Edinburgh: Royal Lyceum Theatre, until Sat 2 May * Stewart Conn's new play at the Lyceum takes on the massive issue of reconciliation in South Africa, but there is little to reconcile an audience to the play's stodgy mix of overwritten naturalism and saccharine humanism. ‘You smile, but for me it’s real,’ says Joseph, an African delivery man, in attempting to explain ancestral myth to his white friend, but there is nothing real about the dialogue, and little to smile about here.
The play narrates the life of Ellen (Morag Hood) who - having given birth to her illegitimate son, Gordon (John McAndrew in adulthood and Chris Lynch as a boy) - is exiled to South Africa by her father, Andrew (Sandy Neilson), an upper-class Edinburgh mason. In an isolated town on the Cape, she befriends Joseph (Patrice Naiambana), and excites local hostility and violence for associating too closely with him. Up pops a ghostly ancestor of Joseph (John Adewole), who stalks about reconciling everyone in spitting distance, even, eventually, the local racist Boer, Van Tonder (Peter Cartwright). Not distance, not even death, saves the characters from an orgy of mutually deferential kiss- and-make-up.
Kenny Ireland's production clearly has its heart in the
Ancestral device: Chris lynch and Patrice Naiambana in Clay Bull
right place, and the satire of Edinburgh upper-class Protestantism is sometimes astute, but there are problems in paralleling the two kinds of bigotry. Andrew wonders of the ancestor-figure 'who knows what foot he kicks with?‘, making the obvious point about blind prejudice. The analogy is inadequate though — any Hibs supporter will tell you about the cold reception at Tynecastle, but nobody gets beaten with a shambok baton for their efforts.
Ultimately, the play paints with words, rather than pictures. For all the beauty of Saul Radomsky’s set (recreating, with a Chekhovian eye for detail, a homestead in the wilderness), the dialogue, featuring such lines as ‘I, too have suffered for my people', and 'I am answerable to my own conscience' overwhelms the piece with a too-pointed message. This tendency is epitomised by the figure of the grown-up son, Gordon (inevitably, he symbolises harmony by becoming an orchestra conductor) who interjects endlessly on the flashback narrative, gratuitously adding commentary where performance could make the point.
The performances are generally competent, and rise above this in the case of Neilson, whose crabbit-torn- pussed wit is well carried off, and Cartwright, whose terrible Boer retains just enough humanity early on to make his final reconciliation plausible. (Steve Cramer)
Factory workers: Polly Wiseman and Anton Binder in the original production
contrived. It’s a fairly convrncing performance, though one suspects there was more to the man than is implied here.
A range of other Factory figures — including transvestite Candy Darling, speedfreak Ondine, drugs guru Dr Robert and the enigmatic Nico — are supplied by Jay Simon, whose versatility helps compensate for two- dimensional bit-part characterisation.
But at the centre of this story is Edie
BIOPLAY Andy 8. Edie
Whether history Will accord Andy Warhol the status of important artist remains to be seen. Certainly his screen-printed iconisations of Marilyn, EIVis, himself and — above all — soup cans have inspired much imitation. But for many, Warhol's more important achievement was as the Svengali behind New York’s hugely influential Factory scene.
How manipulative was Warhol, though? How much was he to blame for the moths who were drawn to his flame and burned up? These are the questions posed by Anton Binder and
Polly Wiseman’s play for Fireraisers Theatre Company, which returns to Scotland followrng a successful run at last year's Edinburgh Fringe.
According to this account, Andy's greatest sin was detachment. He seldom supplied drugs to his following, though he was an occasional user. He certainly used people, but only if they were willing to be moulded. He took a profound interest in those around him, but always remained emotionally distant.
As played by Andrew Whelan (who takes over the part from co-writer Binder), Andy is camp, industrious, amoral and orally fixated — his index finger seldom strays far from his lower lip, a tic which sometimes looks
Sedgwick, the footloose society girl who caught Andy's eye, became one of his ’Superstars' and scaled the heights of counter-culture celebrity for well over fifteen minutes, before gurgling to her demise in a whirlpool of drugs and smudged mascara. Sadly, co-writer Wiseman plays Edie With no great subtlety or depth. Her transition from airhead heiress to chemical waste product is too abrupt, and her delivery in both modes is monotonous and, latterly, laboured.
The subject matter and the soundtrack of great songs from the era should attract a willing audience, but like Andy, punters will find themselves uninvolved. (Andrew Burnet)
I For tour dates, see page 60.
POLITICAL DRAMA Thirteenth Night
Glasgow: Arches Theatre, until Sat 2 May at ‘k at
Much like the current Labour administration, there are good and bad things in this Big Like Texas production of Howard (The Romans In Britain) Brenton’s political allegory.
The House Of Commons debate piped through the PA as the audience file into the Crucible Theatre space is an effective scene‘setting touch. The stark but striking set — a red floor emblazoned with a hammer and sickle and strewn wrth red paper petals — is a portent of the fiery relations which are set to unfold.
The play transports the plot of Macbeth to the early 805 and the election of Britain’s first socialist government (an eventuality which seems as unlikely in Blair's Cool Britannia as it probably did in Thatcher's heyday) — so only the most Shakespeare-phobic will be unaware that Jack Beaty, the rising star of the cabinet, won't be the highly-principled golden boy for much longer, that steely Jenny Gaze is set to crumble, that Prime Minister Bill Dunn should watch his back and that the three anarchists' message is a double-edged sword.
The production begins confidently and advances at a stimulating pace, helped along by strong performances from Alan Sinclair as Bill Dunn and Alasdair Sheard as the Banquoesque Bernard Feast, but the promise of the early scenes gradually evaporates.
Unfortunately, one of the weak links is Davrd Lee-Michael in the central role as Beaty. His self-conscious performance is a little one-note throughout and, although it just about passes muster in the early ’bewildered Beaty’ stages, he does not convince as a ruthless, paranoid megalomaniac. Alice Reid is a more commanding presence as the Lady Macbeth figure, despite only being required to spout polemical indignation. On the whole, their scenes together are a non- magnetic experience, though this is Iargely down to the sledgehammer script.
Superhcrally, the production has the class of a superior Citizens' Theatre effort, but the play itself is flawed. A frustrating choice, executed with some flair. (Fiona Shepherd)
Unlucky for some: Alice Reid in Thirteenth Night
3O Apr—l4 May 1998 THE U875?