Howard Barker is not a playwright you would readin categorise in the ‘Easy- listening' section oftheatre. But his latest play, Hated Nightfall, performed by the Wrestling School and directed for the first time by Barker himself. has been critically acclaimed as his most accessible to date.
‘A provocative historical phantasia‘ as it was hailed by one critic, the drama is part meditation on the idea of history as progress. part bitter comedy and part dissection of the morality of political assassination. The action centres on the hours preceding one of history‘s greatest secrets: the execution of the Russian Imperial family on 18 July. I918. As Barker explains, his imagination was kickstarted into action by the recent discovery of two unidentiﬁed sets of remains and the historical mystery that surrounded them.
For Barker, his choice of subject matter is a natural progression from earlier themes. ‘This is very much within my territory.‘ he says referring to the Romanovs‘ assassination. ‘l’ve always written about the body and even the plays I wrote in the early 70s were concerned with the talisrnanic qualities of the human body.‘ Indeed. the playwright has conjured up a distinctly complex and highly theatrical version of events, imagining the remains to be those of Jane the stoIid servant and Dancer. the main protagonist, Royal children‘s tutor and erstwhile family execuuoner
Barker’s longtime collaborator Ian McDiarmid assumes the oscillating role of Dancer that has attracted most of the praise for the drama. A mercurial character torn betweem his self- appointed role as loquacious ‘doorman- of-the-century' and the warped romantic seduced by the glamour of the family he is meant to dispose of. Dancer is seen in very sympathetic terms by Barker. ‘He is a modem saint. His desire for martyrdom was caused by his failure to recognise everything in the world that was worth existing for. In that sense it‘s a profoundly classic posture.‘ (Ann Donald)
Hated Nightfall. Tramway. Glasgow, 26—28 May.
Silence is golden
thA’s last production, the epic Sabotage at the Tramway, took you on a tactile lourney through the body, exploring various areas and experiences of human physicality. flow Angus Farquhar and his team turn to human psychology with The Silent Twins, a shadowy study which uses for the first time a source text, Marjorie Wallace’s gripping account of the extraordinary lives of identical twins June and Jennifer Gibbons.
Mute to everyone bar each other, the girls grew up communicating in their own private vocabulary, sharing an exclusive interior world with their toys, which they documented in extensive diaries, and living a petty criminal existence that led to their indefinite committal to Broadmoor. Theirtifelong power games came to an inexplicable end when Jennifer died on the day of her release.
thA takes this wealth of raw material and attempts to convey something of the twins’ private obsessions as well as posit wider questions about care in the community. Farquhar is tight-tipped about specifics, but the presence of a storyline and the intimate setting in Old Partick Police Station’s prison cells suggest a degree of lip-service to theatrical tradition.
‘It’s such a strange story, there’s no need to be abstract,’ he says. ‘You imagine an argument you’re having with someone which is so strong that
4.3»: . IVA turns to psychology with The Silent Twins you completely blank out the outside world. The internal struggle going on between them was such a focal point for their lives that nothing else mattered.’
Rappers Julie and Jennifer Pinto, identical twins from London, were awarded the central roles after a thorough nationwide search. In one of life's little Twilight Zone scenarios, it transpires that Julie was initially going to be called June before her mother decided that it didn’t have the right ring to it. Not wishing to violate a freaky coincidence, Jennifer P. will play Jennifer C. Although we only have Farquhar’s word for this — the girls are, after all, identical. (Fiona Shepherd)
The Silent Twins, Old Partick Police Station, CIaSgow, Fri 20 May—Sun 5 Jun.
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Adddetscneofthreelfrican dance companies at the King’s, Edirlnegh
Jackie Guy is something of a black dance guru in Britain. ile’s lively, charismatic and admired as the artistic director of Kokuma Dance theatre. For the past six years he has choreographed their shows and taught and introduced black dance throughout the country. ‘We fuse African and Caribbean dance and music with the black British experience to make it something of a dance theatre,’ he says.
Kokuma is a ltlgerlan word meaning
‘This one will never die’, and the company’s twelve dancers and drummers will be gracing Edinburgh’s King’s Theatre stage together with Adzido Pan-African Dance Ensemble and the Phoenix Dance Company from Leeds. All three companies will present dance that has its roots in the African and Caribbean traditions and, while it may sound a cliché, they are sure to be colourful, exuberant and entertaining.
The Awakening, Kokuma’s show, tells the story of an inner-city couple who are confused about their identity. Raga Boy is interested in reggae music and clubs; Marcia is into contemporary dance. They are guided by a Brief, or spiritual leader, who, after watching Raga Boy nearly kill himself with drugs, invites the two to an African ceremony where they are cleansed. They emerge with an understanding of their own heritage as black Britons.
‘Dur production clearly shows the difference between African dance, which is more grounded and rooted to the floor, and the ballet and modern styles, which leave the floor,’ Buy explains. ‘Tell the people of Scotland that they are going to see a really beautiful show. it’s not because I am the artistic director, it is just a very good production.’ (Tarnan Grainger) Dance Week, King’s Theatre, Edinburgh Mon 30 May—Sat 4 Jun.
()ne of the less publicised theatrical success stories of recent years is the rise of Wiseguise Productions. This small proﬁt-share company. dedicated to putting on new writing. has followed in the wake of Raindog and Fifth Estate — all companies of actors doing it for themselves. Tire company‘s successes have been several: last year's run of Martin McCardie's Damaged Gum/s played 3 to near-capacity audiences at the Citz and has now been published by [)ualchas. and Kenneth : Glennan is up for a Best Actor award on the London Fringe for his role in Mike Cullen’s The Cut, which is to be published by Methuen next year. Meanwhile McCardie has been appointed Script Editor for BBC Scotland. having struck a deal that will allow him to keep a i hand in with Wiseguise. l His second play. The ’ li’is/ring Tree is the company‘s latest project. Set in the fictional [.anarkshire village of Carbay (closely based on McCardie‘s old home town of Carluke). the play is an attack on the way post-industrial Scotland has a tendency to invent its own mythological past. ‘People begin to invent a Celtic identity for themselves that they‘ve never had before. because they can sell it.‘ he says. ‘For example in Coatbridge there‘s a time capsule and New Lanark‘s got its train journeys through this “village”. All the industrial areas are getting transformed into something that tourists will go to. There‘s a character in the play whose idea is if there's not enough legends. we make them up! These cosmetic changes are glossing over what the problems are — they‘re pretending they never happened.‘ (Mark Fisher) The Wishing Tree, (m tour, Tue 3] MayﬁS'u/r 3 Jul.
54 The List 20 May—2 June 1994