The Crucible

Edinburgh: King's Theatre, Tue 3—Sat 7 Nov.

Arriving in Scotland this fortnight is an English production of an i American play with a significant Scottish flavour. Taking time out from his post as artistic director of the Royal Lyceum, Kenny Ireland has directed a revival of Arthur Miller's gripping witch-hunt drama, set in Puritan 17th century Massachusetts.

’He's very good at bonding a company together, because he's an actor himself,’ comments Alexandra , Mathie, who plays Elizabeth Proctor, wronged wife of the adulterous anti-hero John Proctor, in this production by The Touring Consortium. ’I felt very secure that he knew what he wanted from the play, and the best way to facilitate it.’

Mathie comments too on Ireland’s

willingness to allow his cast the freedom to explore their roles: ’Once he'd set the guidelines, he let us get into the scene. If something isn’t broken, he doesn‘t try to mend it. If one of us gets something right quickly, he doesn’t work it till it’s lost, he just goes on to the next thing.’

In the play Elizabeth Proctor is threatened with charges of witchcraft by John's rejected teenage lover, Abigail. In the ensuing inquiry, led by clergymen, Abigail and her teenage cohorts threaten to rupture the entire fabric of the community.

Mathie stresses the relevance of the marriage at the centre of the drama. ’The events of the play make the Proctors look at their relationship, and appreciate its value. Everyone in the play has faults, but it's a very human play, and there aren't really any villains. Kenny

Teenage rampage: Alexandra Mathie (right) with Charlotte Emmerson in The Crucible

stressed that we shouldn’t look at the play and say "there's the good person and there's the bad person". It's more complicated than that.’

This desire to diminish a black and white approach to the play is reflected in the structure of the new company producing it. The Touring Consortium intends to combine the joyful freedoms of artistic input, with the harsh realities of commercial success.

Producers and theatre managers have combined to create a large and well-financed company, which will increase its bankability by producing A level and Highers texts. But as Mathie attests, all this is accomplished via consultation with those who will oversee the piece's artistic impact. (Steve Cramer)

3 MODERN CLASSIC The Homecoming

' Glasgow: Citizens’ Theatre main house, Fri 30 Oct—Sat 14 Nov.

Homeboy: Stuart Bowman as seen as Frank Begbie in Trainspotting

Even in a dramatic canon as formidable as Harold Pinter’s, the unhappy families shocker The Homecoming stands out as a compelling highlight 7— a poll of directors, actors and playwrights at the Royal National Theatre recently voted it the No 12 play of the 20th century The Citizens' company recently staged a particularly absorbing production of Pinter's The Birthday Party, and (an Surely, under Philip Prowse's direction, draw out all the prickly emotion and resentment under the surface of this work. Pinter and Prowse - it was meant to be.

Actor Stuart Bowman certainly thinks so and can’t lay on the superlatives fast enough. He has been a Citz regular for a few years, givmg commanding performances Ii". Trainspotting, Maribou Stork Nightmares, i‘/7a(.'.‘>eth, Hamlet and the company's produrtion of The Robbers at this year's Edinburgh International Festival Until now, he has never done Pinter and he's an instant conven.

'lt's fantasuc,’ he says 'You (oine across really good plays so 'arely and what you find is that it does an awful lot of the work for you

Bowman’s character Teddy returns to

the family bosom after six years in

America, bringing his knOWIng Wife

Ruth into a dysfunctional allwniale household. Their arrival is the catalyst for the play's action This being Pinter, nothing is as it first, appears and the

subsequent conflict is enough it: make EastEIiders' hiltiliCH f’ain'ly look 'i'-:e the Walton»

'I actually think it's Ruth's homecoming,’ says Bot-Jinan 'lt's her i

who's coming batk to the life that she possibly led before, or is more comfortable With, rather than the academic life in America Teddy comes back and its absolute aggression from the beginning.

'Power struggles Within families is what it's about and I’ve never seen it so pov-xerfullv done All of these characters have not something that they're generally hiding or lying about

There's nobody you (an really believe

with perhaps the exception of

who's the most honest But et'eiyoiie's hiding stuff and that's always great to play'

And it's always great to watch it unravelling (Fiona Shephei'dl

preview THEATRE

Stage whispers

Oh Lordy - say your prayers for a Broadway turkey. . .

AS JESUS CHRIST Superstar is resurrected in Glasgow, a more controversial portrayal of the Messiah has been launched in New York to universal contempt. Corpus Cristi, by prominent gay writer Terence McNally, opened on Broadway last week, featuring a gay Jesus with leather-clad disciples, an alcoholic Mary and an abusive Joseph. Predictably, Manhattan's theatre district was mobbed with Christian protestors waving banners denouncing the play's blasphemy. McNally took these in his stride, but will find the press reports even more damning. There were no very flattering reports, but the New York Times critic who traditionally has the power to close a show with one negative review summarised the general response, noting that Corpus Cristi was ’as threatening and stimulating as a glass of chocolate milk’.

CLOSER TO HOME, Nikki Axford, beleaguered general manager of Edinburgh's Royal Lyceum Theatre has finally quit her post, several months before her contract expired. Axford, who joined the Lyceum in 1995, had a long-running feud with the theatre's robust artistic director and joint chief executive, Kenny Ireland. The much-discussed disagreement came to a head in January this year, when the l Lyceum's board sided with Ireland, extending his contract for five years, while Axford’s was only extended for a year. More recently, it became known that this contract would not be renewed. Axford responded by requesting permission to quit before her current contract was up, which has now been granted, in recogntion of her difficult position. Sources at the Lyceum have confirmed that the theatre's management is to be re-structured, and that details of the new structure will be released soon.

Untarnished: a more reverent portrayal of Our Lord in Jesus Christ Superstar at the King’s Theatre, Glasgow

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