mam- GirI talk
Ann Donald sees different generations of Glasgow women represented on stage.
Any alien anthropologist in search of the deﬁnitive ‘Glasgow women‘s experience of the 60s' need only book a stalls seat in any ofthe all-female productions on tour in Scotland. To a roster that includes Dorothy Paul’s No' Her Again and Take Two‘s production of Salon Janette we can add Chimaera's Wedding Belles and Green Grasses at the Arches and Wee One's production of A Tale Of TWO Women seen at the Citizens’. Though every production scores top marks in the entertainment. humour and sharp scripts categories. the gnawing thought remains: when will all-female productions move on from that nostalgia-tinged 60s play that chains the bittersweet experience of gallus besoms as they ﬂoat from adolescence to marriage to disillusionment and divorce?
Witness the new women‘s theatre company Chirnaera. which has opted for a safe but popular choice in
reviving Marcella Evaristi‘s 1981 play. Wedding Belles. Backed by a soundtrack of teary teen classics such as The Chapel OfLUi‘é’ and Puppy [me we watch the transition of three ganeg wee lassies into 80s women. each harbouring their dashed dreams and hurt emotions. Joanne Lennie‘s minx- like 10-10 revels in her gleeful. daft-as- a-brush persona ofthe younger sister. while Susan Cubie’s wonderfully guache Rita reveals a natural comedy talent and Lorraine McGowan copes well with the akward and stereotypical role of the single career woman. Despite the rather abrupt ending. the company shows promise for any further and less predictable productions.
A Tale of Two Women. two one-act plays performed by Anne Downie and Terry Neason. carries on where Wedding Belles leaves off with the introspection oftwo fortysomething
women on their lives. Anne Downie's
Side Sea View proves that her hilarious monologue from 'l‘ramears and Greyhounds performed earlier this year was indeed worthy of comparison with Alan Bennett’s 'lalking Heads series. Here. the cheery Janet on her annual pals' holiday to Spain. lets her facade fall intermittently to reveal a lonely marriage and hidden pain. Downie plants and exploits with humorous
- effect every cipher ofrecognition in her
90 per cent female audience; which is not to denigrate the material but commend Downie‘s control and
Wedding Belles: girls to women
On Yer Bike, written by Angela 8. Leslie and adapted and performed by Terry Neason. is the tale of one woman’s struggle for self-confidence and a new image via an exercise bike. Though not as cohesive as Downie‘s monologue, the self-recognition appears to strike twin chords of humour and pathos in her audience and she achieves a lasting positive image as Bodicea on a bicycle.
To criticise the subject matter of these productions is not to negate the experience explored. only to observe a
surfeit ofa certain ‘type‘. What is needed is a counterbalance that reflects the experiences of a younger. non-60s rooted audience.
Strathclyde Theatre Group may not be an all-female company but it is striking out in presenting the Scottish premiere of Larry Kramer‘s follow-up to The Normal Heart. with The Destiny Of Me. As much a study ofthe dynamics present in a Jewish-American family as it is a political indictment on the treatment of people with AIDS. the play is ultimately a passionate portrayal of a homosexual who is having to come to terms with death. Both David Hughes and David de Croy excel in their respective roles as younger and older versions of the main character. as we ﬂit between the 1940s and l992. peeling back the layers of denial. anger and vengeance. One major quibble is the running time ofthree hours. which stretches the performers‘ American accents somewhat and tends to dissipate the raw emotion of the ﬁnal scene in an otherwise strong performance.
Wedding Belles and Green Grasses. seen at The Are/res. Glasgow, now on tour.
A Yale of Tim Women. seen at the Citizens". Glasgow; ()n Yer Bike is now ()Il [Oil]:
The Destiny Of Me. Drama Centre at the Rams/torn, Glasgow until Sat 8 ()(‘t.
“MEI!- DANCING AT LUGHNASA
1936, and it is harvest time in the fictional Irish town of Ballybeg, where five sisters live in a tenuous harmony of domestic routine. In their world men are fly-by-night adventurers: a troubled priest returned from Uganda who seems to have discovered a faith beyond Catholicism, and Gerry, errant father of seven-year-old Michael. Gerry’s skill on the dancefloor offers possibilities for Michael’s mother never to be realised, while outside, the Pagan Festival of lughnasa both rekindles old passions and inspires new ones.
Brian Friel’s 1990 play is laced with symbols, such as the radio that cuts out if it gets too hot, as do the women themselves when suppressing latent urges. Largely though, it shows how memories transcend themselves to become more than facts, demonstrating the liberating power of music and the irrepressible joy manifested through the primal urge of dance.
