Set in the swankily minimalist flat of a Glaswegian hairdresser named Barbs (geddit7), Liz Lochhead's new play starts out looking like a sassy but lightweight comedy of manners. Indeed, its prototype was a pilot commissioned for a BBC television series. but rejected for being ‘clichéd'. By the end, it emerges as a comedy of almost Shakespearean depth - a multi- faceted meditation on parenthood, commitment, surrogacy and the centrality of family in human relations.
Barbs is suffering from an affliction known in certain quarters as WOTS - Woman Over Thirty Syndrome. As a Woman Approaching Forty, she has escaped a troubled marriage and established a flourishing business. but her hormones crave the pitter patter of fertilised eggs. Her loving but unsophisticated mother Sadie,
theatre - dance 0 comedy
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It's got to be perfect: Siobhan Redmond and John Kazek in Perfect Days
her long-term friend Alice, her ex-husband Davie and her gay bosom buddy Brendan mean well but seem unable to help. Then an unexpected twist in Alice's family life threatens to change all that . . .
The play spans more than a year in Barbs's life, charting the tribulations and ultimate outcome of her quest for motherhood and fulfilment. Over nine finely tuned scenes. Lochhead develops her simple idea into a network of relationships and conflicts of ever-increasing complexity and emotional intensity. Without ever abandoning her deft comic touch, she employs totally believable characterisation to build the piece into an immensely moving drama which raises tingles and tears as well as laughs, and effortlessly sustains its theoretically overlong 190 minutes (including interval).
Lochhead is conspicuously successful at creating for
each character a distinctive and convincing voice, be it elderly or youthful, camp Glaswegian or withdrawn Northern English. The dialogue's ribald patois makes few concessions - in either accent or vocabulary - to an audience from England (or even Edinburgh), but its fecundity, spiked with cracking one-liners, will carry most listeners along.
Unsurprisingly, Siobhan Redmond turns in a terrific performance, playing Barbs as if the part was written for her - which it was — and John Kazek is adorable and energetic as ever as Brendan. The four other actors tackle their parts with relish and verve - indeed the cast seems to enjoy itself as much as the audience in John Tiffany's beautifully judged production.
Perfect? Aye, near enough. (Andrew Burnet)
a For details, see Hit list, right.
Life is a Dream
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Free and everywhere in chains: George Anton as Prince Segimundo
Art holds a mirror up to life, they say. Quite literally in the case of Life Is A Dream, where a whacking great mirror suspended from the gantry confronts the audience.
An uninterrupted 110 minutes serves as introduction to the little known (on these shores) 17th century Spanish playwright, Calderon, whose prolific output outshone Shakespeare by more than four to one. The metaphysical tug- of-war between fate and free will, dreaming and reality plays second fiddle to a cracking storyline and sonorous poetry.
The text, translated by Edinburgh- based John Clifford, vibrates with Shakespearean echoes. George Anton's Prince Segimundo is an amalgam of Hamlet, Prince Hal and Caliban: pitiable savage layabout turned seriously noble leader
Anton heads an impressively solid cast, which also includes Olwen Fouere as fiery, vengeful Rosaura. Sylvester McCoy's Clarin provides an effective comic foil, although clambering over the stalls seating is one antic that does
not pay off. In fact front-row seats are a posmve liability, what with flying gravel, water and clowns to contend with.
Some might say Calixto Bieito, the Spanish enfant terrible director, is too clever by half, what with his inventive Brechtian twists — like raising the house lights, thereby involving audience directly, and exposing theatre's artifice — and the ingenious use of Miguel Poveda's haunting flamenco singing. But it all works magnificently, apart from the odd physical distraction and Fouere making the best of a particularly static long speech (five and half pages in the script).
Overall a powerful, passionate, thought-provoking piece of theatre. (Gabe Stewart)
% Life Is A Dream (International Festival) Royal Lyceum Theatre Company, Royal Lyceum, 473 2000, until 29 Aug (not Sun), 7. 30pm, Sat mats 2.30pm, £6—£22.
% Discussion with Calixto Bieito and John Clifford Edinburgh Festival Theatre, 21 Aug, 4.30pm, £4.
fan? for the peckish
mm; ‘- Perfect Days See review, left. Perfect
Days (Fringe) Traverse Theatre Company, Traverse Theatre (Venue 75) 228 7404, until 5 Sep (not Mon), times vary, £ 72 (£7.50).
Life Is A Dream See review, left. Life ls A Dream (International Festival) Royal Lyceum Theatre Company, Royal Lyceum Theatre, 229 9697, until 29 Aug (not 23), 7.30pm; Thu & Sat mats 2.30pm, £ 6—£ 22. Hollywood Screams Too - Talkin' Turkeys A wasted youth watching 8- movies pays rich rewards in hyper- talented performer Michael Roberts’ tales of terrible Tinseltown. See review in this section. Hollywood Screams Too — Talkin' Turkeys (Fringe) Guy Masterson Productions, Observer Assembly (Venue 3) 226 2428, until 5 Sep, 15 9/£8 (£8/£ 7).
Die Ahnlichen Peter Stein's production of this intriguing new play about identity and damnation by leading German playwright 80tho Strauss. See preview in this section. Die Ahnlichen (International Festival) Theater In Der losefstadt, King’s Theatre, 473 2000, 24—26 Aug, 7.30pm, £5—£22.
Frank Scots comedian Lynn Ferguson excels herself in a new piece portraying a compere and all the participants in an open mic session. See review in this section. Frank (Fringe) Lynn Ferguson, Calder’s Gilded Balloon (Venue 38) 226 2151, anti/31 Aug, 7pm, £7.50 (£6.50). Russian Anguish Unpromising it may sound, but this low-key comedy of Slavic woe will have your samovar bubbling. See review in this section. Russian Anguish (Fringe) Krasnaya Presnya, Demarco European Art Foundation (Venue 22) 556 8409, until 29 Aug (not 23 or 26) 7.45pm, £7 (£5).
20—27 Aug 1998 rams"?