metam- Wife on the openroad

Since the English Shakespeare Cornpany‘s demise. regional theatres have suffered a dearth of good quality. affordable. classical drama. Eight. regional English theatres have tackled the problem and formed the Touring Partnership. Edinburgh‘s Festival Theatre has been invited tojoin the gang of eight. and although interested. the theatre‘s General Manager Paul lles is adopting a wait-and-see approach. Hence the Scottish venue‘s description as an ‘international touring date' for the Touring Partnership‘s first production - the restoration comedy classic. John Vanbrugh‘s The Provo/red Wife.

Cast members include John Nettles as Sir John Brute and Katherine O'Toole (daughter of Sian Phillips and Peter O‘Toole) as Lady Brute. Nettles‘ Bergerac tag seems a bit of an albatross. especially as he hasjust completed a highly acclaimed season with the Royal Shakespeare Company. But. as lles says. the director is the key. and the Touring Partnership has placed its hopes in the capable hands of veteran drama man Stuart Burge. Former artistic director of the Royal Court Theatre and the Nottingham Playhouse. his TV credits include The Wexford Trilogy. The Rainbow and Alan Bennett‘s Talking Heads.

‘Funnily enough. I‘m a bit of a restoration freak.‘ says Burge. ‘and as this is the most civilised of restoration plays I ratherjumped at the chance. It‘s a very difficult piece to do and demands big resources.‘ Thirteen actors and two musicians cover the 28- character cast. ‘lt‘s not just a very funny play.‘ says Burge. ‘Vanbrugh has a brilliant sense of character and relationships.‘ And it‘s not just lots of witty exchanges about sex. either. ‘1 think quite often restoration is seen as a lot of old biddies getting off with licentious young men. But this play is quite touching. To a modern audience. everything is recognisable and understandable. especially all the passages about men's and women‘s relationships.‘ (Gabe Stewart)

The Provo/(ed ll’tfe. [Edinburgh Festival Theatre, Wed l2~Sat [5 Oct.

The very idea

Neil Cooper finds out how playwright David Greig is putting new writing on the


At last! After what seems like a lifetime, a fresh crop of homegrown playwrights seems to be coming through the Traverse. with commissions forthcoming from Mike Cullen and two Edinburgh writers both

and David Greig. This is not meant to f decry the extensive developmental

work that goes on behind the scenes.

i largely initiated by dramaturg Ella Wildridge. nor the sterling work from the mid-80s generation of Traverse

writers who are now firmly established.

still in their twenties David Harrower

‘Playwrights have to stop thinking about the world from a subsidised point of view and

have some wider ambitions.’

The flagship of this renaissance is David Greig's Europe. a complex. multi-layered affair set in the semi- derelict railway station of an unnamed

border town and is. in Greig‘s words. about escape, racism, belonging and home. It is also that rare thing for this country. an ideas play. ‘1 like ideas.‘

says Greig. who willingly cites Howard

Barker and Bertolt Brecht as huge influences. ‘People are frightened of 5 them because they think they're l academic or inaccessible, but I think i they‘re what drama should be about.

Playwrights have to stop thinking about

the world from a subsidised point of ; view and have some wider ambitions.‘

t Greig refutes any accusations ofa lack ofemotional in his work. particularly in

Europe. the foundations of which he says are the characters. too rounded to 1 be tnere ciphers. But why Europe?

Christmas hopping: the Traverse begins

its in-house autumn season with a new play by David Creig

Why not Britain? Scotland even‘.’ ‘l find it easier to write when I‘m slightly alienated from my subject. When i was a kid and looked at tnaps l was fascinated by names of foreign places which now have huge resonances but then sounded like magic kingdoms. There’s a sense of history shaping people‘s lives which is very clear in Europe, whereas here it’s less dramatic. perhaps because we‘re isolated from mainland Europe. and you don‘t get borders here changing every decade.‘ Greig‘s next play. The Are/uteri. for the Royal Court. is. ironically. his first work to be set in Britain. though one perhaps not immediately recognisable. Europe. tneanwhile. receives a performed reading in Berlin in October. The translator is German dramaturg

Michael Ebetth. responsible fora workshop on a short play by (ireig‘s during one of the 'l‘raverse‘s llindows on the li'orld series. He returns next month to do likewise with David Harrower‘s Knives in Hens. which might also get to Berlin at some stage. Europe is also to he published next year by Methuen in the second of its Front/ore Intel/[genre anthologies of new work. So is Wildridge proud of her bright young chargcs'.’ ‘lt‘s exciting to see the vigour. commitment and general quality that's coming through.‘ she says. Let‘s hope it lasts. (Neil Cooper)

[firm/re. Tt'tli't’l‘.\‘(’ Theatre. Edinburgh. 20 (ht—[3 Nor. (ierman lliudows ()n The ll’orld, TTUW’TM Theatre. Edinburgh. Sat /5--.S'un m ()et.

amen:- ; Underarm j humour

He’s a man of many talents is Hugh 1 Dennis - half of Punt and Dennis, ; quarter of the Mary Whitehouse 3 Experience and, in a former life, Brand 1 Manager UK Male Deodorant l Bodysprays for Unilever Plc, a role which is somewhat difficult to t reconcile with stage creations such as f Milky Milky, the sad social deviant ': who brought the delights of sour milk to the attention of the nation. Still, ; stranger things have happened, a good 5 example being the fact that Dennis used to do voice overs for Spitting 2 Image puppets and all the characters he played John Cole, Norman Lamont and Michael Heseltine have all fallen foul to the curse of Dennis and seen their careers falter for diverse reasons. Dennis denies any direct ', causal link between the two facts.

Punt and Dennis: ‘Maybe ham. maybe cheese’

His own career on the other hand continues to glide ever upwards helped by the public’s growing predeliction for a more gentle brand of comedy than that peddled by other

alternative comedians. ‘You used to have to have a stance and now you can do things that are iust funny,’ he says. ‘During all the alternative stuff in the late 805 there were actually lots of people out there who wanted to be a lot broader but they weren’t allowed to be. How you are; hence Reeves and Mortimer doing stuff with people with heads made entirely out of hazelnuts which doesn’t appear to have much of a political stance.’

Dennis also puts paid to the cliché that comedy is the new rock ’n’ roll. Have his previous tours had the elements of dangerous glamour which characterise some rock bands’ tours? ‘I expect they could have. When we did the Mary Whitehouse tour there were girls outside the stage door but we’re not really like that. We go back to our hotel rooms and have maybe ham, maybe cheese sandwiches.’ Conclusive proof it ever I heard it. (Jonathan Trew)

The Imaginativer Titled Punt and Dennis Tour, King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, Sun 16 Oct; Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow, Mon 17 Oct.

52 The List 7—20 October 1994