BEET— Grace In America

Grace In America It’s not often you get the stage eqtrivalent to a road movie. which is odd ifyou think about it. Because for all the much touted benefits of travel. it is essentially a very static experience: stuck inside a train compartment or a bus seat or small metal box. you're required to remain in the same confined space for a vast period of time. with only the back projection altering. And do you actually go anywhere at all'.’ When you get to wherever you're going it is. in the words of Paul Gaugin. ‘still you'.

And this haunts the hcros of Antoine () Flathaita‘s (irace In America. a gripping study of immigrant cultures struggling to deal with their synthesised identities. Sean and Pinbar are two lrish likely lads. looking for America with a guitar and a holiday visa they are determined to outstay. But they‘ve been living in their imagined America for so long that the real thing doesn't quite match their expectations. The stage is set for a clash with an elderly couple they stay with. relatives w ho left Ireland in l‘)-l7. For that couple an imagined Ireland is their homeland. and the realities of Sean and Finbar‘s country of Japanese factories and unemployment is a threat to them.

which aren‘t reducible to a simple argument or statement. and which are all the more fascinating for that. There's a narrative flow which makes the seemingly disparate musings cohere: the boys are on a pilgrimage to the holy shrine of‘Graceland. but will they find the King or kitsch souvenir shops? At the end of the play when the older couple speak the names of the places they knew in Ireland and the lads list the names of American cities. there isn’t so much sadness as a sense of struggling toward something unarticulated and forever out of reach. (Stephen Chester)

Grace In America. ’I'raverse Theatre. Edinburgh. until Sat /4 May.

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Mark Fisher samples the shows in Mayfest’s opening weekend.

I don't want to fall into the trap of comparing all theatre in Mayfest to the Maly. That would be neither fair nor constructive. With a degree of humility. if not awe. we should watch this Russian company. soak in its atmospheres. admire the richness of its characterisations. allow ourselves to be beguiled at its measured precision. and then accept any other theatre for what it

It‘s not that British theatre is incapable simply that it is structurally disinclined

opened the Maly‘s two-week. five- production run. was all but abandoned by director Lev Dodin after his initial

sensed it was not quite right. Time and new experiences refuelled the company ‘s passion for the play. which

rehearsal run. That might sound like a

would argue that art comes cheap ~- but The (.'/ierr_\' ()rc/rarrl will now take a popular place in in the company's repertoire for years and that makes

thousands of productions that are frittered away in a matter of weeks every year over here.

* ~ :4; Benchtours in The Bridge And when companies do try to do

something new. innovative and

different. as both Benchtours and

C‘lanjamfrie are doing this Mayfest. we

are all too aware that the odds are

stacked against them. Both The Bridge and Bloody Miracles, Beautiful Lies are productions created on and for the stage. dependent on and characterised by total input from every performer. director and technician. Neither company is working from a tried and tested script requiring only a bit of

professional notis to knock out a

competent finished product. Yet both

have to make that same headlong rush to the first night. almost irrespective of the very particular demands that their approach imposes. I say this not so much to apologise for the productions which were. after all. warmly greeted on their opening nights. more to point out that they are not being created in reliably productive conditions.

That being the case. Benchtours‘ staging of lain Banks‘s 'l'lre [fridge is quite remarkable in its lc\el of technical and physical inventiveness. l-Lasily the company‘s tnost ambitious

production to date. it is also one of its most fully realised. matching Banks‘s dream-like imagination at every turn with swinging girders. huge gauze projections. spiralling hospital beds and coruscating :nusic. Unfortunately. I found the whole thing rather tiresome. partly because of what I couldn't see in this promenade production (and I'm 6ft 2in). I often couldn‘t hear (a coiribination of bad acoustics. poor articulation and dodgy mic connections). but more importantly because too little time is spent on those traditional qualities of characterisation. clear narrative and good acting.

Some tighter discipline on the acting front would also make a difference to Clanjairifrie's Blow/y Miracles. Beautiful Lies. which gets away with a lack of depth only because the company has an endearing and quaintly likeable air about it. Its new show. a trawl through the debris of Americana. opens with a wonderful moving-screen slide show btrt. pleasant and gently amusing though the rest of it is. it lacks anything like the rigour needed to create a corripelling production.

One thing the Maly company teaches us »~ and sorrrething that is attainable is that once you have the focus of mature rounded performances. the audience will happily let you take all the experimental leaps you like. And Benchtours and (‘lanjamfrie could aspire to so mtrch more by taking a few steps back to clear-headed fundamentals.

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Seen at Pavilion, Glasgow. (in tour. ‘She’s an awfy good turn so she is,’ confidently predicted the elderly lady beside me. And judging by said lady’s laughter-wracked shoulders throughout the performance, her initial prediction proved to be well- founded.

Stalwart of TV’s One O’Clock Gang, Dorothy Paul has grown up with her audience, reared on the same ieely- pieces, war-time rations and sangria- soused Spanish holidays. If is these common denominators that permit her to tickle the audience’s funny bone with her now famous Dennistoun stories on which this three-hour show is based.

A predominantly female and middle- aged audience obviously identified with the vivid portrayals of life up an East End close inhabited by ‘wally- dugs’ and ‘windae-hingers’, yet this is no couthy wee nostalgia-fest of Glasgow patter. Paul is not only a sharp-tongued comedian but a first- rate impersonator who jumps from character to character on a carousel through her own life: from whingeing minister to hypochondriac aunty to her own father.

Performer and audience may share the same memory-bank but it is Paul who articulates with zinging spot-on observation the comic aspects of that

shared experience, as she gets hilarious mileage out of everything from a bad perm at the hairdresser’s to the trials and tribulations of being a single mother, to a wicked routine about the infamous clippies (tram conductors).

The standing ovation she received was well-deserved and in the words of the comedian herself: ‘She’d bring a tear to a glass eye, so she would.’ (Ann Donald)

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Seen at Old Athenaeum Theatre, Glasgow. (in tour.

Coming, as the Android Circuit does, from the era of both Blake’s 7 and Sarah Brightman and Hot Gossip’s ‘l

Lost my Heart to a Starship Trouper’, any claims on the part of Tom McGrath that the science-fiction medium was a cultural no-no at the time of writing are to be roundly refuted. If anything, it’s now, when SF has moved on to the sophistication of Star Trek: The Next Generation, that plays like this have to be pitched at the kitsch market where the world of fluorescent sets, flashing lights, green velour iumpsuits, nourishment in pill form and props from the Blue Peter workshops goes down a (freak asteroid) storm. In short, despite a good few laughs at the glorified silliness of it all, it’s not at all apparent what Winged Horse saw in the raw material to merit a revival.

The cast are three: Graeme Robertson as hero-next-door Astro, Andrew Dallmeyer as Sylvester, the straight-laced butler with a secret and, best of all, Michelle Gomez as the female android Ruby on a fact-finding mission which could hold the key to the future of the human race but at the very least allows her to explore a litany of daft female stereotypes, from the crotchety domestic to the right-on Sloane.

However good the performances, the substance is so slight that the production comes across more like one of the Tron’s bright, irreverent pantos. Which would be fine, but for the absence of a sing-along segment and a basket of sweeties to throw at the audience. (Fiona Shepherd)

52 The List ()—l() May 199-1