Edinburgh: Royal Lyceum Theatre, until Sat 22 Nov Hm

Those who allege that Shakespeare's comedy is just not funny might be confounded by Kenny Ireland’s production of Much Ado. As everyone knows, to make it work you need experienced clowns. To this purpose, Ireland has brought in such Scottish comedy heavyweights as Forbes Masson, Elaine C. Smith and Jonathan Watson.

For those who can't remember their high school Shakespeare, this is the one in which Beatrice (Smith) and Benedick (Masson) - two people notorious for their sharp- witted rejection of the opposite gender - are brought together by the deceptions of their friends. In a parallel plot, Claudio (Adam Robertson) and I-Iero (Caroline Devlin) undergo the tribulation of separation at the altar, after the latter is accused of being a slapper by the former - this the result of a malicious intervention by Don John (Tom McGovern).

The problematic nature of this comedy of mishearing and misperception is well known among performers, but Ireland's take on it is one of more hits than misses. The scene in which Benedick strains to overhear the conversation of his friends about Beatrice's love for him is beautifully played by Masson, who dismembers various bits of Russell Craig’s clever, and very artificial set to get a Iugfull. The mirror-image overhearing scene involving Smith and a washing line is physically less well presented. but the approach to these scenes illustrates intelligence. There is no way of making them plausible in the naturalistic sense, so it's a good idea to let the audience hear the thirteenth stroke of the clock, and play them for their sheer silliness.

Smiles and wiles: Forbes Masson and Elaine C. Smith in Much Ado About Nothin

3*. .7 .3


The shattered wedding sequence is also very well put together. Finlay Welsh's Leonato, conveying the kind of disillusionment and confusion required as the aggrieved father, handles this beautifully, particularly given that the scene follows a great deal of farcical comedy. Devlin is also strong here, going for melodramatic overplaying, rather than trying, as so many Heros have, to underplay a script which demands amplification.

Michael MacKenzie's Don Pedro even participates in a song (purists might object to this) which - despite containing that cringey Shakespearean lyric 'Hey nonny, nonny’ - is very pleasingly put together.

On the whole, the performance does have some languors, which may be more the fault of the play than the players, but Ireland's production can be credited for the characteristic unpretentiousness of his approach. (Steve Cramer)

it's been a fairy tale With an unexpectedly happy ending.

’It’s very different,’ says Burke of La Fille, 'The one we wanted to do would have been new, and an unknown quantity. La Fille is an established classic, and a British classic as well. lt's completely opposne, but JUSI as eXCiting. It's one of the British pieces you never thought you’d get to do, because the other British companies do it and generally we don't do the same things.’

With all its frills and iaunty clog dances however, Ashton‘s thoroughly classical La Fille is not the step in a


La Fille Mal Gardée

Glasgow: Theatre Royal, Until Sat 22 Nov & Mon 29 Dec—Sat 10 Jan; Edinburgh: Festival Theatre, Tue l6—Sat 27 Dec.

Like Christmas, Scottish Ballet’s festive show has long been something you could put smart money on happening once a year. This year however, SB’s odds have not looked so favourable. Followmg a recent period of instability, where the Scottish Arts CounCil forced the board of Scottish Ballet to resign in return for funding being reinstated, the company has had

Wig step for Scottish Ballet: La Fille Mal Gardée

to shelve plans to give audiences a brand-new ballet for Christmas.

Details of an enticing contemporary production to replace SB’s old Crimbo warhorse The Nutcracker, had already appeared in theatre brochures when news broke that the show would not go on.

Birmingham Royal Ballet’s loan of sets and costumes for Frederick Ashton’s family ballet La Fille Mal Gardée then, was a Christmas gift JUSI in time. The late addition of guest star Wayne Sleep for opening performances was simply the cherry on top.

For acting artistic director Kenn Burke, who also plays Widow Simone,

modern direction that some might have hoped for.

’I think everybody thinks we’re here and there’s gomg to be a change, and they expect that change next morning, Change is exciting, but it takes time. I think also to do something that’s known helps. Change is scary, so to have something familiar is good for us internally and good for the outside.’

One thing that won’t go changing is that Christmas time is panto time. 'It’s such a family piece,’ says Burke of La Fille. ’It's almost like old-fashioned pantomime. We sit and watch in rehearsals and Just giggle.’

So remember. It may be ballet. But don’t forget to look BEHIND YOU. (Ellie Carr)



Edinburgh Festival Theatre, Tue 1 l—Sat 29 Nov *~k**

The subject matter of Leonard Bernstein, Stephen Sondheim and Jerome Robbins's 1957 Broadway musical might be a bit passe, but there will always be room in the theatrical calendar for a vigorously mounted, no- expense-spared musical such as West Side Story. This production is a luxurious affair which delivers the goods on almost every level, despite, at almost two-and-three-quarter—hours, being 30 minutes too long.

A show like this (seen at Manchester Opera House) really stands or falls on the interpretation of Bernstein's memorable tunes, and, under the able baton of musical director Fraser Skeoch, the orchestra and 30-plus cast do them plenty of justice. After the overture has served up a mouth- watering hors d’oeuvre 'I Want To Be In America’, 'I Feel Pretty', ’There's A Place For Us’, etc the action barely relents.

The story, for those few unfamiliar with it, is a loose take on William Shakespeare’s Romeo And Juliet, this time transferred to the steamy environs of a late-19505 New York afternoon. For Montagues and Capulets read the Sharks and the Jets, Puerto Rican and white-trash American gangs.

Never the twain shall meet, of course, until Tony (David Habbin), a less-than- enthusiastic let, falls for Maria (Katie Knight-Adams), sister of Bernardo (Graham MacDuff), leader of the Sharks, and some fisticuffs ensue. The fight scenes are somewhat amateurish, being reminiscent of World Of Sport's late, lamented Saturday afternoon wrestling slot, but this minor caveat aside, there is much to enjoy in Alan Johnson’s energetically directed production.

Some of the sets look (and sound) a little creaky but overall, this is a well staged and vibrantly choreographed production which should appeal to more than just the coach party crowd at whom it is squarely aimed.

(Mike Barnett)

New York love affair: dangerous liaisons in West Side Story

1 , I 7. ~ . {1' "t at

7—20 Nov 1997 THE “ST 63