Passing Places Touring it a: * **
Take an unlikely pair of pals: inarticulate shop assistant Alex and geeky fact-freak Brian - both, in their way, archetypes of the young Scottish male. Add the improbable combination of a stolen surfboard, its psychopathic, motorbike-borne owner and a clapped-out Lada, stir briskly with a porridge spurtle and - hell - looks like we got us a road movie. Stephen Greenhorn’s play (revived after a short but hugely successful run at the Traverse last February) substitutes B-roads for Route 66, but it still pays homage to the Beat generation.
Fleeing from Motherwell — a seat of frustrated stagnation, where there are 'seventeen words for dogshit' - to Thurso, where they hope to trade in the hot board for cash, the lads discover a country whose mysteries swiftly overtake Brian's guidebook version, and whose cultural diversity swamps Alex's urban preconceptions.
But like any road movie, Passing Places is really a journey into the hinterland of the soul, and both lads discover more about their own hearts and about freeing
~ themselves from cultural restrictions than they do about
Scotland itself. In this they are aided by the colourful characters they encounter, not least the free-spirited Mirren (Iona Carbarns), who provides enigmatic — if predictable - love interest for Alex.
This is one of the most engaging plays written and produced in Scotland this decade. It's not merely pertinent to a nation as eager as it ever was to assert its individuality; it's also lyrical, tightly plotted and riddled like a clootie dumpling with sultanas of melancholy and currants of humour. Much praise is due to the cast, notably Paul Thomas Hickey’s understated Alex, Colin McCredie’s endearing Brian, and Callum Cuthbertson, whose nimble portrayal of seven minor characters is a
On the road: Iona Carbarns, Paul Hickey and Colin McCredie in Passing Places
box of tricks brimming with comic turns.
Director John Tiffany's approach is brisk and agreeably non-literal (no imaginary steering wheel, for example, during the driving scenes) and makes adept and thoughtful use of Neil Warmington's ingenious set; while the wheels of fire are chivvied along by Mick Slaven's live soundtrack of churning electric guitar (which turns tender and meditative for the introspective interludes).
Ultimately, though, the triumph is Greenhorn's. After years of paddling, he's now cresting an exhilarating wave. He might find himself stuck with a ‘Mac Kerouac' tag until he can surpass this achievement, but the only people who need worry are leading young playwrights like David Greig and David Harrower, to whom Greenhorn has thrown down a daunting gauntlet. (Andrew Burnet) §§ For tour dates, see page 60.
f: FOOTBALL COMEDY
Gemme for a laugh: the Tales Of The Tartan Army squad
characters With names like Bodyswerve, Biiilder John and Darkie (who once asserted he’d 'rather be a darkie than a Tim’). RaCial and religious intolerance is barred in this branch of the Tartan Army. But — as Jimmy Hill would no doubt confirm — homophobia and rabid anti-English sentiments are deemed a good laugh. Maybe that’s just giving this audience what it wants, judging by the applause that greets the account of an assault on an Englishman.
Like the team’s performance, the show is a mixed bag. The first half’s
‘2, Tales Of The Tartan .: Army j' Glasgow: Pavilion Theatre, until Sat 2
~* May, then touring *xr :f For every Archie Gemmill mazy run
there is Alan Hansen and Willie Miller falling over each other on the halfway
‘_' line. And for each fifteen minutes of ‘- fame when we're a goal up against
Germany or Brazil, there are 90 minutes of Iran or Costa Rica torture. If none of that means anything to you, Tales Of The Tartan Army won't
provide you with a hot ticket.
58 THE U81 30 Apr—14 May 1998
Adapted from his book of the same name, lan Black’s play is a scrapbook of memories from Scotland's World Cup campaigns. As one of the characters puts it, following the national team is ’not about Winning, it's about being there.’ So, we have a series of encounters in the bars and stadiums of Spain, MeXico and Italy, With brief snatches Of the campaign which led to qualification for France * including the farce of Tallin, when the Scots fans had no opponents to barrack due to the Estonian team’s failure to show up.
Our humble narrator introduces us to
closing segment — joy blighted by news of the death of lock Stein -- is affecting in the extreme. But when the show veers into predictable dreamland territory, showmg us gameby-game how Scotland will lift the trophy this summer, it loses the place. And inViting us to close proceedings with a rousing rendition of 'Flower Of Scotland' is nothing short of cringeable. As every Scottish supporter knows, snatching defeat from the jaws of Victory is part of the deal. Tales Of The Tartan Army reflects that perfectly. (Brian Donaldson)
a For tour dates, see page 60.
Don Juan Touring * 1k * 1%
Iain Heggie's brilliant new version of Moliere's 'lost’ play — banned during his lifetime — is not a simple translation, but an entertaining reworking of its theme of satisfied desire leading to spiritual emptiness.
This earthy Scottish Don is not just a libertine, he's a complete and utter chancer, a Terry-Thomas cad let loose in Rab C. Nesbitt-land. He dumps his latest virtuous bride Donna Elvira after having his Wicked way with her, then sets out to conquer every other woman he meets with his sheer self- belief and outrageous charm.
Widely advertised as filthy, the new script is certainly chock-full of sweary words, but more important is the vigour and confidence of the language as people really speak it — with all its verbal shorthand, euphemism and repetition.
Heggie manages to recapture the subversive nature of the original, which lay more in its bitter critique of polite society, though it is near impossible to recreate in our agnostic age the sense of shock and rage that greeted its blasphemy. But theatre babel has a good stab at it, with some quite effective creepy scenes as the Don's past crimes come to haunt him with threats of hellfire.
There’s a realisation, too, of economics and class underpinning his philosophy — what really affects Don Juan is his father’s withdrawal of funds — and the audience’s sympathies are suddenly thrown when Elvira insists that her ‘honour’ demands her brother sacrifice his life — otherwise he’s 'an uncivilised barbarian’. The values of the society that judges the Don are as warped as he is, Heggie suggests.
Fresh from a string of seductive roles at the Citizens' Theatre, Henry Ian Cusick is cast as Don Juan, and seems to be making this kind of part his own. He looks divine in gorgeous gold brocade as he camps his way through chillingly conVincing justifications mostly retained from Moliere. But his chalk-white face is rouged like a corpse and his arch persona goes to pot as the hollowness of it all comes to haunt him. (Andrea Mullaney)
a For tour dates, see page 60.
New cad: Henry Ian Cusick as Don Juan
STAR RATINGS * * * ir * Unmissable * it it * Very good * 1k * Worth a shot * «k Below average it You've been warned