TAG Theatre Company has a remit to take theatre to young people and a reputation for doing so in a radical way. lts refusal l to go ‘playschool'; to compromise. or patronise i its audience has produced work like Clockwork Orange and A Sun's Qaair that sits comfortably beside the best in contemporary theatre.

Desperate Journey. is TAG's first full-length dance piece: the Highland Clearances told through dance. music and Gaelic song. It‘s an emotive subject for many Scots. and as composer Alasdair Nicholson points out. brings present troubles in places like Bosnia. closer to home.

Some would argue that it‘s way too big a subject for dance. Director/ choreographer Andy Howitt. turns the other cheek. ‘The Clearances interested me less from a historical perspective. more for the human interest. Dance offers a direct route into the emotions. and helps people see the story in a new light.‘

‘lt‘s a ballad.’ explains Howitt. ‘describing four distinct worlds.‘ It follows one family. through Glasgow. the long voyage. and finally to Red River. Canada and the hopes and dreams of a new life. The exiled family takes centre stage. but it‘s the singer. Howitt and Nicholson agree. who holds the key. Christine is the 'lynchpin'. the ‘spirit' of the Scots people. and she‘s with the exiles from Sutherland. to Canada. and beyond. ‘A nation‘s spirit.‘ says Howitt. ‘is hard to define. but it’s

passionate and real. and you can. express it.‘ Looks like being yet another TAG production that’s not just child's play. (Ellie Carr) Desperate Journey. RSAMD. Glasgow. [2—H May.

TAG’s Desperate Journey l l l

Getting the goat

The images we receive of the USA are generally governed by the demands of the mass market. We get Hollywood, we get sitcoms, we get hamburgers and we get stadium rock. Everything from popcorn to politics is presented with the same Disneyfied sheen.

So at first glance it seems odd that the CCA, home of the artistic renegade, should focus a season on Chicago. Poland or Catalonia we could understand, but surely there’s little to be learned from the Windy City? Not so, says CCA performance director Mark Waddell, there is more to the States than meets the eye. ‘This is the hidden face of America,’ he says, ‘and i the artists are trying to change the i face that we do see.’

lined up for the middle week of

{ Mayfest, Chicago on Chicago is a

' running programme oi events which include music, theatre, video and discussion. The provocative and highly-political Goat Island returns

! with a retrospective of three shows from the past five years, acid-jazz

g innovators The Ritual Trio will play a

l gig at King Tut’s, and performance artists Iris Moore and Lawrence Steger will be playing around with gender identity. What is special about the

3 Chicago scene, says Waddell, is that artists of all disciplines are actively

involved in creating their own working ; environment. ‘There are a lot of artist-

run spaces,’ he says. ‘That doesn’t exist on the same scale here. Many artists in Chicago have seized control of their own means of production.’

Envious though they may be of our public funding system, artists in Chicago, through force of circumstance, have developed a degree of cross-fertilisation between disciplines and a level of social engagement that is rare in this country. Wardell hopes we can learn from this and believes it is productive to look to another city (even though Chicago is several times larger than Glasgow) to compare working methods. ‘It’s not New York, it’s not LA, in the same way that Glasgow is not London,’ he says. ‘Artists in Chicago have said, “We’ll have the freedom to develop our own eccentricities”.’ (Mark Fisher) Chicago on Chicago, CCA, Glasgow, Mon 9—Sat 14 May.

Goat Island represents Chicago's cutting edge

mem- String work

~ /'\4. a“ Just as the deposing of Thatcher caused panic in the world of British comedy by removing half a stand-up’s act at a stroke, so the ‘Ilew South Africa’ is causing a few problems for that nation’s theatrical community.

‘The Market is in transition just as the country is in transition,’ commented Barney Simon, artistic director of the Market Theatre, the Johannesburg venue which has become South Africa’s primary exporter of challenging work. The end of apartheid has brought about the end of protest theatre, and the search is on to find forms and stories which reject the old simplicities of black and white.

One such work is Paul Slabolepszy’s Mooi Street Moves, a naturalistic piece in which a white visitor from the country arrives at his brother’s flat to find his brother absent and the flat

occupied by a black conman. Penniless, the white is obliged to share the flat for three weeks, during which a reversed Pygmalion-style situation comes about, with the black street hawker indoctrinating him in the ways of Johannesburg’s meaner streets.

Another response to South Africa’s revolution comes from Cape Town’s Handspring Puppet Company. Initially the aim of the company was to write new puppet plays for children, as they believed these would be more suited to the African context than most of the children’s theatre being produced. As it turned out, their productions were a lot more relevant than some of the adult theatre, and they began to produce multi-medla pieces which included film, puppets and actors, addressing themselves to a more mature audience.

Woyzeck On The Highveld is just such a production, adapting Buchner’s classic of nihilism to a contemporary South African context. The ‘puppet on a string’ becomes both a metaphor for the hero Woyzeck and a fact in itself, the sort of tactic used throughout the production to illustrate the artificiality of the play while creating a more intense fictional reality. Conventions may be shattered, but as Rainer Maria Bilke said of Woyzeck: ‘This is theatre, thus could be theatre.’ (Stephen Chester)

Mooi Street Moves, Arches Theatre, Tue 10—Sun 15 May, Woyzeck On The Highveld, Old Athenaeum, Wed 18-Sat 21 May.

Burning issue

The grandmother in Gabriel Garcia Marquez' The Incredible And Sad Story (If Candid lirenr/ira and Her Hear/less (Irma/nunher is not described thus with any sense of irony. At the beginning of the play, performed by Cuba's Buendia Theatre Company. she spends her days reflecting on lost youth and forcing her granddaughter to do the housework. When Erendira accidentally burns the house down the grandmother obliges her to turn to prostitution in order to pay for the damage. The full extent of the grandmother‘s coronary vacuity is revealed as the play progresses: it‘s not long before Erendira is sold to a circus.

Not that it's all bad for the young Erendira: she is at one point canonised by local villagers because of the joy her sexual services have bestowed upon them. This play being a product of that master of magic realism Marquez. means that pretty much anything can hapen. and usually does. necessitating that Buendia employ a flexible. metamorphic style to communicate this infinite possibility. Cymbals turn into scrubbing brushes. feathered fans replace the grandmother's words and her intestines become a red silk handkerchief. And being a product of Cuba means the play carries the marks ofa great cultural collision between the Afro-Caribbean and the Latin American, with actors engaged in Afro- Cuban rituals. ballet. circus and cabaret.

The compelling imagery which Buendia present in the telling ofthis disturbing tale has left critics scrabbling in the thesaurus under ‘haunting' and ‘beautiful'. although there is less consensus when it comes to explaining what the play is about. is it a folk tale or a metaphor‘.’ Possibly none ofthe above. but just to add an item oftrivia which may or may not have relevance to the production: the show's director. Flora Lauten, was the last Miss Cuba. before the revolution put a stop to such things. (Stephen Chester)

Imim'eat Erendira. Mite/tell Thea/re. Mmt 9—l’ri [3 May.

14 The List 6—19 May 1994