The Dying Gaul
Glasgow: Citizens’ Circle Studio, until Sat ll Apr 7“”
What the great Joe Orton once condemned as 'Tennessee Williams fag and drag' is alive and well in this world premiere at the Citizens’. Inside Craig Lucas' gay tragedy is a good play, waiting, if you will, to come out. Trimmed of its sentimental excesses and mechanical shock tactics, it could well be revealed as an old- fashioned, but well crafted, thriller.
Robert (Stephen Scott) has recently lost his lover Malcolm (Jay Manley). Out of the experience, he produces a screenplay, the moribund Frenchman of the title, which film producer Jeffrey (Henry Ian Cusick) is willing to turn into a blockbuster, if the leads are turned into heterosexuals. Robert wrestles with the moral dilemma, and with Jeffrey, who turns out to be bisexual. Jeffrey’s wife Elaine (Lorna McDevitt) discovers the affair and avenges herself by appearing to Robert as his lost lover, via the Internet. Incredibly, he is taken in, and his psychiatrist (Stephen MacDonald), a man liberal enough to turn vodka into milk, can do very little to avert tragedy.
The problem with such potentially strong material is the exaggeration of Robert’s victim status. Against the ruthless bisexual and scheming heterosexual, he's seen as too much the babe in the woods, exposing the prejudice of Lucas' gay community against these other
sexual orientations, rather than vice-versa. At one point, as one of Robert's dreams is described, Jeffrey appears in full Nazi regalia, and exposes himself, as if the sexual nature of Robert's oppression needs to be demonstrated physically to an audience of simpletons. The Nazi, however evil, is surely a cliched emblem these days, and ultimately the scene just puts the camp back into
Camp fare: Lorna McDevitt and Stephen Scott in The Dying Gaul
SOCIAL COMEDY The Millionairess
Glasgow: Citizens’ Theatre main house, until Sat l 1 Apr
More style than substance: Derwent Watson and Anne Myatt in The Millionairess
There are some plays which Will never be regarded as classics, but are worth exhuming from time to time, and the Citizens’ Theatre has long pursued a policy of unearthing them One example is Bernard Shaw's early gem Wi'dower’s Houses, successfully revwed in the Stalls Studio last year Now the same director, Giles Havergal, returns to a much later, even more obsCLire play by the same writer.
First performed in Austria in 1936, and seldom seen in Britain or Ireland since, The rvfil/i’onai'ress has essentially the same themes as the early play extreme wealth, extreme poverty, the clums‘y irtiquities wrought by profiteering, and the effect of money on marital relations In the later piece, Shaw adds a religious dimension, centring the plot around two contrasting parodies of the Parable of the Talents, and offering a Muslim take on the allegedly Christian yiitues of poverty and altruism The implications of a minimum wage are also held up for discussion, which lends The Mi/lionairess an acute resonance for contemporary Britain
For all this, it is a much less sparkling play The characters are two-
This said, the cast for Jon Pope’s production are universally strong, and work hard to restrain dialogue which turns too readily from pink to purple. Particular credit should go to McDevitt, whose performance makes a subtextually misogynistic part credible by applying a touch of Veronica Lake. (Steve Cramer)
dimensional Ciphers, put in place to sp0ut forth arguments Shaw expressed better elsewhere His pen is as sprightly as ever, and the script is
enlivened With colourful wordplay (the .
central character has an entertaining penchant for metaphors drawn from the animal kingdom), but we neither know nor care very much about the protagonists, nor do we gain any real sense of their Suffering, The inescapable presence is that of an elderly Irishman refusing to engage emotions,
As can be expected from the Citizens’ company, the play is presented With great panache The acting is pOised and witty, With Stuart Bowman Outstanding as the vain sportsman seeking release from his marriage to Anne Myatt’s cantankerous millionairess,‘ While both Matthew Radford and Nada Sharp shine in subtler roles Havergal directs With as sure and delicate a hand as ever, and Kenny Miller's set is a monumental elegance of pastel greys and blues.
Ultimately, though, it’s a thin, unsatisfying drama which would be better left to gather dust.
EUROPEAN DRAMA In The Solitude Of The Cotton Fields
Glasgow: Citizens’ Stalls Studio, until Sat ll Apr * ‘k 1%
Forget husband and Wife, parent and child, boss and employee, The defining relationship of the late 20th century is that between buyer and seller. And be it class A drugs, parliamentary questions or real estate, where there's demand there's supply Delvmg deep into the compleXIties of free-market politics, Bernard Marie Koltes’ In the Solitude of the Cotton Fields prowdes a probing examination of an age in which everything and everyone can be bought
In the tWilight hours, on a deserted street, we witness an encounter between a sun-wearing, aristocratic ‘have' and a leather-clad ’have-not'. The duo are here to do a deal: the ObJCCi of their transaction is never revealed, but it seems sure to be dodgy. As the struggle for power unfolds; as they bounce home-spun philosophies back and forth, the threat of Violence is never far away. The customer may always be right in more ciVilised trade arenas, btit once the protection of the law and the well-lit boardroom are cast aside, it is no longer so clear whether ultimate control resides with the marble- moothed Client or the street-smart Dealer.
Philip Prowse's near-static production is played out in an upside-down public t0ilet With stark strip lighting, With both parties seated throughout The play is barely recognisable as the one Which appeared at the Edinburgh Festival a couple of years ago, in Patrice Chereau's sweaty, physical, French-language VQTSIOH.
Meanwhile the business of haVing scripts in hand, although dressed up as a deVice, reeks of laziness. As a result the production makes even harder work of a far-from-easy ride. Verging at times on a pretentious late-night discussion show on teleVision, it fails to convmce us that what we’re watching is essentially a ruthless game.
That said, Koltes' dense script, bristling With ideas, is thoroughly absorbing stuff, questioning the very foundations on which our consumer age is based. (Claire Prentice)
Rough trader: Andrew Joseph as the Dealer
STAR RATlNGS it t a w i: Unmissable * k * 3* Very ood a t * Wort a shot a: * Below average * You’ve been warned
2—l6 Apr 1998 THE LIST 81