Clay Bull

Edinburgh: Royal Lyceum, from Fri 17 Apr (free preview Thu 16 Apr).

Some things are worth waiting for. Having started writing Clay Bull prior to the momentous changes in South African society, its completion has allowed Stewart Conn to give to the characters a sense of transition.

‘The germ of it started with images which have stayed and gnawed at me,’ recalls Conn. 'What’s been helpful is now there is a perspective of change having happened and characters' attitudes are different with the perspective that they have of the past. The play is about reconciliation, but it's not a political statement, it's not a placard - it's the reconciliation in the heart of the central character which brings in a very personal element.’

An ashamed father sends that central character, Ellen (Morag Hood), from the cosy Edinburgh of the 19505 to the Cape with her illegitimate son. Once there, they make friends with native African Joseph but, as they discover, relations between the races are not readily accepted by the townsfolk.

'loseph models clay bulls - it's an actual thing from the soil, but it's also whatever symbolic resonance you wish to take out of it,’ explains Conn. 'Bull and cattle turn out to be very important to his people, so there's a tribal or racial or wider African significance and through that the play has its different levels and resonances.’

And authenticity adds to that resonance. 'l was trepidant because I don’t think you can fake casting like this. We have two marvellous and perceptive African actors, and there’s a small boy - it's not someone playing on his knees. It's important for realising the images I had and for the integrity which the actors have

Bull headed: Stewart Conn

when confronting one another on stage in character.’

Conn is particularly delighted to be renewing his acquaintance with the Lyceum. having seen five of his plays premiered there. He's also away from the shackles of his previous employers: having worked at the BBC as Radio Drama Producer, he fears for the corporation under the current regime.

'I left in 1992, partly because I had been underselling my own writing and because it was a changing organisation,‘ states Conn. ‘I loved working with writers especially new writers - and actors. and that was being made more and more difficult. The BBC is in the market place and just as commercial as any nominally commercial organisation, and that affects the whole concept of public service. Also, I didn't want to waste time wondering about the price of my office carpet.‘ (Brian Donaldson)

All choked up: Andrew Dallmeyer and Paul Riley in The Dumb Waiter


theatre tradition of the Arches, Arnold maintains there is a social element. ’lt's not an overtly political piece, but there is a political aspect, since it examines the diVide and rule tactics of authority' he explains, ’It’s one of his more surreal comedies, but it’s important that this sinister edge IS maintained'

Arnold is sell-effacing on the subject of his role as director, seeing the play as actor-based. ‘Andrew Dallmeyer [who plays Gus] has done a lot of Pinter. He has a definite natural feel for it. Paul Riley [as Ben] also has a good feel for that kind of dark humour. To be honest, it's their production; the director's role is very little once it's been

The Dumb Waiter

Glasgow: Arches Theatre, Wed TS-Sat l8 & Tue 21—Sat 25 Apr.

Everyone by now knows all the clichés about Harold Pinter. Long pauses, profound silences, and the usual portentous 'comedy of menace’ label. But Andy Arnold, director of the Arches' upcoming revival of Pinter's 1958 drama, sees the play in more naturalistic terms. ‘The danger is that people get reverent with the Pinter

80 "IE HST 16—30 Apr I998

pause,’ he says. 'These pauses happen in natural conversation. It's not the artificial, stylised fluidity of the writers that came before. If there's an artificial feel, someone's not living the Iines.’ The play locates two gunmen awaiting the order to kill in a damp cellar, mistrusting each other lest one should be the intended victim, and receiving a series of contradictory and sometimes humorous instructions from an unknown source above via the dumb waiter. Although this is not, on the face of it, within the political

cast. They're working it out, and are old hands at it.'

Arnold feels that this theatre is the perfect space for Pinter’s play, and is adding this production to earlier, very successful productions of The Caretaker and The Birthday Party. 'The reason why we do these plays, aside

. from loving Pinter, is they're so often

set in these seedy old basements or attic flats. Staging them at the Arches, with those trains rumbling over the top, seems just right for the space.’ (Steve Cramer)

Stage whispers

All the goss from the prompter’s box.

THE ANNUAL ROUND of City of Edinburgh Council grant cuts bite deep. While most clients are coming to terms with a 13% slice, Assembly Theatre, who produce the high profile Edinburgh Fringe programme at the capital's prestigous Assembly Rooms venue, have had a whopping 48.8% reduction in funds, meaning an actual cut of almost £27,000. Not only that, Assembly's four week rental of the Council-owned venue has been upped from £92,000 to £176,000, an increase of £84,000. In real terms all this means a combined deficit of almost £111,000, putting this year's Assembly programme in jeopardy.

The report of the Cultural Grants meeting which took place on Tue 7 Apr states that the decision for such a large grant cut was taken 'in light of the organisation’s sponsorship potential and its ability to generate significant income'. But according to Assembly Theatre Artistic Director William Burdett-Coutts it is doubtful, at this late stage, whether sufficient funds can be raised to ensure this year’s programme goes ahead.

The two decisions were taken by separate departments within the Council, and with this in mind, emergency talks are are likely to take place to discuss the implications and find a solution to the problem, for this year at least.

WHILE FUNDING BODIES regularly come in for stick from the luvvy fraternity, their relationship with the press is just as fickle, and is largely dependent on ’good' or ’bad' reviews. Recently, in an Edinburgh theatre bar, a critic for a London daily newspaper was approached by an actress, who'd appeared in a site-specific show last Hogmanay which the hack had given a rave review. Sadly, this wasn't enough for said actress, who was miffed at not having received a namecheck in the review, despite having ’the biggest part', while also taking pains to point out how it was ’an ensemble piece'. Stage Whispers suggests that she should perhaps wear a name tag that lets everyone know how important she is. (Neil Cooper)

STAR RATINGS * t at H Unmissable * * ii it Very ood * iii * Wort a shot it * Below average it You've been warned