GERBE— DBADULA I
C itizerts' Then/re. Glasgow. until Sat 23 Nov.
Bram Stoker‘s sprawling Gothic novel has seen many would-be adapters falter on the epic sweeps of its structure and timescale. or its seething undenow of repressed Victorian sexuality. From the campy melodrama of Hammer‘s horror ﬂick to Coppola's lavish. in-your-face- Freudian interpretation. Dracula remains an enticing and elusive chahenge.
lt‘s unsurprising. then. that Jon Pope (whose previous directorial credits include a stage version of I‘rrtnkertsleirt. and whose work is noted for its distinctly frlmic qualities) should be up for such a challenge. Much less clear. though. is just what he‘s trying to do with the piece.
Pope uses every inch of the tnain house's playing area — even spilling into the side-boxes — in a busy. multi- levelled setting. Taekily clashing colours and textures (a blood-red ceiling. crumbling walls of mustard wallpaper. exposed timbers and polythene sheeting) suggest the half- dernolished rooms of art ordinary house — strictly modern Gothic.
The action cuts choppin from one area to the next. each change accompanied by extravagant lighting effects and snatches of incidental music. while scarcely a moment passes without sotne visual trick - a spout of dry ice bursting from a trap door. a coffin raised from the depths by
Dracula: ‘relentless display of stage gimmickry’
hydraulic lift « to dazzle and distract. it's as if Pope has no confidence iii the power of the narrative. or in his ability to relate it. diverting us instead with a relentless display of stage gimmickry. It's a lack of focus that leaves the cast adrift and bewildered. unsure whether to play for laughs (and there are plenty risiny melodramatic tnorttents) or to attempt to inject some seriousness and pathos into the production.
Stoker's tale is surely worth telling. btrt here it is reduced to a disjointed and futile string of visual images. one- dimensional performances and supet'lluous effects. (Minty Donald)
‘Stoicism and integrity’: Tom McGovern as Shylock in The Merchant Df Venice
THE MERCHANT 0F VENICE
Royal lyceurn Theatre, Edinburgh, until Sat 30 llo it. One of Shakespeare’s most complex comedies, which bonds two plots together with a slender thematic link, The Merchant at Venice is invariably seen as centring on the hatred between Jewish moneylender Shylock and the heartless mercantile society which surrounds him. This bias arises not so much from our post-War abhorrence of anti-Semitism: it’s more that the play’s socio-political strand is much more dramatically compelling than its romantic one.
In addressing this issue (essential if
the audience is to remain interested during the exchange-of-rings shenanigans of the final act), director Kenny Ireland employs two strategies. The first is to employ a layered, translucent set — Sarah Williamson’s impressionistic gauzes evoke Turner’s grimy, watery Venetian cityscapes beautifully, but they also allow glimpses through to the sunnier world of Delmont’s Renaissance pillars. The second is to make Portia’s fairytale courtship as bold and colourful as possible. Once again, Williamson provides the key, with sumptuous, dazzlineg beautiful costumes. But sadly, none of these tactics disguise - or even do much to enhance - the relative weakness of the romantic plot.
Casting Tom McGovern as a young Shylock is clearly a sound decision. His performance - the best I have seen him give - is bold, energetic and intelligent, focusing on stoicism and integrity rather than courting audience sympathy. But the casting of younger actors across the board has produced an inexperienced ensemble, and not all its members handle the verse or the emotions it carries with much skill. Thus the main thrust of Shakespeare’s plot can seem a series of bland interludes. And in a play which vividly evokes the hatefulness of racism, it’s a puzzling step to create silly racial stereotypes for the potentially subtle comedy of the casket scenes.
Like last year’s llamlet, a curate’s egg with a nicely done yolk. (Andrew Burnet)
E315!— DAVE’S LAST LAUGH
Tron Theatre, Glasgow, until Sat 30 llov.
‘It we didn’t talk crap every now and then, where would we get material for the shovﬂ’ says one Dave to the other in David Stirling’s new black comedy. It’s probably the most crucial line in the entire play.
This is the story of the troubled relationship between two middle-class boys who grow up together, live together, establish a comic double-act together, get famous together and become intimately entangled in one another’s lives, yet seldom really communicate. Like Beckett’s co- dependent clowns Vladimir and Estragon (with whom Stirling identifies them near the end) ‘talking crap’ is their main social contact. And at times, the script is very perceptive about how men conspire - via a codified language of jokes and mock- insults - to share ideas about life (and especially about women, who get, literally, barely a look-in) without truly
I economical production; and the
‘Vlhere there's crap there‘s laughs‘: Dave‘s Last Laugh
sharing themselves. As the play demonstrates, it’s a set-up which can allow resentment to bud and tester under cover of comradeship.
But Dave's last Laugh is also about creativity, about the sources of inspiration. Its central irony is that while debonair, attractive Dave seems dependent on shy, morbid Dave (who writes the scripts), in reality, the latter relies on the former to supply his raw material. Where there‘s crap there’s laughs.
Confidently performed by Matthew Pidgeon and Neil McKinven, the play does have its problems. It contains some dead wood that should have been whittled away in rehearsals for Peter Mackie Burns‘ otherwise neat.
comedy routines tend to fall flat as comedy routines usually do when taken out of context in service of a ‘higher’ purpose. But its quirky structure - reminiscent of Dennis Potter - keeps us guessing whether we’re witnessing art or life, and intelligently testifies that they, like the two Daves, are uncomfortably inseparable. (Andrew Burnet)
E11131“- THE nevus
.'\l‘(‘/I(’.\' 'I'ltt’rttrr'. (i/(ngnn; till/I/ Sui 3.? .\'(tl'. 'l‘he sex-lives of the clergy get more column inches than royal romps these days. But ordained philandcrers are hardly a new phenomenon. as Joint Whiting‘s play The Devils shows. Made famous by Ken Russell's film adaptation. the play is based on The Devils ()fl.ornlwr. Aldous lluxley's factual account of the loll case oi \ icar l'rbain (irandier - moral guardian by day and lady-killer by night who finds himself accused of seducing a group of nuns and leaving thetn open to domination by Satan. But Whiting doesn't merely provide a study of hypocrisy within the church. Rather he examines human dignity in the face of extreme adversity as. tortured and humiliated. the protagonist stands by his innocence.
Installed in the damp. dark caverns of
the .-\tc|ics. ( italraro Hunter and in MI ('at'tcr's set L'\l)isk'\ the atrtrosphetc superbly \\ ilh an altar laden \\ tth
candles and crosses and the stench -~l mud and running water tistrt:' iioin the ﬂoor. .'\ll(i_\ Arnold's direction males for some trnpressrxe \ rsnals as the . 'l\l. decked out in full ecclestaslnal (it‘lltlli
costuttte. parade across the staszc. the action punctuated by haunting (ircgorian chants. but the pace :s uneven.
(irant Snreaton as the surgeon and Ross Stenhouse as the chemist male for :1 good coined}. dottltlc ;t.‘l as .r putt oi catnped~up local busy ii'ltilt‘s. xxhile Maureen Allan .rs \rster .leanne rs crach desperate .rnd Innocent. lurrnnz' Iii a genuinely mm mg per lorrnance The main drawback oi the piece is Whiling's inabilin to fully understand or convey the period and the disharmony within society or the individual. Thus the script tic\ct allov. s fora fully rounded (irattdtct. w ttlr all his inherent shortconnngs and contradictions. to emerge t(‘l.rire Prentice)
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