Seen at Traverse Theatre. Edinburgh. On tour.
Theatre Babel are a recently established. young company from Glasgow, with the stated goal of bringing classical work to life for the Tarantino generation. Led by actors Graham McLaren and Rebecca Rodgers, the company ﬁrst performed Hamlet just over a year ago. and have revived it for a gruelling tour in repertory with their new production of Julius Caesar.
Director Peter McAllistcr tackles the plays in an admirably economical, stylish yet untricksy way. using suits, flak jackets and sten guns to stress their modernity; staging them in a way which maximises their potential for designer violence; and underpinning them with music like a ﬁlm score.
Like Animal Farm, Julius Caesar examines the chaos that ﬁlls the void when dictatorship is overthrown. Put simply. its theme is the nature of politics, that ultimately untenable balancing act between idealism and
pragmatism. integrity and rhetoric, denial and rationalisation. it‘s not a game for the simple of heart — one reason why few politicians reach the top at an early age.
With faith in British politicians at an all-time low. it‘s an appropriate play to tackle, but while Babel's senior actors convince (notably, in the title role, Peter D'Souza, who also turns in a ﬁery. statesmanlike Claudius in Hamlet) the portrayals of conspirators Cassius and Brutus by McLaren and the equally youthful Peter Collins don‘t always cany the weighty stature of powerful politicians.
Overall. there's a sense that older actors might have steered clearer from melodrama; and it could also be argued that the public nature of politics and battle does not lend itself to a chamber setting.
By the same token, one aspect of Hamlet emphasised by this production is the cloistered isolation ofthe Danish court, virtually unirnpinged upon until it is ruptured (in this case brutally) by Fortinbras‘s ﬁnal-hour invasion. Albert Fennel’s chessboard of iron-effect tiles on which both plays are performed is particularly effective in evoking
Something potent In the state of Denmark: Rebecca Rodgers and Derek Johnston In Hamlet
A play which partly concerns youth‘s conﬂict with age, Ham/e! is more comfortable territory for this company. Although once again the older actors carry the day (David Newlyn's Ghost is particularly strong), Rodgers‘ potent Ophelia, Victoria Davar’s saucy Gertrude and Collins' earnest Laertes all shine, while Derek Johnston —
whose Mark Anthony seems a little insubstantial — is as good a Horatio as l have seen. McLaren‘s Hamlet does not immediately grab the imagination. but snowballs gradually towards sympathy. Not the most dashing or haunting prince. perhaps. but on the whole his dilemma is clear enough. and clarity is a large part of what this company is gunning for. (Andrew Burnet)
lONG [JAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT
Seen at Plrochry Festival Theatre. Plays at Traverse Theatre, Edinburyr, Wed Hun 13 act; Tron Theatre, Glasgow, lire 15-h! 18 Del. Eugene O’Neill sure didn’t do things by halves. long Day’s Journey is a sprawling, autobiographical epic of dysfunctional (to say the least) family life - Momma Is a dope fiend, son and heir’s a dipso, baby bro’s consumptive, and Papa is to blame. it’s a painfully detailed insight into collective self- destruction, which cuts through the shrivelled-up, clapped-out heart of the lie that passes itself off as the American Dream. It’s also - when done convincingly - something of an endurance test for performer and audience alike. So unflinchineg is it In tune with the truth of lost hopes that the characters’ slide deeper and deeper Into the mire becomes almost unbearable. If only it weren’t so darned voyeuristically tantalising. Richard Baron’s revived production Is
Debonair, swashbuckling and a lzoat.
painstakingly faithful to D’lleill’s play, bringing out an astonishing performance from Edith Macarthur in the central role of the jaded matriarch Mary. Michael Mackenzie as her husband James is the epitome of bullish denial in the face of the suffering that surrounds him; though some of the cast are too self- consclously ‘method’, and come across as forced and unnecessarily demonstrative. Still, the cut and thrust of family feuding - in which everyone
Long Day’s Journey Int flight: ‘harrowing haul to the bitter end’
wants the last word - is terrifyingly real.
It’s the stillness of the play’s final image that lingers most heartwrenchlngly, as James carries Mary’s wedding dress across some psychological threshold while Mary herself evokes a time when she was ‘happy. Dnce.’ A sad testament to a family drowning in its own failure and despair, and essential viewing it you can face the harrowing haul to the bitter end. (lleil Cooper)
BEE!- MEN snouro WEEP
Seen at Dundee Repertory Theatre. Plays at Tramway, Glasgow, Tue 8-Sat 19 Del; Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Wed 30 Dot—Sun 3 Nov.
While most attempts to recreate the 308 and 40s fall prey to over- sentimentalisrn, Ena Lamont Stewart dealt unflinchineg with the extreme hardships faced by millions during the Depression in her 1947 piece Men Should Weep. Revived for the first time since 7:84’s seminal 1982 outing in this TAD/Dundee Rep co-production, the play focuses on the daily grind faced by the Morrison family in a damp and dilapidated Glasgow tenement.
Dstensive head of the household Maggie attempts to keep hearth and home together, an increasingly overwhelming task as one offspring turns to thieving to support his money- grabbing missus, another walks out and a third contracts tuberculosis. Meanwhile Maggie’s husband John - well aware of but unable to fulfil his role as breadwinner — mouths off about parliament but is too proud to
by lz'dmrmd Roslmzd ll ()ctober — 2 November Tickets: £5 - $15 Students: any seat. any night .55 Box Ofﬁce 0151-229 969'7
in association with
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dreamt I ompnny
56 The List 4-17 Oct 1996