Edward Albee: ‘drawlng breath between heitler pleces’
‘A wild card in his list.‘ is how director Robert David MacDonald aptly describes Edward Albee‘s Pulitzer Prize-winning l975 play Seascape. it has little of the American playwright‘s hallmark vision - the ‘domestic mayhem‘ of his best known work, Who Is Afraid 0] Virginia Woolf." — MacDonald believes that his new production (for the Citizens‘ Stalls Studio) is the first staging of Seascape in the UK.
‘I came across the play in a second- hand bookshop, read it and thought. this is really rather good.‘ says MacDonald. ‘lt‘s lightly executed - essentially comic — but delivers some glancing blows to society‘s sacred cows. it‘s really Albee drawing breath between heftier pieces.‘
.S‘eascape‘s obscurity may also have something to do with its bizarre plot- twist and staging demands — features which lend new meaning to the term ‘absurd‘. The play swings abruptly from a wry drama of quiet matrimonial disharmony to something altogether more peculiar when two humanoid amphibians join a bickering couple at their seaside picnic.
‘We're not going for the full rubber- suit approach.‘ says MacDonald of designer Kenny Miller‘s portrayal of the English-speaking sea creatures (quaintly named Sarah and Leslie). ‘I don‘t want to give too much away. but let‘sjust say that the Speedo swimwear factory won‘t lose money — and they‘ve got to be green!‘
Hints of B-movie wackiness aside, Albee's dialogue presents a wonderful challenge to the acting comany. ‘He has a brilliant, tape-recorder ear,‘ says MacDonald, with the informed admiration of a fellow playwright. ‘He couldn‘t write an unspeakable line ifhe tn‘ed. But it‘s frightfully difficult to learn.‘ MacDonald, who combines his directing role with the part of Charlie. is both impressed and perplexed by the playwright’s precise demands. ‘lt‘s like Pinter.‘ he remarks. ‘You have to do what he says.‘
Albee‘s little gem is perfect material for the Citz studio, MacDonald believes — a play that somehow missed its moment but deserves another chance. Given our current obsession with all things extra-terrestrial, the time may well be right for Albee‘s theatrical curio. with its telling. very funny, and strangely uplifting meditations on the human condition. (Minty Donald)
' Antler banter
Opera is hardly a genre known for its levity, but when director and full-time mime Oavid Class gets his hands on it, it’s time for a rethink. Especially when the source material is a play by 18th century Venetian Carlo Coal, a well known literary wag and contemporary of Coldeni who was partial to a stage illusion or two. King Stag is a blackly humorous folk tale chock-a-block with political deceit, magic, underhand play and a never-ending quest for true love. Blimey.
Class first began his adaptation for Opera Circus two years ago, and - after a lengthy process oi collaboration - now presents what he describes as ‘a new remix’ of the piece, in which a sealed and dysfunctional kingdom is opened up
. by a hapless messenger from the
outside world. This provokes a power struggle between king and prime minister, and before too long llis Majesty goes a-wandering down assorted Kafka-esque labrynths towards his inevitable destiny.
“It’s about how love can transform someone,’ says Class. ‘We’ve put more oi a fairytale element into it, removing it from the commedia dell’arte setting
_ of the original and into a gothic one.’
in this way, Class used Cozzi’s text as
lilng Stag: the new reme
a springboard rather than a perionnance prescription. ‘llke a lot of my work, I don’t like to sit still, but with opera they’re not really used to change,’ he says. The whole thing is perionned by four singers and a four- piece band atop a magical revolving set, and a witty, physical approach Class sees as making things less staid.
‘We’ve also condensed things down to two acts rather than the original four,’ he explains. “So what we’re left with is a pure piece of physical theatre which is more Edward Scissorhandsthan commedia dell’arte.’ (lleil Cooper)
King Stag, Opera circus, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Thurs 24-Sat 26 Oct.
Two centuries of beggary
John Bett: calling us to account
Proving that the underclass of Scottish society was as popular a subject for literature 200 years ago as it is today, Wildcat Theatre Company are staging Robert Burns’s little- known cantata The Jolly Beggars. Celebrating Bums’s bicentennial year, the musical show features characters who dwell firmly at the bottom of the economic and class system, and centres around one evening spent by
our national bard at Poosie llansie’s tavern in Mauchline. The play promises to reveal a darker and seldom seen side of the poet’s work.
‘The writing is very alive and in the tradition of vagabond literature of the time,’ says director John Bett. ‘lt’s easy to see why it was never published in Burns’s lifetime. I know for a fact that, among others, his mother and brother didn’t approve.’
lane of this has stopped Bett and his company from composing a second act for the play with the help of composer lion Shaw, who has woven his own music - plus Bums’s familiar and perhaps unfamiliar songs - into the production. The gathering of tavern cronies, musicians and beggars put the poet himself on trial in their own undlgnified and drunken manner.
‘Burns wrote himself into the cantata as “The Bard Of llo llegard”, and as theatrical life-stories of the poet are well trodden ground, we thought that the man himself should be called to account,’ explains Bett.
It may seem presumptuous but, on consideration of the character of Burns himself, it is quite the opposite. ‘Everybody beats the drum for their own view of llobert Bums,’ says Bett. ‘llatlonallsts and historians both have their views and even the Tory Party had their own bicentennial bash this year. As far as I’m concerned, Burns was a humanist - his work is both very funny and compassionate, and this piece in particular centres on his most treasured Ideals - love and liberty.’ (John Burnett)
The Jolly Beggars, Wildcat Theatre Company, Cottier Theatre, Clasgow, Thurs 24 Oct-Thurs 7 Nov, then touring.
Small objects of esire
S peeling back layers Scots for a rabble; odds and ends; a rich and varied mix — Clanjamfrie certainly live up to their name. The company‘s new project SAFE, commissioned for Tramway‘s Dark Lights season (though tit can also be seen in Edinburgh), features contributions from 700 women.
Directed by Jules Richmond and combining a found-object/multi-media installation with performance, SAFE. is a quest to uncover the extraordinary currents flowing beneath mundane. everyday life.
For this multi-faceted event, Clanjamfrie are asking women throughout the city to donate one emotive, resonant object. then confide in them. Placing the objects in hexagonal sweetie jars. designer Dominic Hooper is using the jars to build a glass room with honeycombed walls - a space where women‘s stories can be heard.
‘We‘re after objects which are important to people,‘ says Richmond, ‘and then asking everyone to answer four questions relating to their own mothers, childhood. lovers and what the word “safe” means to them.‘
Clanjamfn'e are recording these conversations for a soundscape, and once the installation is complete, celebratory activities will be held in the space.
‘We are not traditional actresses in any sense,‘ Richmond explains. ‘The idea of getting a script and being told how to say something and where to stand doesn't appeal to us. We‘re interested in peeling back layers and ﬁnding things out for ourselves.‘
This process has generated text, movement and music. With the glass room as a setting, Clamjamfrie aim to ‘fuse‘ the elements together. but the exact content of the show remains a mystery until the performances. (Paul Welsh)
S.A.F. 13.. C lanjamfrie. Tramway, Glasgow. Mon 28—Tlrars 3] Oct; installation open Tue 29—77mm 3] noon—6pm. Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Thurs [4—Star I 7 Nov: installation open Fri 15/Sat I6 1—3pm. To participate. call Clanjamfrie on 014/ 353 I350
The List l8-3l Oct l996 67