SlBLlNG COMEDY Mate In Three
Glasgow: Tron Theatre, until Sat 28 Mar ii: yr it
Chess is a funny old game. Its sophisticated, intellectual veneer conceals an aggressive desire to crush and humiliate the opponent. Vittorio Franceschi’s comedy of terrors presents an equally vicious war of attrition.
Middle-aged brothers Antonio and Valerio exist in a constant state of conflict. Amid the debris of a toy- strewn flat, they score points and wind each other up. Valerio (John Bett) is a business-minded stationer; Antonio (Andy Gray) is mentally ill and has regressed to an infantile state which makes him exasperatingly demanding and gives him a talent for picking away at an adult’s weak spot. His condition stems from the shock of his fiancee, Elizabeth, dying in a car crash en route to their wedding. Valerio was driving, and Antonio continually taunts him with this. Racked with guilt, Valerio dresses up as their dead parents in reSponse to Antonio's mood. Occasionally, donning a blonde wig, he takes the guise of Elizabeth. Luckily, the blood stains came out of the wedding dress.
Into this world of obsessive pattern and ritual humiliation comes Marianna, Valerio's bride-to-be. After a sticky start — Antonio fears she will ’start the clocks' and shake him from his infant mindset, while she is repulsed by the dressing-up routine - they develop a close relationship. Marianna becomes fascinated by Antonio's 'ranting speeches that seem like some kind of philosophy’. The game switches up a gear as the brothers battle to take the queen.
Franceschi’s play is a superb piece of writing and the cast invest it with a real emotional commitment, but there is something about it that just doesn't work. It is
Mixed blessings in disguise: Fiona Bell and Andy Gray in Mate In Three
very long - presumably in order to examine the developing relationships — but the first half, dominated by the two brothers, cranks the irritation factor far too high. Gray’s Antonio — essentially the id in a soiled tailcoat — is as wearing in ten minutes of stage-time as he can possibly have been in the eleven years that Valerio is supposed to have looked after him.
The second half is much better, with the relationships deepening and questions of control and sanity becoming more explicit, but the elevation of childhood innocence and imagination is too idealistic and simply doesn’t ring true. Mate In Three has a brilliance to it, but is deeply flawed and ultimately fails to connect with its audience as profoundly as it would like. (Peter Ross)
Turf brothers: Donncha Crowley and Bill Hickey in Boss Grady's Boys
SlBLlNG DRAMA Boss Grady’s Boys
Glasgow: Arches Theatre, until Sat 21 Mar. Edinburgh: Traverse Theatre, Wed
30 :t is with the siblings in Sebastian Barry’s masterful play 01 frustration, longing, dreams and regret Mick and Josey Grady are old men ekii‘ig out an
together in the bed of their dead parents.
Mick, the idealist, has, in the past, put his faith in CatholiCism and Republican politics. Neither has improved his lot. Josey has an innocent wonder at the world, darkened by the shadows of irrational childhood fears. Both live the legacy of their brutal father — a huge, oppressive presence who appears on-stage in flashbacks and dreams. He dashed their ambitions by dying and leaving them to the sorry soil. Mick, who sleeps in the groove left by his father, once dreamed of becoming a tailor in New York and marrying an American girl. Josey only ever wanted to be a Marx Brother. Also emerging from the past is the Mother, a mute figure offering unconditional love.
Sebastian Barry has created a moving piece, emitting love like a halo, His
25-Sun 29 Mar x x e e
The thing With brothers is they fight like hell, but love each other really. Noel and Liam, Harpo and Chico, Bobby and JR, — all at each other’s throats most of the time, but when push comes to shove, they stick
80 THE “ST 20 Mai—2 Apr 1998
eXistence on an unyielding hill farm in rural lreland. Mick’s patience is tested by the frustrating fantasies of his retarded brother. They bicker and shout but, unlike the crops lying ill the muddy fields, their love is rooted deep. Mick works the barren land, Josey
makes the tea. At night they lie down
ViVid, Vigorous language perfectly evokes a peaty Irish south where 'the rain comes in like October's rats in the cold’. The audience are quickly locked into a perfect and rewarding empathy with the brothers, played with great tenderness by Donncha Crowley and Bill Hickey. (Peter Ross)
MODERN CLASSIC Mother Courage And Her Children
Edinburgh: Royal Lyceum, until Sat 4 Am****
The capacity of any Brecht play to polarise audience reaction is proverbial. Some people would gladly stand up Natalie Imbruglia for a night with Mother Courage; others would welcome a performance like a fart in a crowded elevator. It depends on how you respond to a dollop of Verfremdung — Brechtian alienation - served with your theatrical fare. The real achievement of this production by Kenny Ireland is its capacity to unite the emotions and politics of Brecht’s classic, giving it a greater appeal to both sides of an old theatrical debate.
The play provides an account of war and family. Mother Courage leads her three children through various countries during the Thirty Years War, profiting as she goes from her small black-market wagon. She loses her children one by one to the war, but demonstrates a sublime false consciousness, unable to connect the desire for money with personal tragedy. 'War is like love — it finds a way', we are told, and no character is detached enough to dissent.
Maggie Steed's Mother Courage is characterised by a staccato monotone delivery that avoids the pitfall of nakedly expressed emotion which can sometimes cloud the interpretation of this role. There’s plenty in the play to indicate that she needs to be a hard woman to survive — ’I don't have a soul, but I do need firewood‘, she tells Davrd Shaw-Parker’s nerdy, hypocritical Pastor. His performance stands out for its intelligent overstatement, as does Tony Cownie's Swiss Cheese. As the younger son, he adds a daft Glaswegian laddishness to a part which needs an exaggerated honest naivete, to carry off the sense of tragedy that accrues to it.
In a generally strong cast, Eric Barlow's philandering cook also works well with Steed, the tired and mechanical vaudeville of their ’Song of Solomon’ begging routine providing a strong sub-commentary on the dehumanising process of labour in war. (Steve Cramer)
War lady: Maggie Steed as Mother Courage
* * it * 4r enmissable
* a» * * ery
at * Below average
* You've been warned