SHAKESPEARE Twelfth Night Tounng
Glasgow company Theatre Babel has distinguished itself over the past few years with contemporised, cinematic, but unpretentious productions of Shakespeare. Co-founder Graham McLaren, who plays Feste in Peter McAllister’s revived production of Twelfth Night, feels conscious of a carefully-created image in the Shakespeare market.
’We’ve chosen to update it, with a kind of minimalist set,’ he explains.
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Clown jewel: Graham McLaren as Feste
'PeOple have found this unusual, but we’re not being gimmicky. Now that middle America has lost its fear of Shakespeare through films, we feel we can get back to the text.’
This said, the company's approach does frequently evoke contemporary film. 'People compared our Hamlet to Reservoir Dogs, and our Macbeth to Mean Streets,’ agrees McLaren. ’We’ve gone for a more gentle, Merchant Ivory
thing here.’ This is a tale of twins, Sebastian and Viola, who find themselves
shipwrecked on the shores of lllyria, an island full of colourful characters, with whom they become romantically entangled.
The world of lllyria is difficult to evoke, since, as McLaren pomts out, it is both an allegory for Shakespeare's England and another, slightly magical place. The company's solution is very contemporary. ’An average audience won’t know what lllyria is supposed to mean,’ reckons McLaren. ’So we’ve made the point by turning it into a kind of "Brits abroad” world — Sir Toby drinks too much and wears a Hawaiian shirt.’
And what of the vexing problem of casting two actors as twins? Sometimes the simple solutions work best. ’It’s traditionally done with costumes and walks and things. We’ve jUSI got two actors who look like each other! And it seems to work. No one has looked at them and gone "Eurgh" — that would ruin the Whole premise.’ (Steve Crarner)
I For tour dates, see page 76.
Edinburgh: Royal Lyceum Theatre, until Sat 24 Oct 1hr
There are many good things about Jennifer Black's Communicado/Lyceum production of this romantic tragedy by French novelist Zola. Design and lighting, by Russell Craig and Jeanine Davies, create an airy, painterly sense of height and austerity; while the score, played live by composer Iain Johnstone, deftly sweeps between gaiety and foreboding.
Though he is cast predictably — as Camille, the pampered railway clerk who marries his cousin Therese, neglects her and is cuckolded by his friend Laurent — Billy Boyd plays the part to perfection. Eileen McCallum, as Camille's over-protective mother, also turns in a fine, affecting performance; while Patrick Hannaway is tremendous as the bluff family retainer Michaud, whose casual conversation underlines the themes of mortality, infidelity and corruption.
The show's irredeemable flaw is in the central relationship, between Clare McCarron’s Therese and Seamus Gubbins’ Laurent. McCarron makes excellent work of the first few scenes, tolerating her predicament in steely silence; but as sly flirtation builds to reckless passion, it all goes askew. Gubbins’ seduction has all the charisma of a toothbrush, and sets the
Steely silence: Clare McCarron as Therese Raquin
tone for what follows -- a fake— sounding monotone that makes you wonder whether the pair have found any rapport at all.
Both show some mettle later, when sin takes its toll and sweet nothings turn to bitter venom. But for the story to make sense and carry its own moral weight, their illicit love must become a shiny, impregnable sphere for which they sacrifice their souls. Instead it is a doughnut with a vacant heart. Partly to blame may be Stuart Paterson’s adaptation, which gallops through the story's first half, then slows to a languid stroll.
Communicado is in trouble, following the acrimonious departure of founding artistic director Gerry Mulgrew, and it’s no fun to kick the company when it’s down. But equally, it’s painful to see this show’s obvious merits go to waste. (Andrew Burnet)
YOUTH DRAMA Squealin' Like A Pig
Edinburgh: Theatre Workshop, Sat 29 Oct—Sat 14 Nov.
Scotland 1998. In a club, a brutal attack on Asian youth Sirlu (Zee Sulleyman) is Witnessed only by one girl, Chelsea (Nicola Rowan). It c0uld be real life, but in this case it’s the new in-your-face production from Theatre Workshop's resident company.
Fuelled With pumpin’ dance mu5ic and club visuals, the dynamic story explores the very real issue of mom in Scotland. Written by Debbie lsitt (of physical theatre group Snarling Beasties), the piece is as physical in its execution as it is thought-provoking in plot.
The story follows the life of Chelsea as she tries to grapple With the usual adolescent issues: like many teenagers, she’s haunted With the need to escape her ordinary enVironment The complications Surrounding the attack she is unWillingly embrOiled in, become a catalyst for her realisation of the adult world.
With the death of Scottish teenager lmran Khan fresh in our minds and the imminent establishment of the Scottish parliament, the theme of racism is timely. 'The play explores the mechanisms and drives in place that play down the problem of racism in Scotland,’ says Robert Rae, artistic director of Theatre Workshop, who is directing the piece The dil-S(()Ill8ll (.ast have carried out field research, draWing from experiences of real
people to add punch to this contemporary tragedy.
Parallel to the production is the publication of a collection of stories by non—White and non-Scottish people resident in Scotland. ’The book aims to raise awareness and eventually set up theatre facilities for this under- represented group,’ Rae explains.
Using the energy of youth culture and the feel of contemporary Scotland, Theatre Workshop aims to raise and address those issues that are all too often swept under the carpet. (Tracy Griffen)
The colour of racism: Zee Sulleyman in Squealin' Like A Pig
CONTEMPORARY DANCE Scottish Dance Theatre Touring int it
With an expanded company of strong dancers and international choreographers working with contemporary music, Scottish Dance Theatre could be striding confidently into the future. But although the Current tour shows off these strong points, it also highlights the challenge of putting together an intelligent and varied programme that holds an audience.
’Arena’, choreographed by American Terry Beck, has an intriguing, pulsing soundtrack by Scottish composer Iain Johnstone and an ambiguous opening, suggesting the repressed angst of Victorian femininity. The image of three women standing on chairs in huge dresses, making small, nervous gestures is arresting, but the early promise is too often lost thereafter.
There’s a lot about chairs in the piece: couples dancing on and around them, stepping tentatively across the stage on a series of them, as though forbidden to touch the ground; using them as an alternative dance surface. Somehow it all manages to be a bit ordinary, despite the skill of the dancers, more playing field than battlefield.
When the second piece, ’Ghost Opera', begins, you might think that ’Arena’ had continued with a change of frocks, for it starts With a single woman in another huge dress. The Chinese-American music is interspersed With text and watery noises, While the choreography starts
Chair play: Scottish Dance Theatre
With more minimal arm movements, and the fusing of sound and movement rarely shows clearly. Dancers stalk the stage in long overcoats — choreographer Pit Fong Loh has indeed created some ghostly images. One woman in a pearly White dress could be an innocent among vampires, lost in a world of restrictions and control.
Artistic Director Janet Smith's 'Playfall’ was missmg due to iniiiries, but should be on vieW for the rest of the toor. lt's a good enough programme, Just liable to leave y0u wondering What the dancers could do given the chance to let rip With really energetic, inspired material. (Don Morris)
22 Oct-5 Nov l998 THE LIST 71