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As the Traverse prepares to stage Road to Nirvana by iconoclastic American playwright Arthur Kopit, director Justin Greene discusses the sleazy end of the rock ’n’ 1011/ Hollywood interface with Damien
Hooray for l-Iollywood! The Dream Factory has long been an obsession for American writers. providing tltern with a living. breathing metaphor. a cracked magnifying lens held up to society. In films such as $1111er Boulevard. In a Lonely Place and The Player. audiences have been taken into progressively darker layers ofobsession. jealousy and ruthlessness which exist in the vacuum behind the glow of the silver screen. the places where the grotesqucs live. Hollywood is still a visible part of the American psyche. the part that provides myths to shape the consciousness of the nation —- and to a degree the western world. lit a sense. one could almost say a whole system of values is created in this one small area of Los Angeles. The creatures of 'l‘inseltow'n have also fired the imagination of the playwright. notably irt David Mamet's .S'peeil-l‘lte-l’lnw. an examination of the behind-the-scenes movers and shakers. the lies they tell and the deals they cut to ensure the higltcst possible returns on their movies. In a delicious irotty. when .\Iamet’s satire appeared on Broadway. Madonna was cast in a minor role. The
wltole point of the play.
Road to Nirvana: films 'n’ drugs ‘n’ rock ’n’ roll
participation of such a big star with no stage-acting experience was obviously intended to gairt publicity for and maximise the profits ofthc show. The gambit succeeded. w hilc simultaneously undermining the
Arthur Kopit's It'oai/ 7i) .‘v'irraaa was written partly in response to the .S'peul-lire-Plow farce; indeed Kopit is on record as describing Madonna's performance as ‘the worst I've ever seen on a professional stage.‘ He should know. Is'opit occupies a place of considerable respect in the American theatre. The play which first brought him international recognition. the ()edipal parody ()/1 [NH]. l’om l)(l(l, .Ilannnaft‘ Ila/re You in the (love! and I'm feeling So Sat/t Noll). was produced while he was still art undergraduate at Harvard. since w hen
he has proved ltituself a versatile and provocative
‘i’rovocative' is a term which could be applied to Road To Nirvana. btrt .lustin Greene. who is directing this. his third Kopit play, for the 'I‘raver'se, would go further than that. “Outrageous” is the word which springs to mind.‘ he says. ‘I like theatre which shakes people up a bit. I‘m drawn to his plays because they're incredibly theatrical and witty. and immensely irttaginativc. There is a lot of purely naturalistic writing going on. but his plays are usually tremendously bold and incisive. and apart
‘It isn’t about stars and parties and bitching . . . it’s about a world full of small people who fear they’re of no consequence — and can be driven by that fear to do almost anything.’
from being hugely entertaining. they all dig pretty
Rum! 'l'n :‘v’irrarta concerns the efforts of Al and his girlfriend Lou —- drug—dealers turned independent film producers — to clinch The Big Deal; a biopic of the acid-fried forttter rock star Nirvana. a woman so
drugfttckcd she can't remember the details of her own life. To this end. AI enlists the help of his former
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partner Jerry. the rttan who rtrined his marriage ~- and his life ~- frvc years previously. To regain Al's trust and prove his loyalty. Jerry tnust strbrttit to art increasingly humiliating and Name series of
‘This play doesn't fit into the usual Hollywood pattern.‘ states Greene. ‘It isn't about a world of glamorous stars and parties and people bitching about one another. These cltaractcrs aren't players ~- thcy're people who want to be players. It's about why people want to ntakc The Deal. and a world full of small people who fear they're of no consequence - artd can be driven by that fear to do almost anything. but at the same time. it's absolutely achineg funny.‘ Road In Nirvana. 'I'rarerse. lit/inlmrc/r. ["1124 Nurem/)er—San l7 Decent/W:
p. Watch my a f A tulips
Hollandaise sauce: La Tulipe Nolre
A true story of 17th-century Dutch
Adapted from a novel by Alexandre
tulip-growers performed in French may Dumas — best known for the much-
seem an obscure choice for a piece of physical theatre, but the company presenting it, Northumberland-based Theatre San Frontieres, have won awards and acclaim for their accessible, visual work. Combining politics, comedy and romance, La Tulip Maire is, according to director John Cobb, ‘a rollicking, romantic adventure’, which concerns the individual’s struggle to remain pure when up against a tyrannical and corrupt regime.
‘The story is a twin thing,’ explains Cobb, a Scot who also performs regularly with Edinburgh’s Benchtours company. ‘lt’s full of political intrigue, with a William of Orange figure in it, and it’s also about the whole ethos of tulip-growing in 17th century Holland. It starts very political, about Republicanism versus Royalism, then becomes a love story along the way.’
filmed swashbuckler The Three Musketeers - the piece focuses on the plight of a young tulip-grower, Van Baerle, who is thrown into prison after being wrongly accused of the murder of his politician cousin. Once behind bars, he sets about growing a hitherto- unknown perfect black tulip, prompting various absurd characters to attempt to steal the flower. Meanwhile, romance also blossoms as the prison guard’s daughter provides romantic interest for Van Baerle. The appeal of the story, says Cobb, came from its fluid combination ot comedy, high drama, love story and adventure, which is enhanced further by Jim Kitson’s original live music score.
Set up to perform classic European pieces in their original languages, Theatre Sans Frontiéres have a particular bond with France, Paris being the place of the company’s
original meeting. Performed by an international cast, La Tulipe Moire is their third national tour of a piece performed in French, but doesn’t the language barrier limit their work’s appeal? Cobb thinks not. ‘The company is there to introduce the audience to a language which they don’t necessarily understand, but to present it very visually and comically, so that people can enjoy it without having to know every word. It’s not a problem for anyone with even just a smattering of the language. The emphasis is on a visually led narrative. It’s like a film - a film tells the story visually rather than relying on words, and what I’m trying to do is direct it filmically and in such a way that you can still enjoy the comedy and drama of it.’ (Claire Prentice)
la Tulipe Moire, Theatre Sans Frontieres, Macliobert Arts Centre, Stirling, Sat 18 November; Battier Theatre, Glasgow, Sun 19 November.
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