Contrast of tastes at the Citizens’
A strong dose of kitchen sink drama is the ideal tonic for a bewildering journey into an abstract world, discovers Kathleen Morgan.
Lined in fake leopard fur, the cramped interior ofthe Citizens‘ studio theatre is the perfect setting for a play that made the kitchen sink a natural place for some powerful British drama during the l960s. A 'Iaste afHaney, Shelagh Delaney‘s honest portrayal of working-
you don‘t get much closer than this. Virtually every pore is visible in director Jon Pope‘s magnificent adaption of Delaney's bittersweet tale, which wowed first theatre, then cinema audiences more than three decades ago.
A stone's throw from audience participation. Pope’s adaption makes eavesdroppers of us, plunging us into the armpit of a domestic drama spiced with emotional tension and devilish humour.
Jo is a seventeen-year—old schoolgirl living with her desperate. man-crazed mother in the latest of a string of rented rooms. Deprived of love while her maw attempts to sink her varnished talons into men‘s wallets, Jo turns to a black American sailor, Jimmy. for comfort. She gets her lurve and more besides.
‘: discovering she is pregnant just as she
E is abandoned by Helen. who has netted g yet another husband. So begins her
battle with life front within the confines
of a classic dingy room and kitchen.
The shattered dreams of a generation of young working-class people and their ability to shrug their shoulders and get on with it are poignantly portrayed by Lise Stevenson as Jo. Her fiery
5 performance beside the electrifying
sexuality exuded by Ariyon D. Bakare
: as Jimmy makes for potent stuff.
provoking the audience to gasp more than once.
class life, is best viewed close up — and
Reeking of cheap glamour and
2 tottering in some unbelievably high red f patent stiletto boots. Joanna Tope takes : the character of Helen by the scruffof
its well-preserved neck, giving life to
. what could so easily become a two—
dimensional stereotype. Her lust scenes
A Taste of lloney: ‘stark realism and punchy lwnrour' with the despicable Peter (Matthew Whittle) are eye-poppineg funny — but equally sad.
Any Smiths fans waiting for that immortal line: ‘l dreamt of you last night and fell out ofbed twice‘ will not be disappointed. They will love Jo‘s ﬂatmate. the sweet-tongued Geoff. straight out ofa Mom'sey fantasy. Never again will making a bed seem so boring — Paul Albertson transformed it into a perfectly choreographed act of poetic beauty.
The stark realism and punchy humour of A Taste afHaney contrasts utterly with Gertrude Stein's Nine Plays and a Recipe. showing in the Citizens' smaller studio theatre. Playful, bernusing. philosophical and childish all at once, Stein's work leaves you feeling like you have crashed head-ﬁrst into another world.
Directed and designed by Antony McDonald. this series of playlets written largely in 1922 follows no apparent pattern. Glimpses of meaning, humour and acute observation are sandwiched between what appears to be utter senselessness. If you try too hard to understand, you simply end up dazed and confused. The only way to enjoy Gertrude Stein — ifenjoy is the word — is to sit back and let it roll over you.
Characterised by repetition, Stein’s work is realised by an impressive cast ofactors,juggling their lines as the playwrightjuggled language and meaning. Daning between microphones suspended from the ceiling and donning some wild fake fur coats, they create a spectacle difficult to forget. This is a production likely to etch itself on your brain — whether you understand it or not.
A Taste ()fHaney. until 22 Dec; Nine Plays and a Recipe by Gertrude Stein. until Sat 3 Dec. both showing at the Citizens' Theatre, Glasgow.
The cast of Aussies and ex-pats steps straight from our soap opera
preconceptions. They are very funny 9 but they are also poignant 3 representatives of a culture
overloaded with outside influences.
; Anne Mayatt is brilliant as Gwen, her i hysterical devotion to order and no
surprises, even at Christmas, is inspired by Scarlet O’Hara’s pledge to escape for ever from poverty. Coral, played touchingly by Elizabeth Millbank, is put in touch with her grief at her soldier son’s death when
' watching Titania kissing Bottom. To
her the living are piteously beautiful. Coral’s duty is to understand her son’s
: g“? .. death as a sacrifice for a higher
. a». A Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh. Until 18 Dec.
