The radical rollercoaster of the forthcoming New Moves Across Europe can be a stressful time for Scottish dance lovers. You wouldn't miss the global mix of new and exciting performers for the world. but with so many unknown elements. forking out for tickets might feel a little like playing the National Lottery. Not so with this month's dance offering at the Festival Theatre. If ever there was a safe bet. Arc Dance Company is it.
Kim Brandstrup. artistic director of Arc since 1986. is not one for pulling punches. He occupies that middle ground somewhere between ballet and contemporary dance. that has the ability to win hearts and minds from both camps. The company is fairly small and only works six months of the year. but in the nine and a half years they‘ve been on the go, they‘ve gained enough kudos for dance critics such as .lann Parry to describe them as having entered the ‘big league‘.
For ‘big league‘ read mainstream. Brandstrup's brand of contemporary dance, which has also graced ballet companies all over the world. is the kind you can take your granny to. Works like Saints and Sinners and Orfeo, aside from being irresistibly athletic. have that comforting and rarefied element of a storyline. and Brandstrup. unfazed by his lack of avant-garde, is not afraid to admit it. ‘I like to tell stories.‘ he says. ‘You can‘t truly tell a story without words. but I think dance is very good at portraying characters and expressing the underlying emotions.‘ (Ellie Carr) Orjeo/Sainrs and Sinners, Edinburgh Festival Theatre, Tue 14 Feb. 7.30pm.
Sweeping gesture: Arc 2
i l l l
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Aideen O’Kelly, who plays loyalist Bessie Burges
With peace clinging on by its fingernails in Northern Ireland, the Abbey Theatre’s fourteen-week tour of Sean D’Casey's The Plough and The Stars seems to be part of a resurgence of Irish theatre in Britain.
A disparate bunch of Dublin tenants struggle to survive the poverty and bullets of the 1916 Easter Uprising with precious little good neighbourliness. Vehement and turious verbal fist-fights verge on the physical. ‘But when it comes to the crunch, they stick together,’ says Aideen 0’Kelly, who plays loyalist
l Bessie Burgess, adding that this
i disturbing tear-ierker of a play has a | special relevance to the peace
i process. ‘The Plough relates to all
l wars — it highlights the sheer misery i and heartache.’
3 But it’s not all morose grimness, as t the frequent belly laughs testify.
' ‘0’Casey loved vaudeville, some
; scenes are pure music hall,’ says
i 0’Kelly. Nevertheless, she adds that
I director Joe Dowling has cut through : much of the slapstick to bring out the
I, ; l tragic essence. ‘The horror and the 5. " truth of the play is that these victims
of war can never recover.’ Regional variations in audience reactions are inevitable. At a
people, having knocked a few back, loudly proclaimed ’Yes, bloody right’ when in the play, Bessie sings ‘Rule Brittannia’ to taunt her neighbours. Later on, when nationalist Fluther lets out a rousing ‘Up the rebels’ in a drunken outburst, spontaneous eruptions of ‘Up Dublin’ and ‘Up Britain’ reverberated around the auditorium. ‘It was very disturbing,’ recalls 0’Kelly, unused to such unwelcome audience participation. It might almost have sparked off a riot, but this is Chichester for God’s sake - j heartland of the civilised south.
‘The ceasefire is such a magical 3 thing to have happened, it’s a miracle , really,’ says 0’Kelly. The audience 7 reaction shows just how fragile and i delicate such wonders can be. (Gabe Stewart)
The Plough and The Stars, King’s 1 Theatre, Edinburgh, 13—18 Feb.
Chichester matinee, a group of English
. in u ‘..‘4" ¢ é
The Massacre of Tranent, Raymond Boss's last historical drama for the Brunton
When the Brunton Theatre lost its Scottish Arts Council grant the other week, the resonances of Raymond Boss’s new play, King of the Witches, about the marginalised people of
Scottish history were no doubt lost on
the SAC’s committees.
It’s about witches, a rich seam for this dramatist, since on closer examination the couthy stereotypes of
Hallowe’en reveal a historic nightmare
with particularly Calvinist overtones.
5 “It’s not for nothing that the Columbus
Centre at Sussex University, which
, and persecution, has as its twin
‘ subjects The Holocaust and The Great Witch Hunt of Western Europe,’ says
Ross. 0f the hundreds of thousands burnt at the stake in Europe, over 95 per cent were female; clearly misogyny was a prime motivator for the two warring sects of Christianity.
Ross, nor indeed an allegory of power
g achieving its worth through abuse. It’s
; about the psychology of men like James VI, whose handle was the ‘Wisest Fool in Christendom’. It was i this sexually ambivalent character, prurient and not above personally
‘Devil’s mark’ on his victims, who actually introduced the European witch craze to the British Isles. The science of demonology, the idea of a coven, a witches’ sabbath, were the fruits of his continental studies.
‘The play isn’t without gallows humour, the absurdity of academic duels regarding the traits of a witch, but essentially it’s about those groups
a failed economic policy or a bad ' harvest. In the 130 years after 1590,
strangled, then burned, in Scotland.’ Boss closes by citing Karl Popper’s
observation that ‘a fly can change the
course of history’. If so, James VI was
a fly carrying back from Europe a
particularly virulent disease. (Ronan O’Donnell)
King Of The Witches, Brunton Theatre,
Musselburgh, Feb 10-25.
studies the dynamics of extermination
But this isn’t just a history play, says
rolling his sleeves up to search for the
outed from society, the scapegoats for
between 5000 and 10,000 women were
Sense of alienation: Hidden J
‘lt‘s a balancing act between using brutal. crude and depressing fragments of modern life.‘ says Tim Etchells. writer and director for Forced Entertainment. about Hidden J, the latest offering from a company renowned for its provocative and challenging theatre. ‘and trying to make them into a kind of poetry or music. that makes some other kind of sense. some other kind of beauty happen in front of you.‘
The contradictions between the shrinking ofour planet through mass
‘ communication and the relative
powerlessness of the alienated individual is something that Frank. a ‘drunken speech maker‘ returning from a wedding party. finds near impossible to reconcile. ‘lt’s very much about that feeling of being a small inconsequential part ofa very huge world,’ says Etchells who wanted to create a piece able to connect with audiences’ sense of alienation from the wider world. ‘The work begins quite close to home, and moves out from there. We have an opposition, a colliding together of stuff that‘s very definiter Britain in the early 90s, with things from mainland Europe, particularly Bosnia. that are filtering through into this guy‘s world.‘
Forced Entertainment create. says Etchells, ‘dream versions‘ of themselves. deeply personal fictional characters which require a large level of investment by the performers. But despite the show‘s sub-title, Bad News. Bad People, Bud Debts. and the apparent preoccupations of the Bad Times season as a whole. Hidden J is not so much a hopeless or misanthropic contemplation of the human condition as an attempted articulation of Etchells‘ sense that ‘the bleakness is part ofa struggle . . . there‘s also positive energy.‘
For those disquieted by the seemingly ill-considered voyeurism of Bad Times, Forced Entertainment‘s ‘interest in people on stage having the power, somehow, to transform those banal materials into something that counts'. should create the perfect symbolic antidote. (Mark Brown)
Hidden J. CCA. Glasgow. [6-18 F ebruary, 7.3 0pm.
56 The List lO~23 Feb 1995