This seems to be a turning point in Kenny Ireland’s Lyceum regime: at last flexing some muscle. Only Bob Barrett’s portrayal of Gerry seems out of step. Performances otherwise are impeccable, with relaxed interplay between a strong female ensemble, while Benny Young captures the essence of Michael as both man and boy without ever appearing twee.
This co-production with Dundee Bep offers hope for large-scale Scottish productions, though it wouldn’t be possible without such brilliant writing. llere Friel’s words radiate, with a closing speech and accompanying
tableau of such warmth and depth of feeling that it matches anything by Tennessee Williams or Chekhov. A sheer delight. (fleil Cooper)
Dancing At lughnasa, Royal lyceum, Edinburgh, 30 Sept-15 Dct; Dundee Rep, 25 Oct-12 flov.
“EILEE- THE SALT wouun
Seen at Theatre Workshop, Edinburgh. DntouL Stephen Greenhorn’s new play makes
; an attempt to create a modern-day
tragic heroine. Set in an east coast fishing village, it tells the story of
; Brigit McCann who reacts with
j maternal horror at her son’s decision . to leave the safety of his pen-pushing ; ‘ desk job and join his father on the
boats. Breaking the silence that is expected of her, Brigit ostracises her husband, impressively played by Eric Barlow, for his complicity in their son’s decision.
Director Jim Culleton, in an excellent production, weaves a series of flashbacks around the return of Brigit’s grandson, who is in search of his roots. These scenes of memory have a focused shorthand that fixes on the colour of a dress or the way someone smiled.
But while Muriel Bomanes is inspired as Brigit, the logic of Greenhorn’s material conspires to divorce her from the sources of her passion and the drama’s raw heart. With the mechanics of the play relying on the explanation-hungry device of the grandson exercising his right to know, the small print of motivation is too rigorously examined. Thus, when Brigit explains why her son should remain on
shore, her elemental rage is diluted by her argument that there is no future in a declining fishing industry.
A bad career move and a diatribe against women waiting while men engage the elements don’t seem reasons enough to no longer sleep with your husband, reject the traditions of your community and become an outsider.
Brigit’s strength and obstinacy is turned against her but this is never really connected to the overwhelming and irrational metaphor that engulfs the play - the sea. In spite of being surrounded by all the romantic fixtures, she fails to become a tragic figure. The last scene is a masterly evocation of regret and that is what the play ends up being about. (Bonan O’Donnell)
THE BIG PICNIC
Harland and Wolff Engine Shed, Glasgow, until Sun 30 Get. It was a wonderful idea: to follow a group of childhood friends from Govan to the trenches of the First World War. Sadly that originality has been battered by technological might and in the end it is all rather like the war itself - a drama of attrition with few swift attacks to get excited about. Satisfaction is derived from the amazing war-tom set and the feeling of bewilderment at being transported en masse on the movable seating gantry. For the promenaders who follow the show on foot, it’s a different story. For them it starts in a spritely way with an invitation to Join a Gay Gordons at the top of the show. After that, ostraclsm ls swift, and
most strain for a decent view of the proceedings as they ebb and flow across the 80-yard stage.
When there isn’t a physical obstruction there is a mental one. Bryden sticks to his guns by refusing to let the play explain itself, but this leads the show to meander (a fatal mistake in a play lasting lasts three- and-a-half hours). Predictability reigns — no surprises about what the opposing sides do after singing Silent flacht on Christmas Day1914. Spot the ball? Spot the action more like.
It isn’t helped by the ambiguous nature of the music. The Celtic harmonies are what the show demands more of, but they are trampled by the all too frequent 70$ rock musical elements: Supertramp are alive and well and rocking out on an overhead platform in Govan.
In the end the real heroes are the cast, who perform admirably in difficult surroundings. Two veterans of the scene - Jimmy logan (Colours) and Russell Hunter (Hughie Frizell) - fight bravely as the tragic old dogs of war. Iain MacColl (Gus Adams) shows off the superb comic timing that we have come to expect of him and newly-weds Derek Biddell (Norrie) and Victoria flaim (Bebecca) deliver the show’s best moments of emotion reflecting the torture of endless separation.
Genuine feeling is what it lacks. To have focused on the relationships at the Front would have been a more fitting tribute. As it is, thethemes of nationality and kinship are only flirted with and there is never any real examination of the injustice, sexual insecurity and fear that so typified life at the Front. The sense of loss is apparent. Strange how history repeats itself. (Philip Dorward)
The List 7—20 October I994 55