NEW PLAY Sea Urchins
Glasgow: Tron Theatre, Wed 17 Jun—Sat ll Jul.
Nerdy tank-tops and the sound of waves and guitars on a 1961 beach in Wales form the setting for Sharman MacDonald's new play about a girl's rites of passage from childhood. Having begun life as a Sony Award-winning radio play, it received its stage premiere at Dundee Rep and now transfers to the Tron.
The main character, Rena, is eleven and starting to become painfully aware of the undercurrents and riptides around her. The family holidays every year with another couple, Rena's aunt and uncle; a long-term affair comes to light, resulting in Rena praying for the arrival of a notorious Glasgow mass- murderer to save her from unwelcome change by killing all and sundry.
Of the cuckolded partners, Ailsa has bottled up an age-old acid bitterness, while Davie has his own way of keeping the status quo and holding onto the plump wife he loves. ‘Keep your secrets,’ he tells his son, as the truth threatens to overtake them all. ’Never breathe. Never tell.’
MacDonald explains she was inspired by her own boys' anxious reaction to sitting their GCSEs. ’They
Playing to the gallery: Ridiculusmus in The Exhibitionists
took guitars down to the beach,’ she recalls. ’They played and felt they were on the edge of a new world and were terribly afraid and kind of excited at the same
By the play's nature, the audience is a step removed from the action, observing the child who in turn is observing the adults arriving at their compromises. Relying so heavily on child actors is not without its risks, as MacDonald acknowledges. ’Although I've used kids before, I’ve never put them in the position of driving the piece on stage,’ she admits. 'But that is what Rena is
Sands of time: Alison Peebles and Siobhan Flynn in Sea Urchins
asked to do.’
In its depiction of innocence lost on the edge of the sea, the play has echoes of MacDonald's award-winning debut play When I Was A Girl I Used To Scream And Shout and her film The Winter Guest. She struggles to explain why such a theme should thread itself through her work. 'Whether it's because people have time to talk to each other by the sea or whether it's that you can go down to the sea to hide I really don't know,’ she says. ‘I suppose I should, after all these years . . .’
PHYSICAL COMEDY The Exhibitionists
Thirty six per cent of art gallery security guards fall asleep on the JOb. Six per cent have broken an exhibit. Fifty per cent have been propositioned by gallery-goers. No, it's not the latest Guinness ad, these are statistics worth bearing in mind when in the audience for The Exhibitionists.
Derry-based comic theatre company Ridiculusmus is known for its chaotic and inventive shows With The Exhibitionists it turns its abswdist eye to the world of contemporary art and tells the story of two bored gallery attendants who do battle With monotony through a series of bizarre games.
'We’re not the usual run-of-the-mill theatre company,’ says Ridiculusmus member John Burns. ’We use a lot of improwsation, so The Exhibitionists never stays the same. In fact, it can change two or three hours before a show. We keep that edge all the time.
It’s very madcap.’
The Exhibitionists has been gomg down a storm in Northern Ireland, described by superlative-crazed rewewers as 'gruesomely ViVid’, ’exuberantly schizophrenic’ and 'a hilarious bit of genius’,
Using a set that no one would describe as hi-tec — three plastic chairs, a music stand and a pile of shoes ~- Ridiculusmus presents a show which veers crazdy between insightful philosophy and big dumb laughs. You don’t have to work in an art gallery to like it, but it might help.
’Lots of gallery attendants have come up to us after the shows,’ says Burns. ’There’s this bit in The Exhibitionists where this German discreetly asks directions to the torlet and the other guards pull faces behind his back. The attendants we talk to always say that's totally spot on.’
So there you go. Let The Exhibitionists put you in the picture and you'll never feel anything less than paranoid in a gallery again. (Peter Ross)
I For tour dates, see page 68.
new shows THEATRE
ADAPTATION The Aspern Papers
There comes a time in everybody's life when a crUCial decrsion has to be made. Red Shift theatre company has spent some time btiilding a repertoue and reputation out of those moments. The company's two prevrous productions —Bartleby and Les Miserables — both deal with life— altering turns and the new show, an adaptation of Henry James's The Aspern Papers, follows the same tack.
’You have this mid-life academic. who discovers what is, for him, a pot of gold, in the form of the unknown and unplundered archive of .i laniotis poet,’ details Jonathan Holloway, the company’s director. 'He has to decide how far he's prepared to go to secure it and, in the process, discovers things about himself that he‘d rather not know, such as his capacity for dupliCity and lies, and his ruthless ability to manipulate the emotions of others, while at the same time casting himself as the hero in his own play.’
Is it a play or a film? That’s not a reference to charades, but a common reaction to the cinematic nature of Red Shift’s work ’On the simplest level,’ insists Holloway, ’l'rn concerned with the integration of all elements of theatre — spoken word, design, music - in order to drive the narrative through, and that is reflected in our rehearsal process. The deSign is done before we go into rehearsal and is brought in during the first week so the actors learn to use, manipulate and get the best out of the design. That gives you the impression that the production could not have been conceived in any other way. Speech and image become one '
Red Shift fans need have no fear that Holloway is set to abandon the stage and perch himself on a film directors stool. 'There was a time when I spent all my time schrnoozing With those people on Wardour Street,’ he admits, ’but I found it such a barren enwronment.’ Another one of those life-changing deCIsons.
(Brian Donaldson) a For tour dates, see page 68
Change of life: Graeme Rose and Rachel Nicholson in The Aspern Paper
11—25 Jun 1998 THE UST 83