Grass Glasgow: Tramway, Thu 2—Sat 4 Oct.
Last time Venezuelan-born Londoner Javier de Frutos appeared at Tramway, he did it naked. This time he’s gone one better. For the world premiere of his latest work Grass, the quirkin inventive, intensely musical dancer/ choreographer will introduce two colleagues, Pary Naderi and Jamie Watton, to the pleasures of dancing with your bits dangling.
The question on everyone’s lips of course is — ’why?’ Stripping off for a sultry sex scene in a movie is one thing. But leaping from pillar to post with everything wobbling seems less appealing. Even for the audience. According to our Venezuelan friend, it’s all about aesthetics. The finely-toned naked body performing beautifully choreographed moves is, he reckons, well worth losing the catsuit for.
’I like to use nudity as a deeper way of exploring movement,’ purrs the Latino-Londoner. ’I see it not really as nudity, but as another costume for the body.’
This time round, de Frutos has more excuses than usual for leaving his threads in the dressing room. Set to the strains of Puccini's Madame Butterfly, Grass is themed round the body-language of attraction. So getting naked kind of goes with the territory.
Don’t go expecting a love story though. De Frutos is a much more
Peeled for action: Javier de Frutos and friends
abstract kind of guy, putting form and sheer atmosphere over content every time.
’We’re working very deliberately at not telling a story,’ he explains. ’That's where the freshness of relationships comes out. The minute you start to intellectualise, things become very dry. Attraction is a very gut instinct.’
Don’t go expecting a bonkfest either. ’There isn’t anything particularly sexual about the piece,’ de Frutos insists. 'We could just be peeling potatoes.’
Be warned, though. Not many folk peel tatties like our friend de Frutos. (Ellie Carr)
Sweat Glasgow: CCA, Thu 2 Oct.
Dancing, according to Paul Johnston, is a girls’ game. Disillusioned by the lack of testosterone pumping round the contemporary dance scene, the Dublin dancer set up his own, all-male company seven years ago, and with a keenly blokish sense of simplicity, named it Mandance.
’There seemed to be a very strong voice for women in dance,’ Johnston says. ’I felt that there wasn't a focus on what men can achieve in dance and here in Ireland there was no exploration at all, other than men looking pretty and forklifting women.’
Johnston’s answer was to express the male experience through the muscle and flesh of issue-based physical theatre. Topics that have come in for the Mandance treatment include fathers and sons, and in Sweat (1994), the solo piece Johnston brings to Glasgow, the emotional debris of HIV and AIDS.
There are those (ie women) who would argue that the male experience gets quite enough press already. Why not have one art form where women are the dominant sex?
‘It was an area I wanted to give some time to simply because I am male. I am quite politically aware and I felt I wanted to develop that angle,’ argues Johnston. ’That has been a criticism of
58 'I'IIEUST 26 Step—9 Oct 1997
Mandance. But once I tell people why, they realise it’s not an anti-women thing. We're just trying to highlight men.’
With Sweat however, Johnston goes head-on with a subject that knows no gender barriers. ’It was created because a lot of my friends were dropping off like flies,’ says Johnston candidly. ’They were dying from AIDS and I became aware that were was a conspiracy to deny it. There was and still is a stigma attached to the virus and I wanted to address that stigma by telling stories about it.’ (Ellie Carr)
Sweating it out: Mandance's Paul Johnston
SHAKESPEARE All's Well That Ends Well
Stirling: MacRobert Arts Centre, Tue 7—Sat 11 Oct. For many, Shakespeare’s enigmatic comedy is a dark play with an unresolved ending and an ironic title. Not for lrina Brook. The daughter of theatre guru Peter Brook, she saw his legendary 1970 Midsummer Night’s Dream many times, but was unfamiliar with All’s Well until invited to direct it for Oxford Stage Company.
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The central character is Helena, a physician’s daughter who heals the ailing King and gets to marry Bertram, her nobleman of choice. He treats her with disdain, but eventually succumbs. Emphasising the story’s fairy-tale quality, Brook sets it in a ’non-specific global village', with a multi-cultural cast and live African drumming. 'The intention was for it to be in a world where traditional tales could take place,’ she says. ’I wanted it to be beautiful, magical and redemptive.’ (Andrew Burnet)
Pickup and Michael Greco in All's Well
The Little Lady From A Lucky Star
Edinburgh: Traverse Theatre, Thu 2—Sat 4 Oct.
If you know Beckett’s Waiting For Godot or DUrrenmatt’s The Visit, the new show by Lung Ha's theatre company might seem strangely familiar. Set in a railway station, Louise Ironside’s script is peOpled by characters waiting for someone or something that never seems to arrive. When The Little Lady does turn up, everything changes in a way no one predicted.
According to director John Mitchell — now working with Edinburgh’s learning- disabled company for the third time — any resemblance to an existing play is coincidental. ’The plays tend to shape themselves around a metaphorical way of looking at things,’ he explains, having previously directed Lung Ha’s in Ironside's beguiling fable The Self-Made Child. ’This one is kind of a metaphor for accidents of birth and your station in life.’ But it’s not any kind of right-on message play. ’We tend to just do stories that we like,’ says Mitchell.
A few minutes later, he calls back. ’That Beckett and DUrrenmatt thing you were talking about,’ he says. ’That’s not a bad way to describe it.’ (Andrew Burnet)
Laughter On The 23rd Floor
Edinburgh: King's TheatreMon 29 Sep—Sat 4 Oct.
There are worse jobs than trading punchlines with some of the funniest men alive. In his 1993 comedy, Neil Simon harks back 40 years to when he was on the writing team for The Sid Caesar Show, working with Woody Allen, Mel Brooks and others.
Best known as Boycre, Del-Boy’s wider-than—thou rival in the massively successful sitcom Only Fools And Horses, John Challis is thoroughly enjoying appearing in this laugh-a- minute comedy. His character is based on Sheldon Keller, who later wrote for Lucille Ball and Dick Van Dyke. ’He's good, but he hasn't got a big impression of himself. He says, "these guys are Tiffany's, I’m just a wholesaler. " They were a great team: the chemistry was absolutely right. They were extremely competitive, but also admired each other.’
All roses have their thorns. The team is overshadowed by McCarthy’s purges and the station bosses’ commerCial demands. That's an easy pomt of reference for Challis. Last Christmas, Only Fools outdid itself, with viewing figures of 25 million. But now, the series is resolutely finished. ’The desire for it is extraordinary,‘ admits Challis, ’but it was that thing of quitting while it's hot.’ (Andrew Burnet)
Gagging for it: John Challis with Sandra Dickinson in Laughter On The 23rd Floor