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As sacred cows go. Bettolt Brecht is worshipped on a higher altar than most. Time and again. productions have suffered from a po-faced reverence to tie old bost theories of epic theatre and the much cited but mistianslated alienation effect.
For (ierard .‘y'lurphy. director of Lyceum's new production of The ('aia‘asian ('lra/k ('in'lc. all alienation means is not talking to somebody. ‘lf it means anything. it’s that if there is emotion on stage. you don't indulge it. It doesn't mean you don't have it.‘
Murphy is keen to dispel the mystique that's grown up around Brecht. and is keen to emphasise 'l'lw ('aurasian ('lialk (‘irc/c‘s inherent theatricality. ‘thn I first read it years ago I didn‘t like it. and I realised it was because I had a received idea of it being a very polemical. pompous play.‘ he says. ‘Much later, when i read it again. I saw it was a kind of kaleidoscope of all different kinds of theatrical styles. and that the whole play depends on this.‘
Brecht hoped the play. written during his American exile. would he
As Benchtours theatre company comes over all philosophical. Deirdre Molloy gets to the bottom of its bleakly comic production Limbo.
Time for some insight into Nari. [lg/iii.
like what is stipulated in the contract that the companies involved have to sign. I‘d worked it out already. but Benchtours‘ visiting director l’cte Brooks — on secondment from his London company Insomniac and soon to be reunited with his pal Ariel l)orfman in (bile attempts to spill the beans a mere nano-second alter parking himself on the sofa of Tramway ‘s reading room.
He is pre-empted by Stewart linnis. long-standing member of Benchtours. the company that brought lain Banks' The lira/gel to the stage. ‘lt's l)ark
Lights» Nude Bodies.‘ (her to Brooks: ‘New Scottish work is about exploring the geography of the body. It's in the contract. The great thing from the woman's point of view is that. being post-feminists. you can't use nude women because of the different nature of the gaze. So it's all nude men.‘ A
Benchtours: ‘warm and fuzzy’
pair of boys. plucked from the twenty- or-so RS.-\.\ll) students swinging in limbo at this venue. will satisfy this fanciful clause.
Limbo is a deyeloping collaboration between the ‘warm and fu//.y“ Benchtours crew. ‘cool' Brooks. and writer John llarvey' who is in perpetual feverish scribble mode. Brooks picks up the baton: "The starting point was Aristarchus of Samos. the (ireek philosopher of astronomy'.’ Pass to iinnis: ‘who first hypothesised that the sun was at the centre of the universe. It was then destroyed by Christian zealots and forgotten for a few centuries until (‘t‘Pernicus' And back to Brooks: ‘I used to do a lot ofsailing. yeah. and
although these early systems were wrong. they still worked as models. so sailors were able to navigate using mathematics derived from mistaken views of the solar system.‘
If ‘post-Steven Hawking. post- quantum physics‘ models of the universe are beyond our ken. Limbo poses the question of what we should do when understanding can‘t be metaphorised.
The narrative revolves around Rachel. whose one-day-old baby dies. She never met her late grandfather. and so in terms of continuity. finds herself severed from both ends of her life. ‘l.imbo has also come to mean being lost in a no-space. and at the end of the 20th century we are philosophically adrift. cut off from history.’ explains Brooks. by way of a summary.
Thankfully a theatrical apocalypse is not imminent. Benchtours look at it this way: Limbo suggests psychotic states can be transcended. not through pure science. but by getting an intuitive handle on the universe. A kinda Chilled personal peace thing. y'know‘.’
Brooks meditates on Limbo's first ‘ venue: ‘lt‘s the space. a beautiful space. a passionate space. You could make ' shows in here in which the space is the text.‘ More Tramway sweeties. daahling'.’ Later. perhaps. Meanwhile. actor and director buzz out of the reading room to create ‘a cosmic moment‘ in an afternoon. lf Limbo delivers its promise. we just might get that feeling. and its name will never pass our lips.
Limbo Bt’liL'lt/UUI‘S. 'I’ranm'ay. Glasgow. 'l'liio's l2—Sa/ /4 Oct. their touring.
Broadway bound. While that was never
really likely. Murphy maintains that the songs. all 3-1 of them. are integral to the plot. which asks big universal questions about the nature ofjustice and ownership. ‘lt‘s not a musical in the Andrew Lloyd Webber tradition. because here the play is structured so the music serves a function.‘ he says. ‘I moves the narrative along or changes the mood.‘
With a cast of fourteen the play‘s smallest ever — playing more than 80 characters. the onstage action is certainly epic. but with so much going on. will it not be a tad confusing'.’ "Theatrically it's very simple.‘ says Murphy. ‘lt just happens that the themes it deals with are big ones. and I like that combination. I'm not saying the play‘s lightweight. Although any one part of it is very simple. when you put all the strands together. it becomes a very complex picture. It‘s the same with the music and design. so the three are very compatible. and reflect what I feel about the play.‘
Murphy stresses however. that his production is easy on both ear and eye. ‘Better that than some solemn polemic.’ he says. ‘lfl went to see this play done like that I'd be out the door after the first ten minutes.‘ (Neil Cooper)
The Caucasian ('lia/k ('iri'lt'. Royal Lyceum Thea/re. [Lt/fliblil't’li. /3 ()(‘1—4 Nov.
: Eddie inserts the pliers into Richie’s
nose. Eddie flings Richie about the
room like a rag doll. It is extremely
j violent. Richie punches Eddie, who
I falls over backwards and lands in the
; bath. Richie pulls the cabinet off the
wall and smashes it over Eddie’s head.
' Eddie gives Richie’s bollocks a good
Bottom is the fourth segment of Rik
' Mayall and Ade Edmondson’s ‘guys in
j a flat’ cycle, following The Young
' Ones, The Dangerous Brothers and
Filthy, Rich and Battlap, and showing
an almost Beckettian predilection for
grinding away at a theme. Beckett’s
work, believe it or not, is a good
reference point for the show, which
similarly shows the human condition
as absurd and insignificant in a bleak
universe. Bottom is both a funny word
i and an apt description of the
characters’ place in society (Edmondson and Mayall, remember,
recently acted in Waiting for Godot).
‘ But this is Beckett via Morecombe and y
Wise, with a touch of amphetamined
I‘ Laurel and Hardy thrown in — all guys
; in flats again, see?
1 Eddie Hitler - yes, a relation — and
l Richard Richard, unemployed men of
an indeterminate age, share a squalid
set of rooms. Each frequently attempts
to cheat the other out of money or
I belongings, Eddie usually coming out
on top. They hate each other, but Richie secretly realises that,
ultimately, Eddie is the closest thing
to a friend he has. Eddie has other friends, but realises he can stay in
Richie’s flat virtually rent-free.
Eddie is a bastard. Richie is a viigin
with sex and entirely repellent. Eddie is not a virgin. lie is, however, entirely
Bottom: puerile humour at its best
repellent. Occasionally they go to the pub, watch television or eat something disgusting. Other than this, nothing much ever happens.
Bottom is fantastically violent, and frequently puerile. Some people might tell you these are bad things, and that the show constitutes ‘boys’ humour.’ Without exception, all of these people i have toilet paper somewhere in their i underpants. (Damien love)
.5 - a big problem as he is both obsessed
Bottom is at the Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, Thurs 19-Sat21 Oct.
The List 6- l9 Oct l995 55