Hanging offenses: Nabil Shaban as Volpone lixpect some bad behaviour in Glasgow and lidinburgh this month. Graeae. the theatre Company who promoted their last production with a shot of a bare buttock bearing the legend ‘arsehole'. are back with a big con.
Flex/t l-‘lv is an adaptation of Ben Jonson's Jacobean satire Val/mire. which tells the story of two con men. Volpone (the fox) poses as a rich but terminally ill gent. Mosca (the fly) as his servant. and the two swindle their way through a greedy and gullible Venetian society.
Reckoned to be liurope's premier disabled theatre group. ("iraeae are keen to stage another ribald play after the success they enjoyed with Alfred Jarry‘s Lt'lm last year. The fact that Volpone feigns illness to rip off his fellow scoundrels adds a certain piquancy.
‘lt‘s taking the mickey out of medicine and illness. something that disabled people are constantly confronted with.‘ says Nabil Shaban. who plays Volpone. He claims [)aniel Day- Lewis‘s performance iii My Left I’m)! ‘takes the mickey" because Day- Lewis was heaped with praise for his portrayal of Christy Brown at the expense of Brown himself. Shaban. in playing a man feigning a disability. turns Day- Lewis’s performance on its head.
Flesh Fly also shows Volpone to be as sexual and as fallible as anyone else. including one scene in which he attempts to rape another character. 'People think we‘re rioti- sexual or asexual and can't imagine us being lovers. let alone rapists.’ says Shaban. ‘But men in wheelchairs can be just as bad as men out of them.‘ (Catriona Smith)
Flesh Fly. A relies Theatre. Gluxgmt‘, Tue l9-Wetl 20 March: Theatre Workshop, Edinburgh. Thurs 2/ (deseriln'd performance). Fri 22. Su! 23 March.
l l i l
Children’s theatre in the UK has long held the reputation of poor relation to the so-called ‘grown-up’ stuff. This is certainly the case with regard to funding, and is quite often the case with the quality of work produced. Outwith the money-spinning panto
of patronising singalongs with rather suspect-looking characters wearing daft hats and dungarees.
‘Some of the biggest ignorance actually comes from the theatre community itself’, says Gill Robertson of Visible Fictions - a company whose determination to redress the balance is now bearing fruit with Hidden lands, an ambitious co-production with Denmark’s Blue Horse Theatre Company. ‘Funding bodies need to realise the importance of children’s theatre so we can have it on main
Hidden Lands: be true to yourself
season it’s often no more than a series
stages all year round,’ Robertson points out — ‘there’s a need to change from the grass roots up.’
Formed in 1991, Visible Fictions are now resident at Stirling’s MacRobert Centre, whose input to the Hidden lands project Robertson cites as instrumental. Another inspiration has been the annual Scottish Children’s Festival. ‘Not only do companies from abroad put on some fantastic theatre
- they care about the audience more,’ tells Robertson. After all, if it doesn’t work for the audience then what’s the point? For me it’s a big cultural thing. In Denmark kids are treated with openness and respect, and I think we [theatre companies in the UK] need to do the same.’
Hidden lands itself began with a desire to fuse Scots and Danish folk tales. The play charts a young girl’s voyage of self-discovery as she grows up and absorbs influences from those around her. ‘lt’s about how you have to be truthful to yourself no matter what, and that if you have secrets then you should share them,’ Robertson says.
Interestingly, the project has had more development and rehearsal time spent on it than any piece of Scottish theatre this year. The company have been working with children throughout this development period in a consultancy fashion, honing and changing the play in response to feedback from their junior colleagues. ‘The frustrating thing is it [Hidden lands] will be ignored because it’s seen as being for kids . . . and it needs to be noticed.’ (Neil Cooper)
Hidden lands, Visible Fictions, Macliobert Arts Centre, Stirling, Mon 18- Tue 19 March, then touring schools and public venues. See Kids listings, page 69.
Over the next four weeks, Tosg, a recently formed Gaelic theatre company, is touring Scotland with
a new play written by Thurso-born poet and dramatist George Gunn, and translated into Gaelic by Norma Macleod.
