Arches Theatre. Glasgow. until Sat 9 December.

Roll up! Roll up! Ladies and Gentlemen. for your entertainment tonight. Caligari is playing at the Arches. Based on the silent screen horror classic The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari it is the grim story ofa freak- show circus master who exerts complete control over a ghoulish Sleepwalker.

The whole show is presented like a circus. Even before the audience is seated. haggard clown figures hand out old-style flyers announcing the spectacle. and spooky faces peer out from behind the circus curtains. Once seated. the audience is not an unseen observer. Surreal. horrific circus freaks bearded ladies. jugglers. clowns and strong-men. all with gaunt. drawn faces stare accusingly.

Andy Arnold‘s production for the Arches Theatre Company delights in its artificiality. Most of Andrew Dallmeyer's dialogue is in stark. rhyming verse: ‘and as this sorry tale unfolds/you'll see things that’ll make your blood run cold.‘ one character declares at the beginning. in the same way. the extravagant set makes no pretensions to realism. and throughout the show. DJs from the Arches' popular Slam club play eerie, corrupted circus music. With the music. the white- painted circus figures and the ghostly

as Cesare

set, this. ifthere ever was one. is theatre in monochrome.

Arnold and Dallmey-er established a

tradition of adapting silent black and I

white films with their highly successful production of Metropolis at the Arches in 1993. Caligari too manages to maintain the horrific tension of the film's genre. The sleepwalker Cesare. played by Derek McCluckie. strolls around. arms stretched out. gazing into the distance like Boris Karlol'f‘s Frankenstein. Yet Caligari is also a psychological thriller: Dr Caligari sends the viewers of his circus spectacle mad, locking them up in his institute like the inmates in One Flew Over the Cuckoo Is Next.

A jumble of striking abstract images. uncertain plots. scary music and strange unnatural dialogue. (‘aligari may be seen by some as arty nonsense: but others will see it as adding a new

dimension to theatre. (James Blake)


Traverse Theatre. Edi/thumb. until Sun I 7 December.

in Hollywood. says Arthur Kopit's scabrous satire. you don't suffer for

your art. you suffer for your own

personal lottery jackpot. Boy do you suffer. The question is —just how far are you willing to go?

Paranoid cokehead Al played with enthusiastic belligerence by Stephen Frost - is a has-been film producer maintaining that all-important facade of prosperity by dealing drugs to the rich. famous and reclusive. Aided by his ditsy girlfriend Lou (a wonderfully loose-limbed Maggie Norris). he's stumbled onto a winner: an autobiographical lilmscript by rock star Nirvana. it's ‘The Deal To End All Deals —- with a certain quid pro quo built in'. Which is how Al comes to invite his old buddy JClTy into The Deal. But before poor weak-willed Jerry gets tojoin this motley crew, he has to undertake one or two tests . . .

Road to Nirvana is at its most funny and credible when charting the relationship between these three casualties ofavarice. Lou llirsch is particularly authentic as Jerry. who's gone straight to the extent of making drugs education films. but can still be lured into degrading humiliations by the mildewed carrot of fantastic wealth. The dialogue -- pumped full of the

I vacuous hyperbole of LA loyalties —«

persuasion: Stephen Frost and Lou Hirsch


crackles withjaundiccd humour. as the situation spirals darkly into the absurd.

But Kopit wrote this play out of vitriol for Madonna, who was cast in David Mamet‘s movie-industry satire Speed- the-Plow for crass commercial reasons. When we meet Nirvana in act two. she just doesn't convince. She‘s been set up as an exotic grotesque. but comes over as pretty bland. it's not so much that Tara Hugo fails to capture the likeness ofa self-indulgent superstar; more that Kopit's loathing of Madonna blinds him to her extraordinary talents as a performer and manipulator. The play might be insulting to the Material Girl; more importantly, it lacks a strong enough central pivot. The final destination is as nasty and ironic as you'd hoped. but the vehicle that takes you there is low on horsepower. (Andrew Burnet)


Seen at Palace Theatre, Manchester.

9 December; Edinburgh Festival Theatre, Mon 11-Saf 16 December.

It might be as a defence mechanism, but one of the first things you learn about Barry Humphries’ new show is that he’s been performing as his alter

watch, but the strength of the characters is that the jokes, largely, are as fresh as the legendary hairdo is flawless.

