THEATRE review

DRAMA Crimes Of The Heart

Edinburgh: Royal Lyceum Theatre, until Sat 29 Mar **~k*

This sure as hell is a darlin' play. Set in the small town of Hazlehurst, Mississippi, in the autumn of 1974, five years after Hurricane Camille devastated Cuba and the Southern States, Beth Henley's Pulitzer Prize- winning drama places the three sisters of the Magrath family at the eye of its Storm. On the 30th birthday of shy, dowdy, eldest sister Lenny, jaded fantasist Meg returns from hard times in Hollywood to find irresponsible, bubbly Babe, the youngest sister, in a crisis she refuses to take seriously.

The trio of siblings is appropriate to this decidedly Chekovian play. Outside its epicentre, whirlwinds are raging Granddaddy’s imminent death; a husband’s lawsuit against Babe, who ‘didn’t like his looks' and shot him; a potential romance for Lenny, and a potentially hazardous one for Meg but all of this is happening elsewhere, in the sprawling network of people and relationships beyond the Magrath kitchen where the action takes place. Crimes Of The Heart’s only serious weakness is its hasty exposition of this offstage world - an unappetising and clumsy opening to what later becomes a fascinating drama.

The influence of Chekhov also shows in the play’s taut counterpoint of misery and mirth; in its expose of the contradictory emotions that inform ordinary people's behaviour; in the way it humanises even the strangest of

Heat of the night: Andrea Gibb, Harley London and Meg Fraser in Crimes Of The Heart

personality ouirks.

Alison Peebles directs with a sure hand, drawing from her terrific cast a highly physicalised yet entirely believable style of performance. Andrea Gibb endearingly captures Lenny’s balance of childish naivety and big-sisterly concern; Harley Loudon makes Meg's brash facade a veil for vulnerability; while Babe - perhaps the

most difficult part becomes a credibly '

confused oddball in Meg Fraser's interpretation. Jonathan Warner also excels as Barnette Lloyd, Babe‘s lawyer with an axe to grind.

The environment is alien, but the people are readily familiar, though their diet hardly belongs to the nutritionally- aware 90s. Given the calories consumed in the play, Crimes Against The Heart might be a more apt title (Andrew Burnet)

DRAMA Widowers' Houses

Glasgow: Citzens' Stalls Studio, until Sat 5 Apr *‘kikir

Despite being over 100 years old, George Bernard Shaw's first play is remarkably ripe for Giles Hayergal's crisply directed revival. Though it lacks the subtlety of Shaw’s later, greater works, Wi'dowers’ Houses compellineg exposes the rickety scaffolding of self- deceit and double-think that holds up the crumbling edifice of the property market, the ludicrous pretensions of the British class system, and the poverty traps and abuses of power that they sustain.

You can judge a man by his friends. Harry Trench (a strutting Paul Albertson) is a pompous young gadabout, but seems relatively harmless, purified to a degree by his passion for demure Blanche Sartorius (Nada Sharp), whom he has met

Dress to impress: Paul Albertson and Tristram Wymark in Widowers' Houses

58 THE usr 2i Mar—3 Apr i997

travelling in Europe with her father Trench’s companion Cokane, however, is a revoltineg smug snob whose sleek dismissal of all liberal thought raises doubts about anyone who calls him a friend.

The apparel, meanwhile, doth not proclaim the man. Blanche’s father ~ vividly portrayed by Derwent Watson - at first seems a pillar of rectitude and decorum. Sartorius's sartorial perfection and starchy bearing mark him out as a man of dignity, yet before long we learn that he is a swindling scoundrel whose fortune has been wrung from the wretched tenants of slum housing. When the tables are turned by his wheedling minion Lickcheese (a flamboyant performance by Brendan Hooper), all the characters including the ingenu0us young couple are drawn into a conspiracy which preserves their status by turning the slums over to gentrification. Tellingly, only the maid ~ who, like the hapless tenants, is a Victim of economic oppression is left uncorrupted.

