Edinburgh: Assembly Rooms, Wed I6—Sun 20 Apr.
Glasgow: Tramway, Wed 30 Apr—Sat 3 May.
Only 50 people will attend the debut Scottish performance of Edinburgh-based Benchtours theatre company’s new production, Peepshow. Or at any performance come to that.
Not that the company are worried about the lack of an audience for a ’surreal and erotic’ play about the loss of childhood and cultural innocence. It’s the maximum number who can fit into the innovative ’theatre in the surround' in which Peepshow will be presented. Unlike the relatively conventional ’theatre in the round’, in which the audience sits on all four sides of the stage, here the audience will be surrounded by the stage.
’The staging of this is fairly straightforward,’ claims Pete Brooks, Peepshow’s writer and director, for whom this is the second collaboration with
Peepshow: through a gauze darkly
Benchtours. The first was the visually sumptuous, but rather soft-centred production Limbo, in 1995. 'The audience is actually inside a house, so they will be looking outwards from a central courtyard space. For instance, you can see the inside of the front door and the windows.’
It sounds gimmicky - until you discover that Brooks's initial plans involved the audience sitting with their heads pgking through a gauze representing the floor of the house. ‘That was an early idea,’ he claims. ’We were very keen to play with more complex stagings, where the narrative was pieced together by glimpses you saw from different spaces, but we didn’t have the resources.’
Another technical problem was how to guide the audience's attention to the action. This has been overcome by using audio cues of directional sound
through a quadrophonic sound system, although it has meant the loss of such tricks of theatrical trade as placing a quiet or subtle piece of action in juxtaposition with something that is already happening. ’It is an unconventional piece,‘ admits Brooks, ’although it has lots of the pleasures of conventional theatre. It has narrative, it has an emotional shape and there is no danger of the audience being attacked by the performers because there is a gauze between them. When you walk into an unconventional staging, especially one where you are free to move around, if you know that there is a limit of the risk factor, you can relax more.’
Unconventional Peepshow may be, but the select few who are able to see it are in for an exciting time. (Thom Dibdin)
POLITICAL COMEDY Translations
Edinburgh: Royal Lyceum Theatre, Fri 4—Sat 26 Apr.
Brian Friel: the language of love
60 THE LIST r1-47 Apr 1997
National identity may not be the sexiest of Subjects, but in election season — With relations between Europe’s nation states on the agenda — it’s a dominant feature of all parties' campaigns. The histories of Ireland and Scotland are so closely connected that Irish writer Brian Fuel and his claSSIc 1981 play Translations should have deep resonances for Scottish audiences.
’Like Ireland in the I830s, Scotland isn't independent, it’s part of a sovereign state and it is culturally compromised,’ explains Irish actor Mark Lambert, who is directing the Royal Lyceum’s new production of Translations ’The language wasn’t eradicated as such, but there was a clearer case of ethnic cleansing in the Highlands than there ever was in Ireland.’
Translations tells the story of the illegal hedge-schools, set up when the British tried to ban Irish Catholics from speaking Gaelic in schools. In the play, language is not the only barrier when love crosses the diyide,
For Lambert - who had his goolies forked by Rik Mayall during a guest
appearance in Bottom, and Jumped off a 90ft budding followmg an interVieW With Robbie Coltrane in Cracker — this is a different kettle of chips altogether. The work of Friel has exoted him from his earliest acting days alongside Daniel Day LeWis and Pete Postlethwaite, and he has watched With interest Friel’s directing aspirations (currently to be seen in Friel's production of his new play Give Me Your Answer Do! at the Abbey Theatre in Dublin).
’He was quoted as belieVing that the sooner theatre gets back to letting stage managers direct the better,’ offers Lambert. ’I think he’s SUSpICIOUS of conceptual directors tampering With the text, It’s not always satisfying being in productions where you’re upstaged by the stage.’
Don’t expect an over-elaborate production from Lambert. EmphaSis is on the text and the acting. ’Some directors would argue that casting is 50 per cent of your work: if you get that right then you don't have to do so much work - which is possibly true but may be flippant. If I have any quality it’s that I can make actors act better and pay heed to the text.’ (Brian Donaldson)
An Ideal Husband
Edinburgh: King's Theatre, Mon 14— Sat I9 Apr.
Unparalleled when it comes to refined witticisms, Oscar Wilde was no stranger to controversy. Indeed, his comic masterpiece An Ideal Husband, set amid the privileged world of London society, could almost be a premonition of the literary dandy's own fate.
Currently enjoying a revival by the Peter Hall Company, the play sees femme fatale Mrs Chever resorting to blackmail and the threat of public humiliation to get what she wants from the seemingly squeaky-clean politician Sir Robert Chiltern, whose brilliant career grew from a corrupt deal.
Once dismissed as a writer of sheer froth, Wilde is now recognised as a highly influential figure, whose ideas were ahead of their time. Underneath the hallmark repartee, full of verbal polish and elegant cynicism, An Ideal Husband makes a far-from-subtle dig at political corruption and the English establishment, of which the unconventional Irishman was always on the fringes. When the play was reVived in the 60s, just after the Profumo affair, and again in 1993, after another Tory cabinet scandal, audiences were amazed at its relevance.
Visiting Edinburgh for a one-off talk on the life and work of Wilde is his grandson Merlin Holland, a Journalist and broadcaster, who has researched, written and lectured extensively on his grandfather. Far from cashing in, Holland long resisted playing the famin card. ’Despite never meeting him, with all the interest in Oscar I felt I had to answer people's questions,' he says. 'In the end, funnily, I felt I had to protect him from the sensationalism of an already sensational life.’
An Ideal Husband demonstrates Wilde's preoccupation With our idealisation of others: JUSI as sweet, unworldly Lady Chiltern puts her husband on a pedestal, Wilde wrote the play during his marriage to a doting Wife, Constance May Lloyd, While also 'feeding With the panthers' — Wilde's way of describing his forays into London's homosexual deini-monde.
Peter Hall’s production is a traditionally IaVish fops-and-big-frocks affair. ’I don't think, at least not for a While, we’re gomg to get the characters running around in black leather in 19303 fascist Italy,’ laughs Holland. (Claire Prentice)
3 Merlin Holland discusses Wilde at the King’s Theatre, Sat 79 Apr, 72.30pm.
It‘s a fop’s life: An Ideal Husband