Tosg is the only professional, full- time Gaelic company around, and will eventually be based at Sabhal Mor 0staig, the Gaelic-medium college in Skye. The company is an offshoot of Stornoway-based Proiseact Nan Ealan (National Gaeliic Arts Project), whose many activities include an enthusiastic involvement with Gaelic theatre: it is one of the forces behind the Drdag is Sgealabag company, which tours Highland and Island schools, and last year Heifeach (The Engagement) was performed by another Project concern, Drama na h- Alba, touring to Glasgow and Aberdeen. Fiona MacGregor at the Project says, ‘We want to give wider access to Gaelic theatre, to bring it to Gaels living outwith as well as within the Gaidhealtachd.’
Previous touring plays by George Gunn include the acclaimed The Gold at ltildonan. Taighean na Mara is
Taighean na Mara (Houses at The Sea),
inspired by the life of outspoken Sutherland minister Norman Macleod (1780—1866), whose opposition to the established Church of Scotland led to the loss of his salaried position and his exile to Nova Scotia in 1817. ‘Ne spoke out against the established church during the Clearances,’ explains MacGregor. ‘Some ministers were not supportive of the people at all. With the church so important in the Highlands, some people saw that as a great betrayal.’ Hundreds of his congregation travelled with him, and these ‘Normanites’ went on to make many arduous journeys under his leadership, eventually sailing to New Zealand, where they settled. However, the play’s focus is more psychological than historical, with scrutiny of Macleod at the heart of Gunn’s journey through lands and time.
The play is performed entirely in Gaelic, offering a challenge to Anglicisation seldom seen in southern Scotland. ‘There's an awful lot of Gaels living in Glasgow and Edinburgh,’ says MacGregor. ‘lt’s a strong community who meet for ceilidhs and in bars, and there’s a real interest in drama as well. language makes a fundamental difference to people’s outloook on the world.’ (Angela Cran)
Taighean na Mara (Houses 0! The Sea), Tosg, St Bride’s Centre, Edinburgh, Wed 20; Co wan Centre, Stirling, Thurs 21; Woodside Hall, Glasgow, Fri 22 Mar.
Stuff at the top
Well drilled: The Life Of Stuff When the slightly imposing doors of the new Traverse Theatre swung open in 1992 amid fanfares of anticipatory wonder. it was all quite frankly something of an anticlimax. Until. that is. Glasgow-born playwright Simon Donald's The Life ()fb‘ttit'f‘scriretl the building its first hit. provoking mucho sighs of relief among those who instigated the move from the Grassmarket.
()ne therefore wonders why the play was never revived in the same way as that other Traverse hit of recent years. Stte Glover‘s limn/ugers. After all. it was young. sexy and loud. and pre- dated the di'uggy pre-occupations of a cettain Edinburgh-based novel (and play. and movie. you know the score) by a good couple of years. It's also one of the funniest Scottish plays ever. possessed of a gtitftil of one-liners sharp as a Stanley knife and twice as deadly. There was a brand new London production shortly after the original. yet it‘s taken Glasgow‘s Strathclyde Theatre Group to ptit the play back on a Scottish stage.
In the murky underbelly of inner-city club culture. assorted lowlifes gather for the mother of all parties in a disused warehouse. where warring gangsters ensure the grandest of finales. Anyone with even half an eye on a world where the sledgehammer is king and the insurance job its minder will recognise the scene: botched takeover bids. tough-talking wide-boys. and the little people without any choice. Doesn’t sound like a bundle of laughs, though. does it'.’ Yet for Director Bonita Beach it was the humour of the piece that sold it to her. ‘When I lirst read it I felt that Simon Donald must have a background in music hall. because the one-liners are so sparkling. and depend so much on timing and delivery.’
To this end. Beach sees casting as crucial to any production of the play. ‘The characters speak exactly as they think. and are so well drawn that you really need actors who know these people. Nobody can be in it who doesn't have some kind of street cred. and I‘m very happy with the people I've got. Rehearsals are a lot of fun. which is rare for a director to be able to say. I've given them the ball and they‘re running with it.‘ (Neil Cooper) The Life (2)3714). .S'Irut/u'lyde Theatre Group, Rams/turn Theatre. Glasgow. Wed 20-32:] 3!) Mar.
60 The List 8-21 Mar 1996