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Wheat and dust

A new import from Down Under harks back to the days when Aussies really were mad.

A five-star hit with the critics last year, KCS Theatre Company return to the Fringe with a harrowing play of isolation and madness by Louis Nowra. Little known on these shores, Nowra is Australia’s premier playwright, a former director of the Sydney Playhouse and academic to boot. Set amid the vast wheat fields of New South Wales in 1912, his play tells the story of the disintegration of a community as it succumbs to an outbreak of ’holy

fire' or ergot wheat poisoning. With its fearsome effects, it’s not just a matter of feeling a little crook, mate. In fact, it's more like consuming a vast amount of LSD while watching your hands and feet turn black with


’People strangle each other, mutilate themselves and others, and have awful visions of death,’ says Philip Swan, sounding remarkably sanguine. Having seen the play himself in Sydney, he was bowled over by its power. 'I like to do new work or things that people haven’t seen,’ he explains, 'and this is a strange and interesting play by anyone’s standards. I hope this premiere makes people realise that there's a lot of talent in Australia. It’s amazing that Nowra isn't better known


But in case this sounds like an Ozzie version of some schlock Hollywood spatterfest, Swan stresses the range and sheer strangeness of Nowra's gift. 'The more we

Inside The Island: 'a strange and interesting play by any standards'

rehearse, the more pleased we are with the writing,’ he comments. ’The play is very slow and still to begin with; it has this Chekhovian quality of quietness. But as long as we can create the right atmosphere on stage, I think

it will work because it builds to this remarkable King

Lear-like conclusion.’

'The title, Inside the Island refers both to Australia itself, and also to the individuals involved,’ he adds, alluding to the play’s complexity. ‘Nowra is anatomising the Australian character, its ambivalent relationship to Britain and obsession with hierachy. And there’s a sense that the poison in the wheat is only really bringing out what is already there hidden beneath the surface. For him there is not just one, but many different layers of

insanity.’ (Marc Lambert)

[5 ([4).

I Inside the Island (Fringe) K CS Theatre Company, C Cubed, StJOhn’s Hall (Venue 726) 225 5705, until 30 Aug, 2.45pm,


The Museum Of Contemporary Art


Why can’t the man in the crumpled suit get the girlfriend he deserves? That's what he keeps asking himself,

32 THE usr 22 28 Aug I997

Stephen Rappaport: 'a tremendously physical, sensual actor'

and after an hour-long dip into his thoughts, we're a lot closer to the answer. The Museum Oi Contemporary Art is the latest production written by and starring Los Angeles-based stage, TV and film actor Stephen Rappaport, and it's a performance hill of skill, Vitality and humour.

With a love of minutiae wrapped up in grandiose fantasy and delivered in a disarmineg candid way, this solo show

is a little like a Nicholson Baker novel Sprung to life. 'Life' being the operative word It’s not Just that his face (which he describes fondly as haVing a 'sharp, angular, gargoylesgue quality') is mobile and expresswe; delivering his fantasy of the perfect date with the ideal partner as though it's forming in his mind for the first time, Rappaport is a tremendOusly physical, sensual actor, who easily engages the audience and takes them Willi him every time the mood swerves Rappapoit has the presence and timing of a great stand-up comic, and he's good on those onomatopoeic sounds too, the conversational shorthand that packs paragraphs of meaning into a single hiss or grunt. It's hard to be surprised when his fantasy turns against him, and the play's one weakness is that the JOurney takes us back to where we started, but both men and women \VIH feel a twmge of recognition and perhaps even sympathy (Alastair lvlabbott)

I The Museum Of Contemporary Art (Fringe) Great Jones Theatre Co, The Pleasance (Venue 33) 556 6550, until 30Aug (not 26, 27) I 45pm, [6/[7 (IS/[6)

H it list The cream of the early afternoon shows Inside The Island An epidemic of ergot poisoning hits a rural Australian community, turning it into an apocalyptic battlefield. See preview, left. Inside The Island (Fringe) KCS Theatre Company, C Cubed (Venue 126) 225 5 705, until 30 Aug, 2.45pm, £5 (£4). the Museum Of Contemporary Art Compelling solo comedy-drama from LA’s brilliant Stephen Rappaport. See review, left. The Museum Of Contemporary Art (Fringe) Great Jones Theatre Company, The Pleasance (Venue 33) 556 6550, until 30 Aug (not 26, 27), 1.45pm, f 6/£ 7 (f 5/1! 6). Club, Glubl Nautical-themed visual comedy from the Spanish group that gave us Muu! in 1993. Great comic timing and a marvellous sense of the ridiculous. G/ub, G/ub! (Fringe) YI/ana, Gilded Balloon (Venue 38) 226 2151, until 23 Aug, 2.75pm, 24-30 Aug, 4.30pm, £7 (f 6). Thyestes A retelling of the Greek myth which still has the power to move audiences. See review, page 34. Thyestes (Fringe) Conspiracy Theatre, C, Overseas House (Venue

Mad Revival of the gut-wrenching 1992 production that united critics and public in approval. See review, page 34 Mad (Fringe) Grass'market Project, Famous Grouse House (Venue 34) 220 5606, until 30 Aug (not 26) 2pm, f 7 (f5).

Boys’ Life Striking observational humour in Pulitzer-nominated Howard Korder's satirical drama about the battle of the sexes. Boys’ Life (Fringe) Great Jones Theatre Co, Assembly Rooms (Venue 3) 226 2428, until 30 Aug, 2.35pm

£8. 50/159. 50 (f 7. 50/£8/50).

Casa From Brazil, an extraordinary performance artist who was in the running for a Fringe First at her last appearance. Twenty million years of human evolution are crammed into a woman's daily domestic rituals. Casa (Fringe) Denise Stoklos, Assembly Rooms (Venue 3) 226 2428, until 30 Aug, 7.30pm, £8/f9 (£7/f8).