Beginning the show in Sir Les Patterson mode, Humphries quickly lays down (‘down’ being the appropriate word) the standard for what follows. Anyone sitting near the front is likely to be in need of an

the first few rows with gallons of dribble, but if you can live with this, many laughs are to be extracted from Sir Les’s relentless Iampooning. No subject, however personal, is left

of political correctness, sensibly ignores it - and the routine is in glorious bad taste.

After a brief appearance from Sandy Stone, 3 creation whose armchair musings of better days gone by is a

cherished moment of melancholy in an

ocean of insanity, the second half finds Humphries as Dame Edna, the role one suspects he enjoys most.

victim to flame Edna’s verbal torture.

for 90 minutes. The joke is not new,

fbtth°k .A' .M'k 4171,83”me Glasgow, Man Hat ; u ejo es are winner ( I e


i flamshom Theatre, Glasgow, until Sat ego, Dame Edna Everage, for nearly 40 l years. It would be easy to observe that i the joke will soon be in line for a gold 5 5 tragedy, built in Italy, fuelled by sex

manage to slip into gear and

Whitehead smoulders warmly as f Annabella, the play’s central figure, § giving off enough hormones to justify untouched - Sir Les, if he’s ever heard ,

. . i and sizes. In Susan C. Triesman’s Once again, It’s the front rows who fall .

Her timing and delivery are as spot-on ' as ever, and assisted by half-a-dozen nubile assistants and the forever put- upon Madge Allsop, Edna holds court


2 December. Lust, incest and murder parade through John Ford’s post-Jacobean

and liable to crash horribly if a company fails to stay in control. Strathclyde Theatre Group’s ; production approaches the material with gusto, but few of the cast

accelerate away safely. In the part of Donado, frustrated by

his witless nephew’s incompetence as i umbrella, as Sir Les liberally sprinkles j

a suitor, Ken Mackie gives a taut,

muscular performance which captures _' 5 shown in a particularly jaundiced light * in Anthony Neilson’s decider nasty

? play, first seen at the Edinburgh

3 Festival Fringe in 1993. Penetrator

; seizes the writhing python by the hairy end, hauls it out in an archetypally

the character’s humour. Anne

male interest from widespread sources, including her brother Giovanni. Returning his affections, she beds him, while her bawdy companion l Putana looks on. inevitably, hell doth await them (and a few others besides). ’Tis a pity this story, already convoluted with numerous sub-plots, is further complicated by STG’s enthusiasm for theatre in all shapes

production, swordfights, banquets, over-exuberance and inhibition

waster Max (Paul Blair) and sensitive ; waster Alan (Joel Strachan),

conspire to flatten the social and philosophical subtleties of Ford’s Baroque verse.

Costumes range from mafioso

* pinstripes to flares, furs and period

dress. The music sweeps from classical to ambient and world. The scaffolding set demands too much

movement and offers too many

opportunities for mistake. All this does is confirm the strength of simplicity. lntermittently, the threads come together and the company delivers convincing theatre. Recently shredded L-plates and brand new Lamborghinis don’t make

ideal bedmates, though. A mixed 5 metaphor for a mixed production. 5 (Paul Welsh)


Tron Theatre, Glasgow, until Sat 2 December.

Masculine sexuality, never the most savoury of human institutions, is

domestic setting, spices it with beer, fags, grass, speed, punk rock and a big fuck-off hunting knife, then challenges three young men to tame it into submission.

Set in the urban dwelling of laddish

Penetrator shifts gear from wry,

i wear under their kilts with the arrival l of their old mate Tadge, a squaddie

grubby comr iy to a bleak ; investigation of what Scotsmen really i

back from the Gulf War, his unsophisticated mind filled with

. horrific fantasies. As the title ‘: suggests, these centre disturbingly on

anal penetration, the play’s crux being that Tadge’s fascination with rape and homosexuality stems from his hotly denied excitement about the whole idea, and is deeply intertwined with his violent, hetero machismo.

The Dennis Potter-ish denouement is rather simplistic - even superfluous given Neilson’s aversion to subtlety but John Kazek’s Tadge encapsulates

: the contradictions of the male libido

magnificently. Perhaps we need to be reminded that sex and violence are as closely linked in masculine fantasy as they are in the censorship debate. Look no further than Galdeneye for evidence. Perhaps, this play suggests, dismembering a teddy bear isn’t that far removed from sexualising it. Perhaps Mary Whitehouse has got a point after all. (Andrew Burnet)

Laying teddy bare: Penetrator

The List I- l-l Dec NOS 55