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58 The List 7-20 Apr 1995
mamma— Fancy dress party
Party anals: tenhouse (left) and Smeaton
When it was first screened on BBC television, Abigail’s Party became a classic 705 icon, depicting the vacant
7 glamour of the era, and ever since, ; somewhere, ‘the party’ is going on.
A new company, Tangerine Productions, is the latest in a long
. line to tackle Mike Leigh’s suburban masterpiece, but they’ve added a
twist, for which they’ve received some stick from actresses. Founder member
Grant Smeaton has taken the role of f the neurotic hostess Beverly himself.
‘lio way is this a drag act,’ he says. ‘To
' me it’s totally about acting and
expression and maybe saying something about the macho polarities
that pervade the subject matter of Scottish theatre.’
Although the company’s ‘iust out the wrapper’, Smeaton and co-founder Ross Stenhouse have been around, and are probably better known to television audiences from The Ferguson Theory and Scotch and Rye. Smeaton’s rendition of tootball commentator Archie McPherson with his ‘smother-up’ haircut flapping in an lbrox gale is a terrace legend.
For those with longer memories, the pair were stalwarts of early productions by the Arches Theatre Company in Glasgow, helping coin a style that was honed, irreverent and unashamedly populist. ‘We’ve always
been all-rounders’, says Smeaton. ‘For .‘
instance, last year our children’s theatre company, Hopscotch, showed to 79,000 schoolkids. We’reinto diversifying. It gives us the chance to experiment and take the losses involved in mainstream theatre. We’re committed to a theatre that entertains an audience, and if it also says something about “consumerism” or “sexual stereotyping”, then that’s fine.’
Commenting on the narrowness of TV comedy gag acting, Stenhouse says, ‘This play is a deeply serious “grotesque” and since we wanted to get back to challenging character acting it seemed perfect. The play was originally a devised piece and that’s a path we want to take.’
Talking of possible future projects, he mentions The Exorcist: ‘Populist stuff by definition must entertain,’ he I agrees, ‘but in the 90s it has to be r tinged with revolt and surrealist rage.’ l (iionan O’Donnell) ' Abigail’s Party, Tangerine Productions, Arches Theatre, Glasgow, 11-23 Apr.
Ripe for revival as well as mispronunciation, Albert Camus is best known in this country for his philosophical treatises on alienated man. The Rebel. The Outsider. The titles said it all, inspiring generations of earnest young men in overcoats and polo necks to plunder Penguin Modern Classics at their considerable leisure. Probably less known than even his goalkeeping skills with the Algerian national football team, is Camus’s body of work as a dramatist.
Brushed llylon Theatre Company’s new production at The Misunderstanding aims to redress the balance somewhat. Following on from last year’s success with lonesco’s Bald Prima Donna, The Misunderstanding tells of a prodigal’s return to the famin bosom atter twenty years, only to find his mother and sister harbouring a rather large skeleton in their closet. ‘lt’s about honesty,’ says director Patrick Buddy, ‘and how if you’re not honest you can
. get yourself caught up in things you
hadn’t bargained for.’ Camus wrote The Misunderstanding during the war, when he was holed up
Shadowy feelings in The Misunderstanding in the French Alps. As well as providing a couple of meaty roles for women, the play has a very definite message, with echoes of l’Etranger and La Plage. liis use of classical Greek structure and heightened language are perhaps seen as too stuffy for audiences weaned on novelty, and outside of student circles the plays aren’t done much. Yet populist appeal for Theatre of the Absurd can be achieved, as the Lyceum’s recent hit with Waiting For Godot proved. Ruddy also maintains the interest is there. ‘In the 405 and 50s it was considered new and outrageous. Beckett and lonesco were the basis behind a lot of humour that came out in the 605. That’s why the stuff still appeals to people in their late 20s and early 303.’ (lleil Cooper) The Misunderstanding, Brushed llylon Theatre Company, Theatre Workshop,
Edinburgh, April 20—22.
Mad, not mad professors
These are members of the Annoyance Theatre of Chicago. And they can prove it
Some conrc prepared with a thesis. ()thers leave disgusted. Most are too busy laughing to care. Straight outta Chicago come three guys ready to prove any number of Modern Problems in .S't‘iem'e. Rich Fulcher. l)ick Costello
; and Phil Granchi were all respectable
graduates in law, computing and geology. until they took to the stage and started destroying every scientiﬁc theory ever devised. In previous semesters at the Edinburgh Fringe. the cheeky irnprovisers have proved, among other things, that ‘tral‘lic cones are the larval form of shopping trollies'. and ‘ugly things fall faster than pretty things‘. Basically. expands Fulcher. they hope to offend those trapped by scientiﬁc convention and latrd the weirdo quacks.
‘We‘r'e scientifically ol‘l‘ensivc. but not
in an evil way. it's more ol’ a tribute to those scientists who have been free in their thinking. not rigid in the way they approach things. All we ask for is one theory at the top ol’ the class. no matter how absurd and ludicrous. and then we use our disciplines to locus on any
scientiﬁc conclusions we have to prove.
For instance. I was once a gyptologist and my bent was seeing everything in
terms of pure metal structure. Basically .
ljust drew lots of triangles.‘
Sometimes the subject matter can get a bit hairy like the time they had to prove Richard Nixon’s larynx could turn corn into gold. Fulcher admits the funniest shows are those based around a simple theory. such as. ‘Up is down'.
‘Like comedy,‘ Fulcher continues. ‘the best shows are derived l‘rom the facts. because it you start absurd you people can‘t relate to it. It‘s the same idea when you‘re with a group ol' friends and have those “What it‘. . “ sessions. Like. “What il‘ Napoleon had 2113-52 at the Battle ol‘ \\"aterloo'."' ll’ he did its pretty unlikely that there would have been anybody able to ﬂy rt.‘
Maybe he would have been better equipped with those top rockers. the B- 52‘s?
‘Sure. they might have brought peace by bringing the two sides together to light against the twin evils ol~ “Meet the Flintstones" and “l-oveshack".‘ (Philip Dorward)
Moder/t Problems in Science. 'l'riiversr' Theatre. Edinburgh. l2—-/5 April.