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Glasgow: Citizens' Theatre, until Sat 31 Jan sunk *

Vanbrugh's fruity sex comedy may never have enjoyed a more exquisitely apt opening. The cascade of ripe, tumbling apples is at once a celebration of the play's lush artificiality and a rosy affirmation of its main theme: the instability of sexual order in human society. It’s just one of numerous Midas touches Philip Prowse brings to his new production of this enduring classic.

The Citizens’ own gaudy design scheme - red, black, gold and baroque ~ is even incorporated (with touches of blue, to soothe the lusty blood) so that stage and auditorium merge. Soliloquies and asides are delivered straight to the audience, so we are left in no doubt that Prowse intends to implicate us.

Indeed, Vanbrugh's characters might fare well enough among today's high-society gatherings. The two-pronged plot concerns a newly married rake wrestling with fidelity in the face of flagrant temptation; and a conniving young rogue intent on fleecing his ludicrously vain and lecherous brother of the wherewithal to pay off his debts. Both anti-heroes pay lip-service to their consciences, but the pungent metaphors bubbling through in their words and actions do nothing to throw us off the scent.

The rake's progress: Greg Hicks moves in on Trevyn McDowell in The Relapse

Briskly staged and impeccably performed - with Jack Klaff’s Lord Foppington and Trevyn McDowell's Berinthia perhaps the most joyously realised among a gallery of grotesques and gallivanters this hugely enjoyable and morally ambiguous study of deception, hypocrisy and manipulation is almost flawlessly presented.

Although a century too late to be a true Renaissance Man, Vanbrugh doubled as a soldier, a spy and most notably - an architect. It's surprising, then, that his

68 THE LIST 23 Jan—5 Feb 1998

denouement is clumsily structured first ponderous; then abrupt. Prowse does little to bring the evening to a more elegant conclusion. It’s also strange in a production that revels in artifice to hear the stylised language trampled in a bid to make the dialogue sound ’natural'.

These quibbles aside, it's unlikely you'll find an interpretation elsewhere that so flamboyantly upholds the Restoration's cynical sense of camp.

(Andrew Burnet)


The Ice House

Glasgow: Citizens’ Stalls Studio, until Sat 31 Jan at at

The Citizens' long-awaited new season opens With some new writing ~ the latest play by Robert Oavrcl MacDonald, one third of the Citz' mighty triumvrrate of directors and prodigious writer/translator. However, despite a titillatrng premise a psycho-sexual triangle mvolvrng a writer, his wrfe and his new male secretary The Ice House fails to deliver anything truly engaging,

Bryan (Derwent Watson) and Helier (Andrea Hart) are a sparring couple in the style of Who’s Afraid 0/ Virginia Woolf? who find a potential new plaything in secretary Rod (Henry lan Cusrck). He proves to be their Mr Sloane, a sexual catalyst who is more than a match for their verbal bouts and a dab hand at blackmail too.

It’s not just the obvrous echoes of dramatic classics that make The /ce House seem hackneyed; it’s the way everything is so clearly signposted as to make the play entirely predictable. From the moment Rod purrs into view yOu know he’s nothing but trouble, and the sly references to a child can only mean some eleventh- hour revelation followed by dry martinis before bedtime. If these people are so damn clever, why is it so easy to see what's on their mind?

Just in case you weren’t sure what was unfolding, there's the laboured symbolism of the ice house, a superfluous metaphor for the shifting relationships on the stage. The final straw is a farCical mix-up over who’s holding the porsoned chalice. You half expect Hercule Porrot to appear and explain that to us too, but instead the lights go up on this self- conscrous, actorly piece.

(Fiona Shepherd)

Frozen assets: Andrea Hart in The Ice House