wide, while he and his company will be able to work on an otherwise prohibitively expensive large scale.
Much as the opportunity to work with sixteen actors is a delight for lieekie, it still means substantial doubling of parts to cope with the vast number of characters in the book. The story of the load family fleeing from the Oklahoma Dust Bowl only to be exploited and persecuted on the long road to California is, in Steinbeck’s hands, epic and tragic in its proportions. ‘We’re having to find solutions to problems that are very difficult,’ admits Beekie, ‘but because we’re managing to create an ensemble feel, it’s really productive because you can get to solutions a lot quicker. For me it’s a good way forward, it’s the
way that I want to work.’
With onostage musicians drawing on Dust Bowl folk tunes, particularly the songs of Woody Guthrie, the production seeks to recreate the novel’s sense of wide-open space, where physical scale is matched only by the scope of Stelnbeck’s humanitarian vision. ‘This adaptation is a really strong one,’ says Beekie about Frank Galati’s stage treatment. ‘What it doesn’t try to do is to be the book - that would be a fundamental mistake. What it does really well is capture the spirit of the book. It takes the main events and captures them in a highly theatrical way.’ (Mark Fisher) Grapes of Wrath, 7:84, on tour.
7:84 joins forces with Dundee Rep for an epic staging of The Grapes of Wrath
Ilowever crude and sweeping an assertion it sounds, from a punter’s- eye view the theatre looks like a man’s world populated by women. The dichotomy between the proportion of women who write for the theatre (not many) and the proportion who attend the theatre (um, lots) is something the Traverse Theatre hopes to address, firstly by playing two pieces by women in repertory and secondly by mounting discussions conducted by Canadian playwright Joan Macleod, whose The Ilope Slide will alternate performances with Ann Marie Di Mambro’s Brothers of Thunder.
Both plays mention AIDS, but are otherwise distinct works. The Ilope Slide is a monologue performed by Kathryn Iiowden. She plays the thirtysornething Irene, reviewing her adolescent rebellion, and fixation and identification with the mores of the dhoukhobours, a vagrant Russian community whose unorthodox ways were accepted for a time in Canada.
‘They were Utopian peasants basically,’ says director lan Brown. ‘They didn’t believe in the kind of structures most people believed In. They lived cornmunally, were pacifists and didn’t register things like births, marriages, deaths and land. Most societies find people like that, like the travellers today, really impossible to deal with.’
Another thorny taboo is given a humane face In Brothers of Thunder. A Catholic priest takes in a young gay
man with full-blown AIDS under his roof, and through their relationship tries to reconcile his position in the church and his changing perception of homosexuality. Di Manbro was inspired to tackle the subject through her own experience of the traumas suffered by gay Catholic friends, but to do it from the priest’s compassionate perspective.
‘lt’s assumed, especially in the theatre, that by the time gay people are out, they’ve got it together,’ she says, ‘but there’s a whole range of experiences in there through being gay and being Catholic which deserve airing.’ (Fiona Shepherd) A The Ilope Slide/Brothers Of Thunder, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, 23 Mar-17 Apr.
V NEW PLAY CASE
it’s an old-fashioned notion that the lights shine bright on Broadway, and the streets of London are paved with gold, but still we fall for it, and so the archetype of the starving, bedsit-ridden artist is perpetuated.
Clare Hemphill, once part of the Funny Farm’s successful Cathy and Clare duo and nowadays to be seen requesting the ‘same again‘ in the Scottish Blend advert, has undergone the whole Charade herself and has written a 'spirited comedy’ based on her experiences in the metropolis.
The C use Is Altered
takes two Scottish girls —
Betsy, an actress and Rita, a singer — scratching a living in ‘horrorsville’, London, waiting for the Big Break to beat a path to their door and assiduously avoiding returning to Scotland with nothing to show for their artistic endeavours. it takes an encounter with Elizabeth, an African spiritual healer, to alter their disenchanted outlook.
Elizabeth is played by Angela Bruce, whom fans of television medical dramas will remember as Sandra Ling in Angels. ‘1 read the script and recognised so much in Elizabeth, in the teachings and in thejourney they‘ve gone through.‘ she says.
‘They realise that success is a bit different from what they had thought,‘ explains Hemphill. ‘lt’s more of an internal journey than it is about getting the movie or the hit album. We do think, particularly if you’re in the arts, that success is over there somewhere, and we don’t really star in our own lives most of the time because we‘re so busy trying to star in other people’s productions.
‘When i was in London I realised that l’d bought the whole package, that somebody, somewhere else was going to make it happen for me. Afterl met Elizabeth, in reality that’s when i started to write and l’d never thought about writing before.’ (Fiona Shepherd) The Case ls Altered, Tron Theatre, 17—] 9 Mar.
48 The List 1 1—24 March 1994