S(‘( )'l'TY DICKS( )N
Eden’s gardener: S.A.F.E. Seen at Tramway. Glasgow: At Traverse Theatre. Edinburgh until San / 7 Nov. Any play which offers its audience a biscuit on the way in - and credits a cook in its greaseproof-paper programme — can't be all had. even if it does smack of Performance Art inveigling; leaving one hungry for something hot. Fortunately. appetites are satisfied — at least to some degree — in Clanjamfrie‘s new work. a meditation on a real—life. everyday sisterhood. the autobiographical nature
of which sidesteps any ill-judged excursion down cliche’ street.
Devised with the company under the guidance of director Jules Dorey Richmond. S.A.lili. is a woman‘s world all right. performed by an onstage female quartet ranging in age from pushing 60 right down to ten (eleven in December). There's also a 95-year-old granny on screen. ingeniously shunted about in an electric wheelchair. And — would you Adam ‘n‘ Eve it‘? — there are Eden's apple-tossers themselves. ribbing each other rotten on video screens. part ofa set which doubles as a honeycornbed installation of hexagonal glass jars containing hand-me-down keepsakes and domestic charms.
So it's not a play then. Rather. it‘s a warm slice of comfort food in which each woman tells her story. and in so doing embraces a more universal common ground. The weakest moments come during improvised and almost inaudible talky sequences. in which actorly technique is sorely lacking. though this should improve as the performers settle into their routine. What work magniﬁcently. though. are the fine-tuned series of tableaux set to Stcf McGlinchey‘s playful Penguin Café-esquc (food again) soundtrack. which sees a table-top dance number cross the generational divide. a beautiful and funny evocation of ten- feet-tall wedding day bliss dissolve rapidly into wedding—day blues. and a final tango that seems to suggest sisters really are doing it for themselves. Now. doesn't that just take the biscuit? (Neil Cooper)
Edinburgh Playhouse until Sat 7 Dec. ‘llo waving your knickers in the air,’ was one of the more enthusiastic pres show ejaculations from the largely female audience who flocked to sea Cliff. That’s Cliff rather than llaathcliff, for - let’s face it - they couldn’t give a toss about Emin Bronte’s rogue anti-hero from Wutherlng Heights. Nor could they give a monkey’s about Tim Rice and John Farrar’s woeful soft-rock or Frank nunlop’s elaborately useless staging.
Sure, it’s an easy target, and i wanted to like it, I really did - my mother’s a big Cliff fan - but when theatre gets as reductive as this, a pair of tickets with her Christmas mistletoe and wine would be an insult. let’s face it, Cliff was never going to convince as the lusty son of toll, and most of the time he’s left standing like a wired-for-sound, charisma-free clothes-horse, glowering sulkily through his bumtluff like an ageing glam-metal star who’s lost his leather kecks. Seeing him toka on a hookah during a travelogue sequence straight out of Summer Holiday was a treat, though. Perhaps that was what was making his Yorkshire accent stray as far from the Moors as old lleathcliff himself.
What grates most of all is Cliff’s utter sincerity and/or total lack of irony, a smidgen of which might at least have elevated llaathclr‘ff to the realms of kitsch rather than the
'Wired-ior-sound, charisma-free clothes-horse': Cliff as ileathcllff
merely awful. But then, he’s longed to be taken seriously ever since he muttered the immortal words ‘let's put on a show’. like the opening number implies, he’s just a misunderstood man. Of course, so hopelessly devoted is Cliff’s fan base it doesn’t matter a iot what’s written about it, but let’s face it, we may not be the young ones anymore, but we’d still have preferred ‘Bachelor Boy’ to the cynical exercise in banality we are stuck with. (Neil Cooper)
lDNG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT
Cltlzens’ Theatre, Glasgow, until Sat 23 llov.
This stark, sparse production, designed and directed by Stewart Laing for the Citizens’ Circle Studio, is the second version of Eugene C’lleill’s despairing drama to play in Scotland this season. What the sudden popularity of C’lteill’s brooding disclosure of the archetypal dysfunctional family tells us about contemporary society is perhaps best left for the sociologists and cultural analysts to debate, but in Laing’s production, the continued relevance and resonance of 0’llelll’s work shines through powerfully.
Laing places the piece in a slightly abstracted contemporary setting, furnishing the space in hard, reflective surfaces of glass and mirror, with bare floorboards, coolly functional furniture of unpainted hardboard and the constant flicker of a television set in the corner. Washed In the pale, cold, ever-so-subtle lighting of Zerllna ilughes, it’s an unforgiving, unwelcomlng environment - every inch the product of C’lleill’s penny-pinching householder, father and husband, Tyrone (Laurence lludic) and the antithesis of a cosy family home.
The inhabitants too have - outwardly at least - been given an update. Edmund and Jarnla the (respectively) sick and dlssolute sons, translate
‘Finely performed and meticulously paced': long Day's Journey into flight
easily into slouching, baggy-clad slackers, while Cathleen, the maid, becomes a gum-chewing Hispanic- wlth-attitude, in a brilliant cameo from Patti Clare.
That said, as the play’s necessarily protracted journey progresses, dragging us tortuoust towards its dark deadlock of hopelessness, any sense of specific period vanishes. Instead, the final act - with its punishineg long scenes between father and sons played out in sickly green semi-darkness - builds to an excruciating, deeply discomfortlng Intensity. At over two-and-a-haif hours long, it’s not an easy passage, but C’llelll’s heightened drama of a family embroiled in a mutual dependency of love and hate is, in this finely performed and meticulously paced production, well worth the effort. (Minty Donald)
Cilizens' Theatre. Glasgow. until Sat 23 Nov.
Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water. up pops Edward Albee‘s quirky. Pulitzer Prize-winning play from the mid-70s. here receiving its ﬁrst ever Scottish outing (probably). Set on a beach. where an ageing couple are whiling away their twilight days — Nancy is a live wire. bristling with plans and schemes. but Charlie seems to be sleepwalking through his autumn years. Then bingo. out of the sea crawl a pair of outsize lizards. talking backwater white trash with slime-green tails and suspicious minds. What follows is a philosophical discourse in love. life and the whole damn existence thing that draws long-neglected emotions out of Charlie. while Nancy ﬁnds a channel for her maternal energies.
As with Albee's more famous couple in Who Is Afraid Of Virginia Wan/j'f’. there's a void in Nancy and Charlie‘s life. but rather than tearing each other apart. in Seascape they all live happily ever after. Rather than slither back to the deep-sea equivalent of a blue-collar trailer park. the lizards are embraced into the family bosom as surrogate children. set a fine example by their new Mom and Pop. who can show them the ropes the same as they did with their own now grown-up brood.
The play is very much of a time when you could still talk big on a stage without talking dirty. yet Robert David
MacDonald's production only really comes to life when the creatures come crawling on land. Paul Alhertson and Lise Stevenson present a beautifully choreographed mix of wide-eyed wonder and twitchy bravura. counterpointed by director MacDonald's langour as Charlie and Ellen Sheean‘s larger-than-life Nancy. It‘s interesting that Albce’s women are generally more impressive figures than the men. Even Lise Stevenson‘s down- home sea-creature Sarah seems to have the upper hand over her more demonstrativer instinctive spouse. While not entirely successful. .S'east'ape suggests the climate might well be right for more Albee revivals. allowing thinking attdiences an insiglil into an altogether quirkicr take on the American dream. (Neil Cooper)
. A / .- r “ l¥6 -‘ p . Seascape: “quirky take on the American dream’
08 The List 15-28 Nov I996