All the cast take obyious relish in Shaw's |ingurstic wrzardry (notably Tristram Wymark's Oily Cokane); while Philip WitCOmb'S de5ign is a layish rhapsody in cream and scarlet, placing the play loosely in period, but adding a modernistic twist. Limitations of space force some rather static staging at times, but in all this is an admirably spiky reading of a play Shaw correctly described as ’unpleasant'. Sadly, a century on, little has changed. (Andrew Burnet)


On tour tint

Dundee Rep's co-production wrth Robert C. Kelly takes Pam Gems's play by the scruff of the neck and gives it a no-holds-barred treatment, complete with

' | raucous Glasgow accents, against a glittering set that’s a perfect backdrop for

the coarse, often squalid stOry of Edith Piaf's life.

The ierkily structured script creates a few problems, skimming over events in a way that often makes them seem trrvral or unintentionally comic. The real mm of the piece is the SOTlgS, and here this production sc0res highly.

Terry Neasons revrval of the title role (which she first played in 1987) is not an impersonation but a subtle and powerful interpretation. Backed by an excellent onstage band, she captures the raw iritenSity and emotional range without caricaturing a woman who was ill equipped to handle her own massive talent.

It's a star performance in what is essentially a star vehicle, but among the Supporting piayers, George Drennan, Kern Falconer and particularly Sandra Duncan make their individual mark (Anne Neil)

DANCE Tap Dogs

ilasgow: Theatre Royal, Glasgow, until Sat 22 Mar;

Edinburgh Festival Theatre, Mon 24—Sat 29 Mar it t it *

You know the story by now. Six beefy Aussies in Blundstone boots With taps on who step and shuffle their way through. a brickie's yard set to a sweaty, adrenaline high

Now Dein Perry's testosterone tappers’ are back With a mostly British cast replacing the rough 'n' ready six-pack that made the shows name The new crew is more lightweight and clean—Cut, and the steps seen a touch formulaic now, but it’s easy to forgive.

Sparks fly literally) as the boys spray machine-gun taps across an unfolding playground of scaffolding, slats, ropes and ladders, managing tough routines, tin—stage barter arid noising up the audience wrth consu'iiinate professionalism.

All Perrys best and cheekiest shots are in there and, provrrig you really can teach old dogs new tricks, he's added some fresh ones to what some thought was a one—shot formula Judging by the whoops and wolf whistles from the

audience, there's life in those old boots yet. (Ellie c

On-site maintenance: the Tap Dogs

DRAMA Eva Perdn Glasgow: Citizens' Circle Studio, until Sat SApr 1k *1k * With an impeccable sense of timing, Kenny Miller (who both designs and directs) has chosen to stage the flipside of Lord Lloyd Webber’s Evita, Argentinian-born Copi has written a groteSQue, claustrophobic portrait of the late South American superstar, a riieditatiori on farrie, power, sex, death and Catholic:srn

ln liS own way, Miller's production relies just as heavily on the celebrity of Madonna as Lloyd Webber's epic, overblown musical Andrea Hart (Eva PerOn) closely echoes the Material Girl herself, with platinum blonde hair scooped back in a white bandana and ever-present moyie-star shades. The production also revels in images of tacky glamour and Catholic kitsch, set in a clutter of candles, lace, perfume bottles and gaudy paste Jewels

lt's stylish, amusing, outrageous and irreverent, with an unexpected twrst in the tail. But whether Copi ultimately offers much more insight into the phenomenon of Eva Perc’m than the 'Other Eyita' is debatable. (Minty Donald)


Paras Over The Barras - The Second Wave

Glasgow: Pavilion Theatre, until Sat 22 Mar Hr It's a tried and trusted recipe i gallus Glass-reqians, a downed German pilot (of

the ‘ve yill conquer 7e vorld’ variety), and a few dodgy Jokes. Put them all

together and It's abom. as close to a SCottish 'A/r'o ’Ai‘lo as you'll find.

Writer iarnes Barclays latest offering carries on from previous works (Paras / and The Bigot) in that It taps into that rich, nostalgit vein ever-popular With the old Caledonian pSyche There are wally dugs on the triantelpiece, a lot of alcohol and wedding dresses made froi'i parachute silk. The JOkQ count is high and the cast perform their party pieces With amplified gusto

It’s not subtle," neither is it pretentious. if you like your humour of the music hall variety you’ll love It, if net, hail out By the way, if I hear one more Joke about a certain German aircraft manufacturer, l'll shoot the Eocke

(Jim Mason,