Company of wolves

Stephen Chester spoke to Matthew Zajac of Plain Clothes Productions and found out how he keeps his act together.

You‘ve probably seen them: luvvie grey hairs nodding sagely and mumbling ‘Ah. ensemble piece.‘ to each other.

But what does it all mean? ‘Not since the balmy days ofJoan Littlewood‘s original Theatre Workshop company . . . have I seen ensemble playing of such disciplined energy.‘ blurts the Plain Clothes Productions flyer in a manner that suggests it‘s a good. if obvious thing.

‘lt‘s quite simple: we don't have a star system.‘ elucidates director Matthew Zajac. to the sounds of scales falling. ‘Obviously some parts are bigger than others. but basically it‘s to do with a company developing a style of performance where the very simple tenets of acting are going on people listening and responding to each other. It’s important that the company collectively has a very strong understanding ofthe plays they‘re doing. and an agreement about its meaning. and that they are able to collaborate as fully as possible in the rehearsal room.‘

The fourth show that Plain Clothes have worked on together is Michael Boswonh’s Wolf. premiering at the Traverse this Festival. The piece is set

) 'r,’ ,'.

in the Balkans. with a victorious commanding officer attempting to re- animate his brutalised, psychotic daughter by forcing the last surviving refugee to tell her stories.

‘The play‘s not a documentary. we‘re not trying to educate the audience in the events ofthe Yugoslav crisis it‘s a 7 tnuch tnore personal attempt to explore the idea that the only way people who‘ve lost their homes and families can make any sense of their own identity is by telling stories about their past. l think one of the writer‘s premises is that in a chaotic. fragmented world the ability to hang on f to any coherent sense of one‘s identity 3 is very difficult. but there‘s a ' compulsion to tell stories to give a sense of humanity.‘


Plain Clothes Productios: keeping the we" from the door

Unfortunately for the refugee. his real

memories are too painful to relate. so

he fabricates a tale about being descended front wolves: the daughter then forces him to tell the truth . . . ‘l won‘t tell you what happens next.‘ teases Zajac.

The result is a movement-based. allegorical piece which was developed

; during the rehearsal process by

I emphasising images to match words. Zajac knows they‘re an ensemble but.

‘The style? It's realistic. poetic. visceral

. . . I'm sorry. I‘ve never sat down and articulated the style I‘ve worked in.‘ (Stephen Chester)

I Wolf (Fringe) Plain Clothes

: Productions. Traverse Theatre (Venue

15) 228 1404. until 3 Sept. various times. £7 (£4).

Morte Do Gapoeira

‘Bloody unbelievable’, said a recent article in Champion magazine. And that It Is. Throwaway one-handed cartwheels; Ioose-Iimbed turning kicks; spinning on lolnts and heads; razor sharp reflexes and deep, hypnotic rhythms. This Is Capoelra: the African Brazilian fight dance Ionn that was Illegal In Brazil until1930, and has since become a national pastime that’s spreading into Europe and the States. It’s unlikely that you’ll know It by name, but Its face may well be farnlliar. In Its popular Ionn Bapoeira has featured In the films of Jean Claude Van Bamme, the

entertainment slot at the 1994 Oscars, ? a Broadway production of West Side j Story and is reputed (amidst various g counter claims) to have been the inspiration behind break-dancing. Capoeira has finally found Its place in the sun but it's been a long time In coming. ‘It was developed by African slaves in Brazil as a fighting form,’ explains Sylvia Bazzarelli who along with Marcos Dos Santos runs the London School of Capoeira and the company Passo a Passo. ‘The lighting was disguised within the dance and the African tradition so the slave masters wouldn’t recognise it as a form of self-defence. Self-defence or self-expression, the Portuguese colonists and the Brazilian authorities were none too impressed and for many years the Capoeiristas were hunted. Back in the early 80s when Bazzarelli first discovered Capoeria It was still

confined to the back streets of Brazil.

‘The place I trained in was quite

= rough,’ says Bazzarelli. ‘The Capoeira

master took kids in to train as a way

of keeping them off the streets. They

would train every night and soon became highly skilled, but it was only when it became popular in North America and Europe that it began to gain respect here in Brazil.’

Bazzarelli has been In Britain now for seven years and here too the fluid acrobatic dance and sharp wit of Capoeria combat is beginning to make its mark. The touring company Passo a Passo makes its first visit to Scotland this Festival following sell out gigs at the likes of Lilian Bales, Jazz Cafe, the Barblcan and the Womad Festival. Suffice to say, not every bit of blinding skill that comes out of Brazil wears a football strip. (Ellie Carr)

Morte no Capoeira (Fringe) Passo A Passo, Pleasance (Venue 33) 556 6550, 29 Aug-3 Sept, 5.20pm, £7 (£5).


Ellie Carr dives Into the murky waters of the Fringe Programme and pins down five of the best, forget the rest shows between three and six in the afternoon.

I Backgreen Belter Another wee cracker from Glasgow‘s favourite son. playwright John Binnie. as Clyde Unity play a ‘hi-energy. bittersweet comedy‘ tale of a ‘gallus disco diva‘ set in an 80s. west coast town.

Brie/(green Belter (Fringe) (.'l_vde Unity Theatre. Theatre workshop (V'nue 20) 226 5425. until 3 Sept. 5.30pm. £5.50 (£3.50).

I Theater YBY ()thello ‘as you‘ve never seen it before‘ as the acclaimed Austrian actors of YBY put a riotous. slapstick spin on a classic piece of Shakespeare they call The Pool. Not to be confused with Theatre-on-Podol‘s version of ()thello which actually takes place in a pool (Infirmary Street baths to be precise).

The Pool (Fringe) 'l'heater YBY (Austria), Theatre ll’orkshop (Venue 20) 226 5425. 22 Aug-J Sept. 3.30pm. £5.50 (£3.50).

l Funny Black Women (In The Edge Get a load of ‘En Vogue with cellulite‘ as the ‘Funny Black Women‘ cut a chocful. showful of golden girl gags in a white man‘s comedy world.

Funny Blaek Women On The Edge (Fringe) Gilded Balloon Theatre (Venue 38) 226 215/, until 3 Sept. 4pm. £6 ( £5).

I The Brother Ireland's leading comic actor Eamon Morrissey. spins a Flann O‘Brien yarn or five. Wry humour and sharp philosophy frotn the bottom of a pint glass.

The Brother (Fringe) Eamon

M orriss‘e)‘. Assembly Rooms ( Venue 3) 226 2428. 4pm. £7.50/£6.50

(£8. 50/17. 5 0).

I The Marvellous Boy From the prolific pen of playwright John Cargill Thompson. Chattenon. Wordsworth‘s ‘marvellous boy‘. comes to life in a i powerful. passionate monologue. ‘A perfectly formed Fn'nge experience.‘ said our reviewer.

The Marvellous Boy (Fringe) John Cargill 'I‘hrmzpson, Cafe Royal (Venue 47) 556 2549. until 3 Sept, 4.15pm.

i £4.50 (£3).

The List 26 August—8 September I994 31