Wallace & Grommit
Edinburgh: King’s Theatre, Tue 7—Sat II Oct. Glasgow: Theatre Royal, Tue 14—Sat 18 Oct-
The interval conversations of children audience members are so much more revealing than those of the adults. Instead of, ’I see this play on two levels,’ l overhear, ’Do you like Grommit?’ and ’Yeah, he's ultimate cool I’
It comes as some relief to Andrew Dawson, writer-director of this live- action version of Wallace & Grommit, that the animated inventor and his dog have made the leap from screen to stage so successfully. There is many a slip ’twixt triple-Oscar-winning stop- motion film and Dawson’s formula of 'actors playing the parts of Plasticine characters.’
An important element in this
me, and I’m 35.'
smooth transition has been Dawson’s attitude of not taking it all too literally. As might be expected from the man behind cult hit Thunderbirds F.A.B., the whole show, is, ’a little bit tongue-in-cheek’. As Dawson puts it, ’There’s lots in there for adults as well as children. I think lots of people bring children as an excuse to come themselves, but I'd like to say that adults don’t need to
So just who is the show for? ’All people who enjoyed the films,’ replies Dawson. ’When Nick (Park, original creator of the characters) made the films - in his mid-20$ - he said he made them for himself. Well I made this for
Dawson’s CV suggests he has just the right credentials for this project. He has played ’various aliens’ in the Gerry Anderson TV series Space Precinct (’It was quite a laugh and quite dull at the same time. Always like,
Wallace 8: Grommit: suitable for adults
“How am I gonna die this week?" '). He has also trained in the Feldenkrais Method ('It's a kind of movement theatre created by the Israeli physicist and engineer Moshe Feldenkrais - a method of seeing the skeleton'). And he brings it all to bear on this story of Wallace’s latest invention. The former's influence is obvious in the show’s knockabout physical routines, while the latter,
apparently, may be seen in the actors themselves. '1’ hey
might look bigger than normal, have more presence,’ suggests Dawson.
Presence aside, the show's five performers - and particularly Paul Filipiak as Wallace - offer excellent
impersonations of their respective characters. With a
script co-written by Bob Baker (who co-wrote The Wrong Trousers and A Close Shave), success seems assured. Even grown-ups seem to find Grommit ultimate cool. (Tom Macpherson)
‘Opinionated bastard': David Robb as Elyot in Private Lives
Edinburgh: Royal Lyceum Theatre, Fri 3—Sat 18 Oct.
David Robb's directorial debut arises from a light-hearted conflict with the Royal Lyceum’s artistic director Kenny Ireland. Robb was appearing at the theatre two years ago as Elyot in Private Lives. After some slightly fraught discussions in rehearsals, Robb recalls, Ireland asked him if he’d ever directed a play. On receiving a negative reply, Ireland commented ’well, an opinionated bastard like you should.’
Robb’s view of Dead Funny, Terry Johnson's social comedy about the BMW-owning classes, shows a coherency which bodes well for the production. ’It very much reflects late 20th century sexual politrcs,’ says Robb. ’It's occasionally quite shocking, but we’re not going out to offend our audience.’
Robb has moved the location of Johnson’s play from North London to Edinburgh, and the New Town flat of Richard (Andy Gray) and Eleanor (Jenny Black). The death of Benny Hill occasions the visit of three of Richard’s
old college friends, who make up a ’dead comics society’ — what transpires provides much satirical insight.
’The play asks what makes people Trekkies, what makes people join historical re-enactment societies, how do we become so utterly besotted by something?’ explains Robb. The ‘me generation' is one particular target. ’Everything has to be somebody else's fault, so nobody takes responsibility for their own actions,’ is how Robb puts it, adding that life should be about ’what you get up and do; not who you lay back and blame.’
Robb makes no apologies for his naturalistic approach to the production. ’It’s a naturalistic play, so we should believe in the characters,’ he argues. ’We should believe in the situation, and people should be touched as well as amused by it.’
Nonetheless, he assures us this won't mean OTT comedy moments are left out. ’Actors are always being told to internalise but people don’t necessarily,’ he says. ’If you see a fight in a pub, there's nothing bloody internal about it — people go bananas in life, especially when they’re emotionally wrought.’ (Steve Cramer)
. . . Andall the men and women merely players.
NAIL-BITING TIMES should come to an end this week for Scotland’s five main touring theatre companies. A new Scottish Arts Council (SAC) arrangement (replacing the existing 'revenue-funding’) will provide fixed- term, four-year ’franchise’ funding for touring companies.
However, only four of the five companies — Glasgow’s 7:84 Theatre Company, TAG and Wildcat, Edinburgh's Communicado and Ayr- based Borderline Theatre - are expected to receive it.
The SAC is will reach a decision today (Thu 25 Sep), after which the unlucky fifth company will be forced to re-examine long-term plans and apply for funding on a one-project- at-a-time basis.
TAG's general manager John Morgan said his company was ’quietly confident’ it would receive franchise funding. 'T he advantage is that you know for sure that you're going to be funded for four years, and you can plan projects that will need four years of work,’ he said. ’Going back on project funding would be . . . interesting,’ he added.
IN THE RUN-UP to its management merger with the King's Theatre, the Edinburgh Festival Theatre has announced profits of £6600 in the financial year 1996-7 - a triumph, given the financial crises that have faced the Festival Theatre in the past. The new company, Edinburgh Theatres Ltd, which will programme and promote both venues, has now been formed, and will be fully operational by April 98. ‘Co- ordinating programming across both venues will strengthen the punters' choice,’ asserted general manager and chief executive Stephen Barry.
FINALLY, A FOOTNOTE to last issue’s invitation to tyro comics wishing to enter The Daily Telegraph Open Mic Award. You’ll be needing the address for your entry. And here it is: PO Box 13048, London, WC2H 78H. Alternatively, call the hotline on 0891 887 766; or call Anna Raynsford on 0171 734 667 for further information.
Off the hook?: TAG Theatre Company in Peter Pan
26 Sep-9 Oct 1997 THE LIST 57