new shows THEATRE
NEW SEASON Poe pourri
As always, a new season at the Citizens' Theatre brings unexpected curios to the two studio spaces.
Words: Nicky Agate
After the Sturm und Drang of the Citizens' Theatre's recent Schiller success at the Edinburgh International Festival, the company is back at its home base to begin an eclectic autumn season. The Stalls Studio plays host to Denis Diderot’s Rameau’s Nephew, a much-lauded but surprisingly eluSive 18th century novella, and one which the author himself hid until his death in 1784.
This stage version is to be tackled by guest director by Phoebe von Held, who also adapted the original from French into her native German; and then into English. ’When I came into rehearsals we’d already cut the text by one third,’ she laughs. ’Now we have less than half of it left.’
The satire follows a conversation between Rameau — as the voice of convention — and LUl, Rameau’s nephew. The arguments are heated in
Once more over the top: James Duke, who plays Roderick Usher. seen here digging graves in Philip Prowse's production of Hamlet at the Citizens' Theatre
a truly 18th century fashion, and encompass sooal parasites, sycophancy, the eVil of genius and the genius in true evil. Despite the play’s relative obscurity, von Held has chosen to add a modern Mist by casting two actresses in the roles.
'Huge social shifts were ocCUrring at the time,’ she explains, ’and I feel the text is universal. It applies to everyone. It’s actually a very playful piece, and I thought women might lighten it up a little,’ continues von Held. 'There’s madness in there.’
Madness spills over from the Stalls Studio into the Circle, where Jon Pope stages his own adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe's work of toe-curling genius, The Fall Of The House Of Usher. 'lt's a fantastic gothic horror, and I like those stories,’ laughs Pope. The story tells the tragic story of Edgar Usher, last in his line and heir to the house he believes to be deSIrOying him.
Poe’s writing is powerfully eerie, and its intense theatricality
lends itself to dramatisation. 'He has a way with words which is just fantastic,’ elucidates Pope. ‘This production is completely over-the-top. There’s lots of blood, a certain tone of music and we have actors who don’t mind doing the jibbering these gothic stories seem to require.’
Pope is known for his sense of fun, and no stranger to over-the-top productions. He has a well documented love of the macabre, and The House Of Usher is unlikely to disappoint fans of his style. 'I really want to scare the audience,’ he concludes. ’lt's thrills, spills and necrophilia.’
a Rameau’s Nephew is in the Sta/ls Studio, Wed 23 Sep—Sat 77 Oct," The Fall Of The House Of Usher is in the Circle Studio, Thu 24 Sep—Sat 77 Oct. Both shows have free previews the night before they open. Men Should Weep opens in the Citizens’ main house on Fri 25 Sep, and will be previewed next issue.
Children Of A Lesser God
Glasgow: Old Fruitmarket Tue 8— Sat 12 Sep
A fair hearing: Cristina Toma in Children Of A Lesser God
Director Theodor-Cristian Popescu’s view of theatre is deeply infused with his origins in Romanian performance. His selection of Mark Medoff’s quintessentially American play about the developing relationship between a deaf girl and her language tutor is therefore bound to make for some interesting departures. Many audiences will know the affirmative and rather saccharine film version of this text, but Popescu's production takes a different slant.
'The American version is too politically correct, and a little bit afraid to fly,’ comments Popescu. His own techniques eschew the naturalism of the original play in favour of something more elliptical. ’We deal in Romania with the kind of audience that during half a century of Communism developed an awareness of secret codes,’ he says. ’They like to find secret meanings, and are not just satisfied with being told a story.’
Teatrala 777’s production — which will
be performed in English - has a cast of seven actors and seven musicians (these latter are the Scottish group, Sounds Of Progress), the music being an important part of breaking down the barriers of naturalism.
’The performance opens with Sarah [the deaf girl] doing an abstract dance out of a signing language,’ explains Popescu. ’The score is not just music, it’s Sarah’s mind, and her deafness is an invisible wall, a metaphor for non- communication among all humans, not just deaf ones. When the dancing stops, the first word we hear is "speech", like a stone thrown through the invisible wall between us.’
Popescu’s intention is to re-orientate the play, creating a scenario seen from the point of view of Sarah, rather than her tutor, James. The character, he points out, has much to say about her handicap. 'Being deaf,’ she comments, 'is not the opposite of hearing, as you believe - it’s a world of sound.’ You heard it here first. (Steve Cramer)
10—24 Sep i998 THE usrss