NEW PLAY Wormwood
Edinburgh: Traverse Theatre, Tue 20 May—Sat 7 Jun; previews Fri 16—Sun 18 May.
Classic sci-fi nerds listen up. Small- town girl suffers nightmares of impending doom as the local nuclear power plant goes up in smoke. Prophecy becomes fact as dream turns into reality. Dullsville transformed overnight into Centre of the Universe as whole world is rocked. Storm clouds gather in the fall-out. Panic and evacuation follow. Short-term results: many dead, maimed or worse. Families and communities shattered. World turned upside-down. Long-term results uncertain, but not hopeful. Survivors changed forever.
This is fifties B-movie schlock at best. Think again, sucker. Think back eleven years. Chernobyl. Remember now? How did you feel when all your favourite fictions came true?
For Ayrshire-based writer Catherine Czerkawska, author of Wormwood, which has its world premiere at Edinburgh’s Traverse Theatre this fortnight, the disaster seemed of near-biblical proportions, though the catalyst was something far closer to home. 'I was two or three months’ pregnant at the time of the accident,’ says Czerkawska during a mid-rehearsal coffee break, ’and that concentrated the mind somewhat. It was a very odd experience, sitting there with this radioactive cloud heading towards you. I know a lot of other women who were in the same position at the time, and it worries you because you’re in a vulnerable state.’
As a result of this, Czerkawska began collecting information about the accident, which eventually grew into Wormwood — the title being a literal translation of Chernobyl, around which a vast array of wormwood flowers grow, creating a distinctive odour around the plant and its alarmingly leaky dome. Wormwood is also rather spookily mentioned in the Book of Revelation,
1 which describes it as 'a great star falling from Heaven.’
Nightmare scenario: Wormwood
’I don't normally write issue-based things,’ admits Czerkawska. ’Having said that, I don’t think it works unless there are strong characters, so this is a far more human approach, looking at the effect Chernobyl had on people’s lives.’ This is similar in some ways to the short stories of Ray Bradbury, ostensibly a science- fiction writer but also something of a humanist. It's no coincidence to find that among Czerkawska's large body of radio work are adaptations of three Bradbury stories. The difference being, of course, that Wormwood is for real.
’It’s not an anti-nuclear polemic,’ maintains Czerkawska, ’but everyone looks at the human cost in the hope that something like Chernobyl is never allowed to happen again.’ (Neil Cooper)
What The Butler Saw G!asgow: Arches Theatre, Tue 20—Sat 24 May. Edinburgh: Theatre Workshop, Fri 30/Sat 31 May.
Body politics: Daryl Beeton in What The Butler Saw
An original comic genius, Joe Orton lived fast and died young In "/‘-/ha.’ The But/er Saw, he his outrageous sense of satire on the medical profession, setting the play in a craZed psychratric ward with everyday tales of frustrated desire, girls who are boys who like boys to he girls, strange love cults and all the rest
'lt's about looking at the whole conventions of abnormahty,’ says Mandy Colleran, associate director of Graeae, Britain's leading disabled people's theatre company, which is currently on tour With the show 'Who is normal? What is normal7' she continues 'It’s not really a straightforward guestion, and we bring an added dimension to that, particularly if you’re talking abOiit the medical profession We are a community who have had a continuous link with the medical world, and often our lives are controlled and managed by doctors '
The final production by director Ewan Marshall before he takes up the artistic directorship at the Duke's
new shows THEATRE
Theatre in Lancaster, Orton's play is a continuation of the line in satire first
taken up by the company With Alfred Jarry’s Uhu and Flesh Fly, their adaptation of Ben JonsOn’s Vo/pone, As Colleran puts it, it's gtiite simply about looking at the way the world
works, from a perspective that is often ignored Performed simultaneously in .
English and British Sign Language, the play VVIH be accessible to all audiences.
’A theatre company like Graeae is about getting away from a model of
disability defined as a problem,’ 1
asserts Colleran ’With respect to the play, which looks at who has the power to define what is insane, and at how these kinds of category come into being, it's totally relevant Although there’s no mention of disability in the play per se, Orton is exploring territory that ties in very closely to Our experience of conventional attitudes. We're looking at the term "disability" as a social model in terms of showing how we
are "disabled" by the society that we
live in ' (Marc Lambert)
directed by and starring
‘Superb Berkoff proves he is perfect match for Coriolanus’
See it Hear it Feel it
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