SNOW AND $0880
it‘s not easy being alone. Even ifyou shack up in the middle of nowhere. there's always someone only too willing to break down your door. Such is the case in Brilliant Traces. Cindy Lou Johnson's poetic evocation of renewal brought to these shores by Diva. a new company founded by director Caroline Hall. Set in the symbolic wilderness of Alaska during a whiteout. when the difference between snow and sky is untiiscernible. the play brings together a self- imposed recluse and a runaway bride who invades his sanctuary. What follows is a quirky exploration of their struggles to communicate through their pain.
'I was moved to tears when i read it.‘ says Hall. ‘When Johnson wrote the play she was asking if it was possible. after suffering great pain. to rise from the ashes and make yourself whole again — and ifso. how.‘ Brilliant Traces also gave Hall the opportunity to cast ascendant star Fiona Bell alongside Sam Graham, who returns to the Scottish stage after a long absence. They have. Hall says, ‘a very exciting chemistry onstage.’
Hall stresses that Diva is not a women’s company. but is more about providing a platform for vibrant female voices in a variety of ways, one of which is via developmental work. ‘There‘s not enough space allowed to take risks.’ she says. ‘I think people need the freedom to experiment.‘ (Neil Cooper)
Brilliant Traces, Diva, Tron Theatre, Glasgow, 23
. March-l April, then
? were no pubs, one shop, one bus stop Q and the local graveyard was the local rendezvous point. A is For Abba
is united by a new boy (plagued by
arrives at the school the weekend I. alter Abba win the 1974 Eurovision ' Song Contest. From here untangles a
dissolves over the next decade. It 2 ends briefly, and tragically, when the ; two girls meet at a school reunion
Voulez vous rendezvous?
It’s a fortnight when Central Scotland goes musical mad. But whereas the productions of the Wizard of Oz, City of Angels and Five Guys flamed Moe recount Hollywood’s pre-war glamour, A is For Abba deals distinctly with the reality of relationships spawned in 19705 Scotland.
It draws directly from playwright Stuart Thomas’s secular upbringing in lnchinnan, Henfrewshire where there
concerns the relationship of two girls (one plain and clever, the other pretty and thick) and a boy (plagued by Catholic guilt) at the local primary
school. The bizarre friendship quartet
Protestant sexual mischief) who
chronological musical drama concerning how their friendship, and their relationship with the village,
twenty years later. However as Thomas explains, this ;
- musical-comedy is not another re-run ; of the over-exposed 70s pastiche, but i
a genuine attempt to explore how teenage angst shapes the future self. ‘Abba themselves are an excellent example of how things don’t work out,’ he says. ‘That how even though things can look very wholesome, the relationships underneath can be pretty discordant. I guess, that, and the difficulties of growing up are what the play are all about. The dilemmas of being isolated, feeling unattractive and being abandoned by friends when they find sex, have all happened to everyone at some stage in their life.
It’s hard being a teenager because you
don’t get any help and that only adds to the feeling of insecurity against everyone else. it’s different today because teenagers are much more visible and they have access to people nearer their age in the media. We only had older people to identify with,
: including Abba who were all in their twenties. I suppose that’s why so
many of us ended up as ganeg and awkward.’ (Philip Dorwood)
A is for Abba, Take Two Productions, on tour from 24 March.
i Workshop E fever
Community Theatre. A phrase berated, be it unjustly, almost as much as the liberal culture it sprang from. Yet for several years, especially in Scotland, community plays have played an increasingly important role in opening up otherwise unexplored creative avenues for ordinary people. Edinburgh’s Theatre Workshop exists partly to this end, and this year widens its net even further. Besides the annual in-house project, TW’s artistic ! director Adrian Harris is collaborating with the Brunton Theatre in Musselburgh to produce Making Up Time, an idiosyncratic history of the town scripted by John Harvey.
‘The subject matter is quite interesting,’ says Harris, ‘as it’s actually about the whole notion of putting on these sort of plays. It starts with a committee, who are deciding the best way to celebrate their town, and this raises questions of what the plays actually mean to a community.’
Meanwhile at TW’s Edinburgh base, Morna Burdon has co-ordinated Mothers, Daughters and Wild, Wild Women, a project solely for women which addresses these and other questions. ‘It involves about seventy women, and questions mother/daughter relationships,’ she explains. ‘The wildness comes from
Morna Burdon (back to camera) rehearses a roomful of Wild, Wild Women the piece’s unpredictability. The women who are on the trapeze for instance. They’ve only done that about four times in their lives, and here they are doing it in front of other people.‘ Indeed, both Harris and Burdon stress the courage of participants. ‘Just speaking on a stage takes a lot if you’ve never done it before,’ says Burdon, ‘yet people seem to be able to take things to a performance level really quickly.’ She also encourages audiences to throw caution to the wind. ‘If you see folk onstage who aren’t up there normally, and you see them doing it well, that can inspire you, not necessarily to do theatre, but just to see what is possible. It’s like a present.’ (Neil Cooper) Mothers, Daughters and Wild, Wild Women, Theatre Workshop, Edinburgh, 8—11 Mar. Making Up Time, Musselburgh Town Hall, 10-11 and 15-18 Mar.
Take Two sends out a theatrical SOS , .
GEES_ Sch?“ outta
Whisper victims: Clare Higgins and Harriet Walker in The Children’s Hour
‘lt‘s not shocking that the play is about lesbianism.~ says actor (‘lare Higgins about Lillian ilcliman‘s 'l'ltt' (lit/(ll‘t’ll 's Hour in which she stars in the current Royal National 'i‘iicatre production. ‘\\'liat's shocking is that it hasn‘t been done before. 'l'bat's wliat audiences are shocked by. .\'onc of us is stupid. We
5 all know what sex is. Audiences aren't shocked by the content. lint what is
extraordinarily shocking is that it hasn't been done.‘
indeed. this powerfully constructed anti tautly written American drama has been scandaloust neglected on the British stage. Written in I934. it enjoyed a long run in New York anti went on to form the basis of two films. These 'l'ltt't't’ ( W36) anti T/tt' Lulu/(2st Whisper t wot ). it was performed in this country, but only in private club theatres which were exempt from the ccnsorious authority of the Lord Chamberlain. and consequently the NT production. directed by Howard Davies. marks the piay's first major London showing ~- ()0 years after it was written.
So what have we been protecteti from for so long'.’ Nothing more outiantiisb than an engaging drama — based on a famous Scottish trial of 1810 about two teachers brought to ruin by a malicious and unfounded allegation of lesbianism by a recalcitrant pupil. in its portrayal of the power of rumour it predates 'l'lte (Tract/2h). in its frank discussion of homosexuality (the allegations may be unfounded bttt they are not totally untrue) it predates anything that has been written since. ‘l know someone who killed themselves in precisely this situation. says Higgins. who plays the part of the unknowingly besotted teacher Martha Dobie. ‘So i don't feel that‘s melodramatic in the least. it's a real statement of fact — people kill tbetnselves over emotional issues. What‘s deeply homophobic is that this emotional issue should be considered any different to any other emotional issue.‘
T/lt’ Children 's Hutu: King 's 'l'ltt’atre.
Edinburgh. 'Iite lJ—Sat 18 Mar.
52 The List 10-23 Mar 1995