ROLL OVER, PLAY DEAD
Better known to Edinburgh audiences for mime and physical theatre, DAVID GLASS and PETA LILY return this year with Beg.’, their first feature ﬁlm. Alan Morrison joins them in a violent, grungey world of oppression.
fa woman wanted to make the perfect man,
what she would do is get “man’s best
friend” - something loyal and kind like a
dog — and put it inside the man. When the
dog began to shake around and move
about, she’d have the perfect man. In a horriﬁc sort of way.’
Not, you would have thought, the easiest way to get yourself a better boyfriend, but such Cronenbergian transformations are at the heart of Beg!, a mind-blowingly original new British film that has its first public screening at this year‘s Drambuie Edinburgh Film Festival. The script has been expanded by theatre director David Glass and choreographer/actress Peta Lily, in collaboration with award-winning photographer and commercials director Robert Golden, from their two-handed stage play which toured in late l992/early I993.
Beg! takes place in the claustrophobic environment of the St Caninus Hospital, a post- NHS, under-staffed. under-funded bedlam where a series of grisly murders are adding to the general disintegration. Injected with an incapacitating serum. the still-breathing victims have their stomachs sliced open and their pet pooch slipped inside; the resulting explosions a few minutes later are more akin to a body-horror gorefest than Lassie Come Home. The first corpse is discovered to he the lover of Dr Penny Second (Lily), who is already under pressure as she tries to cope with her dying father and keep her women’s ward open in the face of strong
14 The List 19—25 August 1994
opposition from the hospital’s misogynistic board. Assigned to the case is Detective Sergeant Stiltskin (Philip Pellew), who develops a puppy-like affection for Penny while straining at the end of a leash held by enigmatic. cyberpunk security boss Hal (Oleg Federov).
The film is tilled with sumptuously gory images that perfectly bring together director Golden’s brilliant photographic compositions. production designer Harry Metcalfe’s richly varied sets and associate director Glass’s smoothly stylised handling of the actors’ movements. Everything is played out in a melodramatic. hyper- realistic world where whodunnit thriller meets love story meets sci-f1 horror. Another important factor that adds to the thematic and visual texture of the whole is the story’s fairy tale dimension, which was more explicit in the stage original, but lingers on in Stiltskin‘s name, the conflict of heroes and villains, the intertwining levels of transformation and countless other atmospheric touches.
‘In the play,’ explains Lily, ‘Penny wasn’t looking at a photo album when she visited her sick father. but was actually reading the story of Red Riding Hood, the version where at the end the grandmother tells her to cut open the wolf's
Everything is played out in a melodramatic, hyper-realistic world
where whodunnit thriller meets love story meets sci-ii horror.
Philip Pellew plays Det Sgt Stiltskin
stomach and sow some stones inside. We made the choice not to put fairy tales directly into the film in order to keep it a world apart. We didn’t want to give the film a literary stance or have it become something people would intellectualise about. because fairy tales are often used in a very knowing, psychological way in order to make some kind of political statement, particularly in terms of sexual politics . . . I’m very gratiﬁed when women see the film and find a pretty fresh depiction of that sense of oppression and claustrophobia, with a woman working against a male power structure and surviving as the underdog. But it’s not coming from any political stance. it’s coming from the heart. It’s something rarely dealt with in a movie that‘s as funny and grand guignol as
this.’ 8ng stands defiantly outside typical British mainstream theatre, which is hardly surprising given the pedigrees of its creators. Golden, an American, has worked as a photojournalist for Life and The New York Times and has directed television advertisements across the world. Glass, recently named Director of the Year by the Theatre Managers Association, grew up in the States and studied at both the London School of Contemporary Dance and the Etienne 4