Christmas Down Under is a paradox of broiling sun and Yuletide icons and in Michael Cow’s play, Away, director Ian Brown expertly welds together the contradictions in a Saturnalian production guaranteed to relieve the winter darkness.
It’s 1968, at the height of the Vietnam War, in which conscripted Australian troops took part, and a group of Home County colonials, suffering from various strains of severe ‘denial’, is packing for the Christmas holidays at the beach. Added to the phony continuity of old world values that the season evokes are the fairy themes of A Midsummer llight’s Dream. The action is overseen by guys in pink boiler-suits and plastic wings, emphasising the illusary, weird and unsustainable as the magic norm in Oz. The set is a continent of sand from which is uncovered a soldier’s helmet and a TV, like fossils from the present.
way: uaranteed to relieve the winter darknessi
standard of living. She repeats this as a mantra that penetrates the shallowness of her country’s politics. You feel Cow tries to create a native magic to overthrow the imaginative power of the old world but, in rejecting the last residues of Empire values, he finds roots are also literary images, metaphors, words, and that an act of re-creation involves the right to feel these differently. Cow is a potent master of a nation’s iuvenalia, its struggle to conceive a separate and foreign language. (Bonan O’Donnell)
EMBE- BABES IN THE wooo
Tron Theatre, Glasgow. Until Sat 7 Jan. The problem faced at this time of year by the Tron, like most other small- scale venues, is exactly what contribution to make to the Christmas festivities. In terms of size and resources, it’s in a completely different league from the lavish traditional shows at the King’s or the Pavilion and couldn’t hope to compete. At the same time it prefers to keep the broad structure of pantomime, the participation, the
songs and the bad gags, rather than go down the road of story-based
In previous years the solution has been to go for an ironic, rather knowing reworking of tradition, something that’s always a hit with the
g grown-ups even if it can sometimes ' pass the children by. But this year,
with Tony Roper turning in the script, the theatre has opted for pretty much your standard article only without the dancing girls, the novelty acts or the cross-dressing.
This is all fine in its own way and
. there are some big, boisterous and
funny performances notably from Lynn Ferguson (the furious fairy), Jenny McCrindle (the dippy stooge) and Susan llisbet (the hard-hearted romantic lead), but it does mean that the production lacks anything special to distinguish it. Only a rather feeble slapstick sequence could actually be described as substandard - the songs (by Dave Anderson) are OK, the jokes are OK and the audience has a happy enough time of it — but there is little of the inventive wit that a show of this scale really needs to make it sparkle. (Mark Fisher)
TROILUS AND CRESSIDA
Drama Centre at the Ramshorn, Glasgow, until Sat 3 Dec.
A demanding piece of theatre for any company, this Strathclyde Theatre Group/Focus Theatre co-production of Shakespeare’s drama on the ancient conflict between Troy and Greece is out of its depth from first to last.
With this epic tale of war, aggressive diplomacy and sexual intrigue, audiences at the Ramshorn will get little, if any, sense of the potential of a rarely performed play. Shakespeare’s contradictory and ironic meanings —
Trollus and C » ~
and too often even his most simple - are lost in the laboured delivery of a cast which struggles with the very language of the piece, let alone its expression.
As the best of the few passable performances, it would be unfair to say that Sarah Crochala’s portrayal of the duplicitous Cressida is strong only by comparison with the rest of this cast. That she is outstanding here is no compliment, but her heroic attempt to inject some emotion into this ponderous production, although far from saving it, did bring some rare respite to an audience which must have felt it was doing penance for crimes unknown.
The proiection of moving and still images of modern conflict onto a set ill-designed for that purpose is a worthy, but clumsy attempt at bringing out the universality of Shakespeare’s themes. The incongruity of some really superb pictures being flashed above a cast costumed as a parade of cartoon figures grates only slightly less than the performances.
This is epic theatre, failed on a grand scale. A long haul for the cast, no doubt, but, at more than three hours, an insufferany longer one for the audience. (Mark Brown)
The List 2—15 December 1994 59