maim— Thunder struck

Stephen Chester sees two new plays by women, running concurrently at the Traverse.

There’s nothing to match the fn'sson of drama created within a small space: there‘s an intimacy and directness which is lost the moment the actors move out of spitting distance. So it‘s good to see two new shows being performed in the diminutive Traverse Two, particularly as they’re both the sort of immediate. personal dramas that tend to benefit from being able to see the whites of their thespian eyes. Canadian Joan MacLeod’s The Hope Slide is the sort of interactive monologue that integrates the audience into the drama by addressing it directly in a variety of guises. It’s a good ploy for making you feel emotionally involved. especially when it’s performed by someone of Kathryn Howden’s immense talent. The narrator. a Canadian actress on tour. takes us through her 3am anxiety alarm-call during a particularly dark night of the soul. while another voice that of the actress as a troubled adolescent - reads out a schoolroom lecture on the plight ofthe Doukhobors. a Russian religious sect who settled in Canada. The different voices provide a rich mosaic. setting high comedy so seamlesst against moments of deep pathos that you become aware that this is great writing

Joan Macleod's The Hope Slide

from an author confident enough in her an to avoid any deliberate verbal pyrotechnics.

Even Godless homophobes couldn’t fail to be moved.

The only flaw is that the final metaphor fails to bind together the disparate storylines that have gripped us for the last hour-and-a-half. Alternater the whole drama could be about the attempt to find coherence and meaning in the incoherent and meaningless. and ultimately the Canadian actress can't find sense in senseless acts of God. disease and death. Or maybe MacLeod has found the perfect balance between being clever enough to intrigue her audience without giving them all the answers and being entertaining enough to make them want to see the show again in order to get those answers: let‘s hope she gets paid per punter.

Another show, sharing the same space | and again resisting any sense of closure is Ann Marie di Mambro’s Brothers of Thunder. ‘Young homosexual with AIDS lodges in Catholic priest’s house‘ might be the slightly-less-than- appealing synopsis if you like a bit of drama with your issue-based dramas. but fortunately the indignant hectoring which sometimes marks AIDS plays is completely absent from this production.

Indeed. the major theme of this impressive new play seems to be an investigation into the nature of faith: will the increasingly ill John find forgiveness or faith before his death. and will the priest find a spiritual love outside dogma? The struggles between the two and within themselves are carried out with the kind of precise subtlety that makes the offering of a cup of tea a cataclysmic event. and it‘s a mark of the sensitivity of direction that such inconsequentialities can be dramatically loaded without becoming crass.

This eloquent non-conununication is expertly carried out by the actors. Finlay Welsh as the once-rebellious priest seems to ooze the very smell of sanctity and must sanctum: you can tell he’s having a crisis because he gets annoyed about people not putting their prayer books back.

In the end you get the impression that Di Mambro recognises the necessity of Church and faith. but rejects the bigotry through which homosexuality is condemned. This may of course be a complete misreading of her intentions. but the issues raised ultimately we‘re talking about the fault lines between universal and individual love are such that even Godless homophobes couldn't fail to be moved.

The Hope Slide and Brothers of Thunder; Traverse Theatre. lidinlmreh. on various days until Sun I 7 April.


Seen at The Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh. On tour. Steinbeck’s classic story of the .loads’ ioumey from dust-bowl Oklahoma to verdant California resonates with contemporary themes. The displaced family, forced from the land which has swallowed the blood of generations, discovers a world where individuals are blind to the misfortunes of their fellow travellers, where technology seduces people away from their roots, - where unyielding capital sucks the workers dry of all their vital juices. They are themes that 7:84, among all theatre companies, is ideally placed to pick up and expand. In Dundee Rep, it has found a complementary partner. Anne Kidd and Iain Stuart Robertson, as the solid, loving and forgiving Ma and Pa Joad, are the perfect focus for an extended family torn apart by the conflicting demands and desires of its members. Uncle John’s self doubt, young Al’s roving eye and Rose of Sharon’s pregnancy. But the central performances of Tom McGovern as Casey the air-preacher and Paul Meade as Tom Joad, lead the cast through their long ioumey along Route 66

Herein lies the play’s downfall. Most of it is set on the road, as the famin travels around in its worn-out ialopy,

setting up camp in one place after another, constantly moving on. No sooner has Casey evoked an image of folk getting together to right society’s wrongs, or Tom revealed an unsuspected depth, than the play breaks camp and continues its jerky perambulations around the stage. Director lain Reekie has turned to a cinematic convention in an attempt to overcome this drawback: an on-stage sound-track of music, which, although

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dead: on the road in The Grapes of we:

it helps, does not succeed in overcoming the irritation of the broken narrative.

The Grapes of Wrath should not, however, be judged on difficulties imposed by transferring novel to stage. It is a play about spirit, about love, about honest people standing up and being counted. This production has these and more: it has an under- pinning sense of hope. (Thom ledin)

Thurs 7 - Sat 9 April Dundee Rep 8. 7:84 Theatre Go THE GRIIPES Of WRHTII

from the novel by John Steinbeck

Wed 13 - Sat 16 April Wildcat Otl lltltl'l' R IOVEIY IIIIR loan tittleurood': muricol entertainment

Nuns 21 April CALL THAT SINGING! fllOll fl E An evening of song and laughter with Glasgow's singing audience.

Fri 22 & Sat 23 April Winged Horse '


GIRGDIT By Tom McGrath

Tues 26 April TAG DESPERIITE IOIIRIIEY From the novel by Kathleen Fiddler '

Wed 27April Friends of Cunbernauld Theatre KIRKInTlthGII VIIRIE'I'Y ORCHESTRII

thus 27 April [It'th I'OOIIDG Charity gig featuring 5 local bands

Fri 29 8 Sat 30 April llnit One Theatre IIOT ll I'IIGII'I' RT TIIE SORRY by Simon Sharkey

ox ornce 0255 132881

The List 8—2] April 1994 47