A social conscience in comedy is unfashionable these days, but nobody told stand-up Jolirand who is in Edinburgh to perform a couple of charity fund-raisers.
I‘m up in Edinburgh this year to do two shows. Yesterday‘s (Wednesday) was for the Children's Hospital in Brasov. Romania — a charity which runs a scheme involving nine Romanian women whom the project trained as play therapists six or so years ago and supplies equipment when it‘s needed. This project is dear to my cholesterol-encrusted heart. because i was with it from the off and have visited the place to see how it runs. The hospital - which originally looked like something out ofa Hammer horror film — has been transformed by the project and the kids do not rot in their beds anymore.
instead they have a full programme of
education and play.
We run one of these benefits every year as there are always plenty of comics around to call on. although ﬁnding ones who are conscious and substance-free can be a problem.
The second show I‘m doing is to raise money jointly for Glasgow Women‘s Support Group and Edinburgh Rape Crisis. 1 have worked with the Glasgow group before and they provide a good service for women who have been abused. It seemed daft to do a benefit in Scotland and take the money out for an English charity. l was aware of some sniping last year about big comics coming in for one night at the Playhouse and then just pissing off with the dosh. Fair enough — good point. I‘ve always had a right knees- up in Edinburgh and I wanted to give something back to the place (yuk). Seeing as most of its inhabitants have refused to sleep with me. it has to be this way I‘m afraid.
Anyway. enough of this holier—than- thou charity bollocks. i do actually have a good time too when I'm in Scotland. I‘ve been coming here ever since I was a child and my Uncle Gerry. stalwart of the Tartan Army. used to play bagpipes down the bottom of our garden in Kent in full regalia at five o‘clock in the morning.
Finally. any country which deep fries
chocolate in batter is all right with me.
See you in Edinburgh.
I .lo Brand and Special Guests are raising money for Edinburgh Rape Crisis and Glasgow Wotnen’ s Support Project on 24 Aug, Playhouse at
10 The List 23 Aug-5 Sept 1996
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An Italian production of a Russian play directed by a German perfectly illustrates the true internationalism of the Festival. Neil Cooper talks to Peter Stein about his acclaimed version of Uncle Vanyz.
German theatre director Peter Stein is a renowned perfectionist. Ever since his very first production. a version of Edward Bond‘s already controversial Saved in the mid-60s. his rigorous
attention to detail has made for some of the most startling productions ofthe last 30 years. Chekhov's plays are tailor-made for this approach. and his Italian production of Uncle Vanya — which arrives in Edinburgh after wowing audiences worldwide — brings Chekhov's angst to life with a burning emotional intensity rarely seen on a British stage. The Guardian theatre critic Michael Billington described it as a ‘great production that opens up new vistas on the play‘.
It was at the tail-end of the 60s that Stein first came into his own, working as pan of a collective which took over a ramshackle Berlin theatre and transformed it into the most vibrant. happening place in town. It was here that Stein first dallied with Chekhov. in productions of both The Cherry
Orchard and The Three Sisters.
Times change. though. and by the 80s collectivism had seemingly had its day as Stein‘s proposal to do Goethe‘s Faust was vetoed and he left the company. Since then Stein has been something of a theatrical nomad. travelling the globe with unremittingly large-scale productions of the classics. He's something of an Edinburgh regular now. with a production of Julius Caesar in I993 and a gruelling seven-hour version of The ()restia in I994.
Stein comes across as a modest man. albeit with serious intentions. ‘I do plays to know them better.‘ he says. ‘To enlarge my knowledge about theatre. about life. about politics. and also to enlarge my personal possibilities.‘ He sees his role as an interpreter. re-creative rather than creative. ‘The director is the organiser ofthe beginning. After that everything goes to the actors. and the director should go out.‘ he says.
At a press conference in I994 he warned against imposing concepts onto a play. These days he takes a softer approach. accepting it as necessary for a young director to come to grips with things he might not understand. ‘Sometimes though it‘s simply stupid. but if it‘s done with charm and energy it‘s okay.‘ he says.
Perhaps Stein's own motives are simpler than one might imagine. He opted for Uncle Vanya after his long- term actress partner Maddalena Crippa wanted to work again with friend Elisabetta Pozzi. The flame of collectivism is clearly still with Stein. as should be evident in one of the world's greatest ensemble works.
I Uncle Vanya (International Festival) Teatro di Roma and Teatro Stabile Di Parma. King‘s Theatre. 225 5756. 29-3l Aug. 7pm. ﬁlo—£20.
festival diary HORNY MEN
Being in the school orchestra was never hip. Jonathan Moore. director of James MacMillan’s much-anticipated opera Ine’s de Castro. remembers making elaborate detours on the way home so that Tracy — the girl next door and object of his intense adolescent affections — wouldn‘t see him carrying a violin case. ‘lf you had a trombone or a sax. that might be cool.‘ he recalls. For MacMillan it was worse: ‘I went to a school where even the trumpet was poofy.‘ ‘Yeah.’ counters Moore. ‘but the brass section were always the Shagmeisters of the orchestra.‘ No doubt they were forever blowing their own trumpets on the subject.
For Marcel Proust it was Madeleine biscuits that prompted a remembrance of things past; on this year’s Fringe the
Martha Graham: pelvic truth’
bakery product that seems to be provoking flashbacks is the Wagon Wheel. Burton‘s Biscuits has supplied several boxes of its big-selling items to be given out during The Return ofthe C inmunan Kid. a nostalgic comedy about growing up in Glasgow in the 50s. Meanwhile the twentysomething angst of Richard Herring’s Punk 's Not Dead refers to Wagon Wheels as a ‘ defining memory of childhood. The show poses that age-old question about whether our favourite sweeties got
smaller or we just got bigger. Actually Wagon Wheels have shrunk. but they are not the ever-shrinking biscuit that Herring’s show suggests. According to a Burton's spokeswoman. they were reduced in diameter by 2.5 mm in the early 80s and have stayed the satne size ever since. The curious thing is that Burton‘s tnarketing department says it is asked about this practically every day.
Scottish comedian and magician Jerry Sadowitz was spotted recently in a bargain store next to the Festival Theatre trying to purchase a pair of cycle lamps. Could he finally be getting on his bike to look for a proper job?
STEPS TO HEAVEN
The press conference to herald the arrival of the Martha Graham Dance Company in Edinburgh turned into something of a séance. ‘I pray to Manha wherever she is for guidance and to allow myself to trust what she has taught me.‘ whispered principal