Fools for love
A ﬁne blend of seeming morality. together with a hearty dose of debauchery. It could be the Tory cabinet. But in facr. this is the set-up in The Country Wife. which sees one man, Homer, boast not of his prowess, but rather of his impotence — the result of a cure for a sexually-transmitted disease, apparently.
The well-known Restoration comedy. written in 1675, displays all the typical traits of the genre. spiced with satire and ribaldry. But Antony McDonald, guest director of the Citizens‘ Theatre's new production. asserts. ‘Nothing is what it seems. it's full of comedy but it is actually a very dark, hypocritical and frightening world.‘
McDonald was keen to strip the piece ofall its Restoration trappings. and believes it is as relevant today as it ever was. indeed it was The Country Wife which gave Warren Beatty the idea for the ﬁlm Shampoo, in which he plays a randy hairdresser who‘s presumed gay. ‘ln the period when Wycherley wrote the play you married out of convenience so you would look elsewhere for sex.‘ explains McDonald. ‘Lots of people were playing around. although we find it shocking now.‘
Horny Homer sees it as his duty to satisfy the sexual needs of all the local women. Their rnenfolk. meanwhile, believing he can’t get it up, foolishly think the liaisons are perfectly innocent. ‘Society is based on trs believing a lot of lies. which we latch onto to keep the peace,‘ claims McDonald. ‘lt‘s a bit like the Conservative party — if everyone decides to keep a secret they can still hammer on about family values.’
The country wife of the title is an innocent abroad — her new husband brings her up to London. intent on preserving her purity. But Homer is keen to add another notch to his bedpost and the country lass soon becomes a shrewd and sassy city kid.
Of the protagonist. McDonald says. ‘lt‘s the classic case of someone who's scared of commitment. He's like Don Giovanni or Casanova in terms of how desperate he‘s got for sex. it becomes the most important thing in his life.‘ 00 boy! (Claire Prentice)
The Country Wife. C ilizens' Theatre. Glasgow. Fri 7 Feb—Sat l Mar. Free preview Than 6 Feb.
DH JEKYLL AND MB HYDE Royal lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, until Sat 1 Feb.
Within the pea-soupers and dark corners artfully created on the Lyceum stage, Victorian gentlemen meet to discuss the topics of the day . . . and one of them carries on his mind a terrible secret which has a bearing on all humanity.
Since 1886, Jekyll’s secret has fascinated readers and audiences - despite the failure of our conscious minds to discover why. It could be that Jekyll and Hyde are familiar from more than just the screen adaptations that have earned them their popular fame. Perhaps R. L. Stevenson’s tale carries an irresistible truth familiar to every modern man and woman.
Today it is the turn of playwright David Edgar to have a crack at the text, and purists be warned - what is presented bears as little relation to the original as is usual for reworkings of this horror classic.
Edgar has opted to ignore the best part of the original text in favour of his own obsession with Victoriana, and attempts to create the atmosphere not with Stevenson’s words but with references to 19th century advances in science and contemporary penny-dreadful
Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde: ‘a parable on the destructive aspect of human nature is reduced to
magazines. His new slant is to explain, in psycho-therapeutic fashion, the roots of Jekyll’s meddling with the unknown and - like Hollywood screenwriters before him - he compensates for the lack of dialogue and female characters by inventing his own. Thus, a parable on the destructive aspect of human nature is reduced to the stature of a debate on Oprah. Jekyll becomes the fiendish Hyde because of a brutish and overbearing father, and his guilt can be put down to a childhood mishap with his sister.
Any fault with the production, however, can only be found with the script. laurie Ventry plays both title roles with verve and attention to
the stature of a debate on Oprah'
detail - his Hyde is particularly surprising and unstrung. He is backed up by a strong cast, although the mood and motives of the characters are best captured by designer Richard Aylwin’s Caligari-like backdrops and his careful use of minors and sober white lighting.
As far as social comment for the 905 goes, there is little save that the production seems to return more often to the theme of drug addiction than anything else . . . unless social comment be Jekyll speaking in a respectable neutral accent while Hyde slavers away in strong working- class Scottish. What next, we wonder? The Glaswegian Frankensteirf? (Peter Burnett)
A new fortnightly column that pokes around behind the scenes at Scotland’s theatres.
Exiting stage left this fortnight is llobin Peoples. artistic director of East Lothian‘s Brunton Theatre Company for the past five years. who has announced his imminent departure . . . a surprising decision when the company is about to move into its newly refurbished ancestral home in Musselburgh.
Entering stage right. meanwhile. is freelance director Leslie Finlay - the associate director of Glasgow's TAG Theatre Company. who also founded Glasgow‘s small-scale New Stage Theatre. Finlay has been appointed as artistic director of Borderline Theatre. south-west Scotland‘s major touring company. based in Ayr. The former incumbent. .lohn Murtagh. departed abruptly during rehearsals for the I995 panto. Oh yes he did.
Bill Bryden. on the other hand. will be going to the ball. The former National Theatre director and head of drama at BBC Scotland hopes to secure major lrireys for his new company Promenade plc (formerly Promenade Productions). the creative team behind The Ship and The Big I’it'nie — the latter of which lost £440.()()() and left creditors out of pocket. The revamped company hopes to raise up to £5()().()()() via the Enterprise lnvestrnent Scheme. allowing investors to buy shares in the company. Future productions Brydcn
elll eryden: collecting the bread for his next big plcnlc
plans. include his own plays Sun-o & Vunzelli and Willie Rough — which is to star trainspotting pin-up Ewan McGregor — plus Peter Mcoougall‘s stage debut. In The .S'lratlorr ()j'xl S/tttt/tm'.
All of which is as nothing compared with the long-awaited results of the Scottish Society of Playwrights awards scheme for I996. The year‘s Best Critic. whose sensitive and intelligent analysis best interpreted the efforts of Scotland‘s theatre practitioners. was Sen/land 0n Sunday’s Joyce McMillan; while the Worst Critic. who repeatedly missed the point and mercilessly crushed all egos in her path. was. er. Joyce McMillan. While Joyce rejoices. she might spare a thought for the dramatist whose shabby attire nrost enhances the ‘starving artist in a garret‘ image beloved of writers. Stand up and let‘s take a look at your trousers Chris Hannan. author of the Traverse‘s soaraway Shinng Souls, and (it's official) Worst-Dressed Playwright in Scodand.
A new musical
Legend of the British theatre, Lindsay Kemp returns to the Festival Theatre with a musical blending magic, love, laughter and tragedy.
“one of the Meet Me warm
this comrtry has over W” m rum.
The Lindsay Kemp Company
See it Hear it Feel it
The List 24 Jan-6 Feb I997 57