Look at the rows of glossy ﬁlm magazines on the shelf at John Menzies and you think you know what a star system looks like. Forget it. because Sharon Stone. Clint Eastwood and Robert De Niro are mere minor players compared to the true greats: Amitabh Baeehan. Anil Kapoor and Salman Khan. OK. so you might go and see a ﬁlm because Harrison Ford's in it. you might even fancy him a bit. but unlike Baeehan fans. you probably don‘t worship him as a god.
For the lndian ﬁlm industry is. and this might come as a bit of a surprise. the biggest in the world. Bombay churns out so many ﬁlms that it's known as Bollywood. and it‘s not unknown for the stars to work on six ﬁlms at a time — three on the same day in some cases — but being gods it's not too difﬁcult. So elevated are they within lndian culture that they frequently go on to become politicians who. despite blatant incompetence and corruption. are continually re-elected to ofﬁce.
Not surprisingly. given their popularity and cultural signiﬁcance. Indian ﬁlms do tend toward the formulaic. There's a choice between action thriller or musical romances. and it‘s the latter which director Keith Khan has now brought to the theatrical stage. Mari Ruti. Put!!! Chunni (‘Thick Bread. Thin Veils‘) features all the epic joys of an lndian ﬁlm (it has a cast often) but has an Anglo-Asian political agenda too. Using ﬁlm projection, scenes of the real black experience in Britain are presented to an audience otherwise involved with intrigue. scandal and a bit of symbolic san' tugging. Khan hopes that the use of such cross-media techniques will not only undercut the received view of the Asian community. but also introduce new audiences to the theatre. There‘s a few show-stopping song and dance numbers in there. but whether the hero will appear on a white charger. as is traditional. I forgot to ask. (Stephen Chester)
Mari Rafi. Pultli Chumzi. New Athenaeum. Glasgow. Tue 3—511! 7 May.
Lies, damn lies
It’s easy to see the way television and cinema have re-strung our emotions. llow sane men and women sniff during Baywatch, sob openly - I’ve seen them - at Spielberg and fall head over heels in love with two celluloid cheekbones and a mouth. What happens when we leave the multiplex in the pouring rain or go to bed alone? Where are the landscapes of our dreams?
Scottish theatre group, Glanjamfrie, takes this as the premise for its Mayfest show, Bloody Miracles, Beautiful Lies. Focusing on the void between celluloid and the human heart, the play is a poetic enactment of four people’s attempts to make sense of a world fragmented by mass- media melodrama.
‘We quite specifically began with certain themes we wanted to work with,’ says director Emma Davie. We
wanted to use American films and what we call the Witness; a term we use for looking at life round about us. In a way the play is about the two worlds meeting with characters who have traces of memories of filmic fiction which they can’t feel in a kind of limbo-land.’
Using video projections and landscapes of films such as Thelma and Louise, The Shining and anything by Gassavetes, the characters try and place themselves inside the fiction. ‘They’re on a journey to find an emotional resonance. To find out what their real experience is, not to feel like the world is out there, but to feel they are part of it. And so they try to stop feeling like life is happening in a film and become totally immersed in it.’
Glanjamfrie is highly regarded for its lively, experimental performance work which feels rather than tells. But why should a Scottish theatre company feel the need to look west?
‘I think you can’t look at your own identity without looking at the colonisation of the imagination. When we started Glanjamfrie it was very much about the Scottish identity but it gradually didn’t seem real anymore. To look at our own identity we had to look at other things. Where is the life of our inner minds?’
Well off-kilter, with a unique and tangible insight into 20th century life, Glanjamfrie leads the way in Scottish performance theatre. Post-modernism for post-Hollywood confusion. (Beatrice Colin)
Bloody Miracles, Beautiful Lies, Tramway, Glasgow. Sat 30 Apr—Wed 4 May, Fri G—Sat 7 May.
. Pier pressure
‘I wrote it to entertain myself,’ says David Kane about his black farce, Dumbstruck, ‘so I was a bit worried when the Tron said they wanted to do it!’ Would audiences object, he fretted, to too many in-jokes in a play about theatre people? Would anyone but himself be amused by the references to end-of-the-pier entertainers and cabaret crooners from the sad end of the 60s? Would all but the sickest of voyeurs be repulsed by the mounting pile of corpses in the living room of Mrs llusk’s theatrical lodging house?
Probably not. Like most of the best comedy, Kane’s play is based on strong characters, many of whom lived independent lives in his imagination for some years before he came to write it. The first draft was turned out remarkably quickly in a matter of weeks, but the intervening three-year wait (during which the script won a lucrative LWT Plays on Stage Award) allowed Kane the distance to revise the play objectively. ‘l would prefer in future not to write to commission,’ he says, liking the freedom of his imagination more than the dictates of a director. To prove the point, he has four TV scripts on the go, none of which were commissioned and all of which are being considered for production - one he has even been asked to direct himself.
As farces go, Dumbstruck owes something to the blackness of Joe Orton and the humanity of Dario Fo - and Kane also expresses a liking for earlier dramatists like Congreve. ‘l’m a big Orton fan,’ he says, ‘but my approach is more basic - I’m after the laughs.’ Mixed together with a Glaswegian energy, a spot of rock ’n’ roll and a first-rate cast that includes Forbes Masson, Eileen McGallum and Jimmy Chisholm, you can see why director Michael Boyd has high hopes of taking the show on a major main- stage tour next year. Boyd describes the script, which is published in the new edition of Theatre Scotland, as one of the funniest he has ever read but, says Kane, the first thing the company has had to crack is the reality of the piece. ‘Boyd has gone for the truth. It has to have its own internal logic to work.’ (Mark Fisher) Dumbstruck, The Tron Theatre, Glasgow, Fri 29 Apr—Sun 22 May.
‘I can‘t think of a single
human being who could read the book and not like it.‘ says Renu Setna. ‘lt is a book which is full not just of beautiful language but beautiful thought as well. if you‘re feeling depressed or miserable then you can pick up the book and read one page
' and you're uplifted and well.‘
There are certain cult books that frequently drive their reader/followers into an evangelistic fervour: at some point in life almost
everyone has a well-wont ‘ paperback copy of
(Hitcher In The Rye/Zen And The Art 0] Motorcycle Maintunenee/On The Road pushed into their hands by a bright-eyed friend who instructs them to go. go and read it. now. it will change your life. Probably the mother of them all is Kahil Gibran's The Prophet a sort of poem-cuiii-instruction manual on life. the universe and everything. and it is this book that actor Renu Setna has attempted to stage. Despite his deep love of
the book. it‘s not been an ; easy task: friends told him it couldn't be done and he
spent several months working on and off with a tentative script. But the production offered a more meaningful pursuit than the roles of ‘Peter Sellars-
type Indian characters' he was then being bombarded with. and he
eventually settled on a gestural style that war conﬁned to a small patch of light. In 1987 Setna started a tour which took him to the Almaida Theatre in London. and he is now re-leaming the role for the Mayfest dates. He's getting nervous about the shows he claims. but in true Gibran style. points out that it‘s probably a good thing. (Stephen Chester)
The Prophet. Arches Theatre. Glasgow. Tue 3—Star 8 May.
15 The List 22 April—5 May l994