Dissent Touring a ir 4r ss-
In the 80s, the Alliance Party were that bunch of milksop, sandal- wearing middle-of-the-roaders who spent their last days knocking chips off each other, rather than their political opponents. These days we're governed by what future historians might call the Tory- Labour Alliance, in which two parties try hard to create the illusion of difference, while smoothly maintaining identical, right-wing social and economic policies. One has to admire the unanimity with which policy is accepted between the new alliance members, even if there is some disagreement about the better of the two leaders, Will and Blair, the flower-pot pair.
It's no easy task to point out to audiences - who may have marched to the polling booths under the illusion that a change of gov- ernment meant a change of policies - that they have been mistaken, but
Party games: Graham Crammond and Neil McKinven in Dissent
7:84's new show undertakes to do just this.
Stephen Greenhorn's play, following the superb Passing Places, recounts the story of Paul (Neil McKinven), a Labour councillor and prospective MSP, who is asked to make a succession of compromises to facilitate his journey up the slippery pole. He starts by implementing economic policy, cutting the budget of the community education project which employs his long-suffering ex-girlfriend, Pat (Carolyn Bonnyman).
Social policy is next: he puts police onto an underground club, causing serious problems for his daughter Sheena (Gabriel Quigley) and disastrous ones for her political activist friend Avril (Julie Duncanson) and his own mate Derek (Bill McElhaney), an ex- footballer with a hilarious line in analogies between footie and politics. Guided by his allies, Callum — a PR- obsessed idiot — and Harry, a sinister fixer (both Graham
Crammond), he comes to the conclusion that there is little difference between his personal and politicall lives. Familiar stuff, but the immediacy (examining the first year of the Government) and genuine wit of the play propel it along beautifully through its succession of short, well-paced sequences. Back-projection behind a neat, semi-circular set works well, occasionally drawing the audience’s attention, but never overwhelming the performers, all of whom are strong, though the pick of them is Duncanson‘s superbly sarcastic eco-warrior.
The play successfully humanises its abstract issues - not always an easy task in overtly political drama — and leaves the audience, even given an upbeat ending, with much to ponder. Still, at least we don’t live in a one- party state. (Steve Cramer)
a Seen at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh For tOur dates, see page 74
Glasgow: Citizens’ Theatre, until sat 14 Nov ss sir «its.
Men only: Derwent Watson as Sam and Brendan Hooper as Max in The Homecoming
88 THE lIST S~l9 Nov 1998
Apart from a couple of later plays, which directly address human rights abuses, The Homecoming is about as nasty a play as Harold Pinter has written. Its language seeps ugliness and menace; the anecdotes that litter its dialogue dwell on casual hatred; yet it is also— in Philip Prowse's production for the Citizens' company - extremely
funny The play centres on an all-male lamin household in London. Withered
patriarch Max clings, Lear-like, to power; challenged but not yet overthrown by Ioutish second son Lenny. Another contender is the youngest boy, Joey, a taciturn trainee boxer on whom financial hopes are pinned, while domestic order is maintained by Max's brother, Sam, an effete confirmed batchelor. All four share a contempt for women which, though occasionally d.sgu:sed with exaggerated shows of gallantry, more often expresses itself as misogynistic bile. The homecoming after several years abroad of eldest brother Teddy threatens to destabilise this unsavoury homestead, for he brings with him a wife, Ruth.
Pinter’s drama focuses on Ruth's cultivation of an aloof yet sexually
amenable status, one which eventually assimilates itself to the exploitative drives of masculinity Teddy struggles,
ADAPTATION The Collector
Edinburgh: Royal Lyceum Theatre, until Sat21 Nov *‘kirir‘k
A chilling portrayal of one man’s darkest fantasy made real, The Collector is definitely not for the easily offended. Delving deep into the psyche of Frederick Clegg, an anally retentive, obsessive butterfly collector, it drags out all the nastiness that lies beneath his unassuming surface and subjects it to brutal examination. Clegg is the kind of person whose neighbours would exclaim in amazement, 'but he always seemed like such a nice man . , . ' as police dragged the corpses from his house.
A lowly bank clerk, Clegg’s life changes after a substantial win on the Lottery. Suddenly in a position to fulfill his dream, he sets a trap to capture the object of his obsession, beautiful and aloof art student Miranda Grey, with the intention of adding her to his prized collection.
Waking from her chloroform-induced sleep in the lovingly, if not tastefully, furnished prison in Clegg’s cellar, Miranda is understandably terrified, but soon comes to realise that Clegg means her no physical harm. Her attitude then becomes one of derision, and she takes every opportunity to ridicule him, treating him as a servant; someone to be tolerated because he serves a purpose. This has the disturbing effect of making us Sympathise with Clegg to a certain degree. The more strident Miranda gets, the more we can forgive him for his treatment of her. We almost want him to give in to her goading and stop being such a gentleman. The roles of Victim and aggressor are reversed several times. Although Clegg has the upper hand, Miranda's treatment of him constantly undermines his authority.
Mark Healy's adaptation updates but remains faithful to John Fowles' T963 nonel, although the horrifying twist at
3 the end is not emphasised nearly enough. Mark Letheren is hypnotising 3 as Clegg, the banal face of evil, and
initially, to uphold standards of decency
he has learned elsewhere, but eventually colludes With the men's plan to put her 'on the game'.
Suffused With Pinter's mischievous relish for the quirks of English speech, the play also harbours something of the primal force of Greek tragedy. 'You’ll drown in your own blood,’ Max threatens Lenny at one pomt Essentially, though, Pinter is addressing the battle of the sexes at its most elemental level a theme which also informs the Citizens' two current studio shows.
Philip Prowse’s production updated by the inerest hints, such as Joey's shellsuit « is impeccable His oppressive set encloses the family in its dark world, while a I|Vl(I scarlet ceiling suggests the sticky undercurrent of Violence The cast is uniformly superb, though special mention should be made of Brendan
Danielle Tilley is perfect as the haughty Miranda Stephen Richardson’s beautiful yet monstrous set, combined \‘JIIIT David Roper's eerie score, make this a compelling production whose images will recur in your nightmares for years to come. (Kirsty Knaggs) Strobe lights are used in this
Hooper’s Max — whom he conVincingly
portrays at roughly twice his own age and Andrea Hart’s Ruth, a glacial, chilling portrayal of a woman whose fragile power rests on her Willingness to play by male rules (Andrew Burneti
Getting butterflies: Mark Letheren and Danielle Tilley in The Collector