CLASSIC comsov I WORK-lN-PROCRESS
Wedded bliss: John Bett as seen in the lyceum's current Rough Crossing
Noel Coward was something of a dab hand at portraying marital peccadilloes. Nearly all his plays put wedded bliss at the heart ofthc fun at hand. So it seems quite proper that his somewhat eccentric couples be portrayed by a pair of actors already bound in wedlock.
Last year. the Royal Lyceum’s artistic director Kenny Ireland brought wedded thesps Briony McRobens and David Robb together for Private Lil-es; this summer's Coward at the Lyceum promises more nuptual shenanigans. as John Bell and Sarah Collier get hitched second time around in Blithe Spirit.
Bett plays a newly married author who. while researching his latest book on the occult. inadvertantly conjures up the spirit of his ﬁrst. and very dead. wife. ‘When it ﬁrst came out in l94l.‘ says Bett. ‘Graham Greene said it was in bad taste.‘
‘But then. he was a Catholic.‘ adds Collier.
Collier and Bett bounce off each other in this way throughout. exhibiting an almost telepathic understanding, which has been honed since they ﬁrst met on the Lyceum stage in I987. when Bett played Vershinin to Collier's Masha in Chekhov's Three Sisters. But is that familiarity a help or a hindrance when it comes to working together? ‘lt‘s extremely convenient for practising lines.‘ says Collier. ‘If we’re working in the garden we can do both things at oncef
‘Fonunately there are no neigbours around who can hear us.‘ laughs Bett. ‘Yesterday. though. we were rehearsing and our little boy wanted to play the maid.‘
Though written as escapist fun. this production is going for full characterisation rather than cartoon Coward. and Collier sees more depth in the play than you might think. ‘lts enduring appeal comes from its playing around with mortality. We all have to face the fact that we're going to die. but we do our best not to think about it because it‘s too depressing. Yet in this play someone comes back to life. so in a comic situation we‘re allowed to do something which in real life we can‘t do.’ (Neil Cooper)
Blithe Spirit. Royal Lyceum Theatre. Edinburgh. Fri 5—Sat 27 July.
The peril for small companies gagging on a foothold in the marketplace is getting the balance right between the actual work onstage and the marketing exercise that precedes it. In a bid for attention, companies can talk up their status to impossible heights, and all too often everything can be in place - poster, T-shirt, glossy, inch-thick press pack - except the most crucial element of all — the play.
The ambitious Colour Clinic suffered somewhat from this approach last year when their flagship production of
Maria Irene Fornes lust was launched
with much hoo-hah about multi-media soundscapes and the like. What was actually presented was a play, plain and simple. Lights and music were there, but no more than with any other production.
This year Colour Clinic’s artistic director Morven McLean has toned things down somewhat, though Quebecois playwright llonnand Chaurette’s Fragments (if A Farewell letter Read By Geologists is hardly an easy ride. Set during an inquiry into the failure of a geological expedition to Cambodia, it shows a series of witnesses who take it in turn to testify, gradually unveiling some kind of truth about what occurred. And that’s it. No action. llowt. Or is it?
‘All the emotions here are internal,’ say McLean. ‘lt’s all to do with what’s going on behind the words. Chaurette’s tackling huge epic themes about the nature of existence, but
Jenny Ryan in Fragments Of A Farewell letter . . .
rather than have everyone charge round the stage, he’s reduced and contained the physical action so it comes across much more powerful and stimulating.’
Chaurette describes his play as a symphonic poem, with the actors using their scripts as scores. There’s also a connection with water, with each section of the play representing a different river. ‘There’s these huge waves of great long speeches, then lots of passageways of interiections and smaller lines before another wave comes in. It’s strange, because even though it’s full of scientific language, it’s a full emotional poetic iourney.’ (lleil Cooper)
Fragments 0! A Farewell letter Read By Geologists, Colour Clinic, Theatre Workshop, Edinburgh, Fri 5-Saf 5 July.
Seen at Tramway, Glasgow. Plays Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Thurs 27—Sun 30 June.
Samuel Beckett’s absurd minimalist masterpiece llappy Days sees a woman buried up to her waist in sand. This is no beach holiday, though. Typical of its writer, the play examines life’s futility and the endless trivia of
‘lleal sense of entrapment’: Myra McFadyen ln llappy Days
ritual and routine introduced to make it bearable. Winnie is trapped in limbo, blethering away the hours and dependent on the drawn-out processes of preparing for night and day. With only the oafish, almost silent Willie for company, she seeks constantly to reassure herself of her own existence, desperately denying the banality of life. But as she finds herself literally up to her neck in it, her constructs for coping falter and she clings to love in the grip of the grave.
Tackling Beckett’s every meticulously placed full-stop and stage direction is a daunting prospect for any company, but TV Productions approach it with gusto. Stewart Laing’s production is a thoroughly 90$ reworking, which sees the technician placed on stage along with TV monitors, a device which ultimately doesn’t add to the piece. Myra McFadyen as Winnie pokes her upper body out of a long table, while stark
. lighting and trickling sand evoke the
blazing heat, barren landscape and relentless passage of time.
McFadyen turns in an accomplished, gallus Glaswegian variation on Winnie, creating a real sense of entrapment with apparent ease, and is aided by Adrian llowell’s suitably grunting, repulsive Willie. A creeping despair builds into a poignant second act, but despite the anguish, this existential trip has much comic mileage. (Clalre Prentice)
Announcement 061? Heau heau heau!
Your chance to be on the judging panel for the 1996 Perrier Awards for comedy at the Edinburgh Festival.
See advert on page 35.
34 Hamilton Place Edinburgh Box Ofﬁce 0131 226 5425
TWO EVENTS IN JULY BY TWO EDINBURGH COMPANIES
Fri 5 & Sat 6 July. 8pm COLOUR CLINIC
present a work in progress FRAGMENTS OF A FAREWELL LETTER READ BY GEOLOGISTS by Quebecois playwright Normand Chaurette
£3 (£2) IMPROV WORKSHOP Sat 29 June 11am - 4pm open to performers from all backgrounds and experience £5 (£2)
Sat 13 July, 8pm ELECTRIC VOICE
an inter media event - acoustic, electronic, jazz/funk and rap music with theatre lighting and computer generated video
£6 (£3) - school kids FREE
The List 28 Jun-ll Jul I996