Former artistic director IAN BROWN is back at the. Traverse Theatre to direct ARIEL DORFMAN's new play Widows — a tale of abused human rights with roots that go even deeper than his acclaimed Death And The Maiden.
Story: Neil Cooper
Collaborating with any regime can be dangerous. This rule applies to playwrights as much as anyone else. and it is telling that writers often don‘t work with the same theatre company twice. It has been a different story for Ariel Dorfman. (‘hilean-horn writer of “(‘(ll/l And The .lluir/vn. [Even though lan Brown's 1005 prodttction of Dorfman's play Rem/yr at lidinhurgh's 'l‘raverse Theatre received a mixed reaction. and failed to transfer elsewhere. it has not dissuaded either party from working together again.
(‘o-written by Dorfman with Ange/s In America author Tony Kushner. ll’ir/(m's pie-dates both other plays. and was in fact what first attracted Brown to Dorfman‘s work during his eight-year tenure as artistic director at the 'l‘raverse. Although an earlier version of the play was performed in America. this will be its European premiere. and the world premiere of a re-worked version.
‘We simply couldn‘t afford to do it beforef says Brown. now a freelance director. who has assembled one of the largest casts ever seen on the Traverse stage. ‘lt would be nice to have more. but it would be difficult to do it with any less than the. fourteen we‘ve got.‘
‘(‘ertain plays cry out for large casts.’ Dorfman concurs on the phone from Minnesota. where he has an academic post. ‘lt's a form of censorship that we’re not allowed to do that onstage unless it‘s Shakespeare or a classic.‘
Set in an tin-named village ripped apart by civil war and under martial law. the play depicts the women left behind — often war"s real victims — as they wait to hear from their loved ones. l'iuphemistically. the men have been said to ‘disappear‘. But when bodies start washing up on the beach. this gives a physical reality to their loss. and the worm turns. Led by an elder matriarch of the village. the women revolt in the only way they know how.
"l‘he women are forced to take a stand and come out of their inertia.‘ says Dorfman. for whom human
rights are an abiding theme. ‘They start asking for
justice. and in trying to restore the equilibrium they had. the problem of justice becomes an enormously
'I was devastated by the destruction of democracy in Chile, but I was rescued from my despair by the example of women who brought their men back from the dead.’ Ariel Dorfman
Rage against the regime: Ariel Dorfman in Edinburgh
A Chilean exile who suffered personally at the hands of the Pinochet regime. Dorfman writes plays that don't shrink from portraying some of humanity's crueller excesses. He is now an American resident. and this production seems to be closing a door on the more painful aspects of Dorfman's past. That is not to say his preoccupations with power and its abuses are being stymied.
'I hate to be categorised just as the author of Deal/i And The Maiden.‘ he says. ‘Obviously I‘m thrilled by that play‘s continuing life. but I don‘t want to be married to it forever. I will never cease to fight in my own life for whoever‘s been excluded and is in pain in the world. That’s part of my work as a human being. but I‘m going into other areas now.‘
To this end. his next play deals with abuse of power by a Hollywood casting agent. li'idmi-s is more than just a clearing-out process though.
‘When I went into exile l was devastated. because I had no voice of my own.’ he explains. ‘I was reeling from defeat and saddened by the end of the whole Allende experience and destruction of democracy in Chile. l was rescued from my despair by the example of the voices of women all over the world who. in much worse circumstances than mine. brought their men' back from the dead. and brought me back from my death in life. Let’s say that with ll’itlows I’m paying a debt.‘
Widows has two reduced-price previews at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Fri 28 Feb/Sat 1 Mar: then tours England and opens officially at the Traverse on Tue 25 Mar.
preview THEATRE STAGE WHISPERS
The column that tinkers about in the backstage area.
'A RAPID CHANGE OF TROUSERS' is what Equity, the actors' union, is after from the Theatrical Manage ment Association. The body which governs basic pay for performers in commercial and subsidised theatres is under siege from Equity over wage claims. The current three-year agree- ment — which stands at £170—£190 per week, described by Equity's Martin Brown as 'insulting’ — expires at the end of March. Equity is seeking to increase the minimum weekly pay to £250, and has had declarations from almost 300 leading actors that they'll refuse to sign new contracts until an agreement is reached. All other Equity members are encour- aged to follow suit, with a rally planned at the National Theatre on Monday 10 March. Could run and run.
STARDOM AT LAST for Stephen Greenhorn, author of the Traverse Theatre's soaraway Passing Places — universally praised and sold out for most of its all-too-brief run. Imagine his delight when he was accosted in the Traverse bar by an autograph collector. Having established his credentials, however, the stranger merely enquired where he could find the show's star Colin McCredie. When the same figure accosted him the following evening, Greenhorn — suspecting a hoax — cut him dead.
Cutting people dead with a hunting knife is nothing new for Sinks, the psychopathic villain of Passing Places, played with admirable viciousness by Kenneth Bryans. An audience member was moved to congratulate Bryans after the show on his convincing performance - so convincing, in fact, that the greeting was delivered from a safe distance of several yards.
You calling me a psycho?
Kenneth Bryans as Binks ONLY IN NEW YORK, perhaps. Still, it's cheering that Evelyn Amato is being taken seriously. Ms Amato, 31, is suing Andrew Lloyd-Webber (for $12 million, if you please) after she was humiliated while watching a Broadway performance of Cats, claiming ‘assault, battery, invasion of privacy, violation of civil rights, negligence, infliction of emotional distress and false imprisonment’ by The Rum Tum Tugger. Let this be a lesson to Scottish performers that enforced audience participation is neither big nor clever. Remember kids: when the man in the frock tries to make you sing ‘Ye Cannae Shove Your Granny Aff A Bus', just say no.
21 Feb—6 Mar 1997 THE “ST 59