MODERN CLASSIC The Glass Menagerie
Edinburgh: Royal Lyceum Theatre, Fri 6 Jan—Sat 7 Feb.
It's a well known story - the restless son, racked with wanderlust but bound by responsibility and guilt. Trapped by his dependent mother and sister, he must chose between sacrificing his own happiness or abandoning his helpless family. Tennessee Williams’ play could be
' set in any age or time but it isn’t.
It's set during the American Depression. The mother is a fading Southern belle and abandoned wife. The sister is disabled, and lives in a fantasy world with her collection of glass animals — her glass menagerie.
Ever since she first saw The Glass Menagerie in her home town Sheffield, Polly Teale has wanted to direct it. ’lt’s a beautiful, beautiful play,’ she gushes. ’The writing is exquisite — it’s almost a poem. It's about Tennessee Williams’ own guilt about his sister who was brought up in asylums.’
Dipping into Tennessee Williams’s hidden history: director Polly Teale
Best known for her work with touring company Shared Experience, London-based Teale recently took
~ the Young Vic by storm with her production of Jane
Eyre, which radically made the first Mrs Rochester (the mad one in the attic) a part of Eyre's own character. Against the skeleton of tenements and fire escapes
that form the set in her Lyceum production, Teale
intends to make Williams himself part of the play. She will focus on what drove him to write it, its lack of resolution and its guilt-ridden persona. 'My interest is in
seeing if there's a way of getting hold of the journey,’ she explains. ’lt’s almost as though he had no choice but
to write the play.’
Teale has her work cut out. As with any classic, many people already have a firm opinion of the play. What’s more, Williams left clear notes —- not only on the staging, but on the aims and responsibilities of theatre as a whole. He demanded of directors that they move the audience with things they can relate to without lapsing into the ’exhausted theatre of realistic conventions’.
it’s a tall order, but Teale is tackling it with confidence. 'My interest is in creating work different from what you’d see on TV; that dips into stuff we normally keep hidden,’ she says. ’Most people can identify with it because it’s about families and dependencies.‘ (Stephanie Noblett)
i The Relapse
Glasgow: Citizens’ Theatre, Fri 9—Sat
31 Jan (free preview Thu 8 Ian).
Man behaving badly: James Aubrey stars in The Relapse
Philip Prowse’s position could be described as a mystery, inSide an enigma, wrapped up in the theatre The passron he brings to his work is apparent from the way he talks about his production of Vanbrugh's Restoration comedy, The Relapse, for the main house at the Citizens' Theatre. Prowse is characteristically coy about this comedy of marriage, infidelity and gender conflict — but this comes not from reticence so much as his reluctance to force an audience into pre-judging his work.
’You go to a play, you’re told a story, and you either find it interesting or uninteresting. When you go to Shakespeare, or any classical play, you get this programme which is at pains to explain how you must View the piece. It appeals to the middle-class "instruct me" mentality. But come on — we've all got eyes and ears; we don't need to be told.’
The issue of marriage is at the centre of this play. Asked how he approaches this, Prowse comments ’I don't know that I'm approaching the issues, but it’s all about marriage. An existing marriage, a marriage that’s breaking up, adultery, old love affairs,
new love affairs, a marriage being formed for commercial reasons and broken up for other commercial reasons.’
Prowse finds Vanburgh interesting among his contemporaries for his down-to—earth perspective. ’lt’s not very sentrmental,’ he says . ’It's pretty hard, actually. He's qurte a realist about sexual relationships, and emotional relationships'
The play says much about gender relations, which renders it relevant to a contemporary audience. ’We tend to think these days that women have a very liberated time, but I don't think that's true. It's interesting in the play to watch the way women find their way through this labyrinth that men construct for them. But it’s not really a feminist play —- it shows that gendered behaViour in its extreme is always grotesque, be it by men or women.’
The Citizens’ welcomes back James Aubrey, a veteran of Prowse's first season there, as the central man behavmg badly. The rest of the cast is a mixture of youth and experience. Prowse — who also deSigns the show — admits (reluctantly) that it Will be performed in period. (Steve Cramer)
The column that knows a sad tale’s best for winter:
MORE GLOOMY PROPHECIES from the Federation of Scottish Theatres this month. The organisation's chairman Hamish Glen - also artistic director at Dundee Rep - has spoken out about the effects of reduced funding which, he says, ’can only increase the erosion of Scottish theatre.’ The Scottish Arts Council (SAC) budget for 1998/99 will be £78.8 million, compared to (82.4 million in 1997/98. SAC theatre grants will remain at almost the same level, but local councils are reducing arts expenditure. Glen warned that the infrastructure of Scottish theatre was in danger of crumbling, under- mining any opportunity for revital- isation under a Scottish parliament.
ABERDEEN DOESN'T APPRECIATE CULTURE, according to Robert Robson, who runs the city’s major theatre, His Majesty's. In a leaked council report, the former Mayfest director described Aberdonians as ‘narrow-minded, inward-looking and mean-spirited.’ Despite the furore resulting from his comments, Robson is resisting pressure to resign, claiming that his comments were taken out of context and pointing to his goal to expand more adventurous programming in Aberdeen. ’Style, creativity and imagination are not qualities that are appreciated in Aberdeen,’ as the report put it.
HEARTENING NEWS FROM GLASGOW, however, whose Department of Performing Arts and Venues (DPAV) has reported a marked increase in ticket sales in 1997 over 1996. Success stories include Joseph, Fame and Blood Brothers and the King’s panto, Aladdin, which is expected to have sold 95,000 tickets by the end of its run on 25 Jan. Last year's panto at the theatre, Cinderella, set a record with just over 90,000 tickets. 'This is against the national trend,’ said a buoyant Lesley Booth, head of Media and Public Relations at DPAV. ’Overall, theatre ticket sales are falling rather than rising across the country.’ Hamish Glen won’t thank her for the reminder.
Laughing all the way to the laundry: Elaine C. Smith and Gerard Kelly celebrate the success of Aladdin
9-23 Jan 1998 TIIE LISTBS