CONSPIRACY THEORY Hess Is Dead
Glasgow: Arches Theatre, Tue 9—Sat 13 Mar.
A Nazi piece of work: Hess Is Dead
is Larry Palmer, a reporter investigating the facts who gets in way over his head.’
The notion that the incarcerated individual was a
When news surfaced recently that the daughter of Tammy Wynette was demanding that her mother's body be exhumed, it seemed like incontrovertible evidence that the world had gone conspiracy theory crazy. That a complex network of industrialists and espionage types could be behind the death of a president is perhaps conceivable, but who would want to assassinate the First Lady of Country Music?
Into this global atmosphere of paranoia and mistrust comes Hess Is Dead, presented at the Arches by Proze theatre company. Founder member Jack Wilson understands the desire to see something more than fate at work in the field of celebrity death: ’We want something a wee bit more glamorous,’ he says. 'lt’s the whole Diana thing. Regardless of personal beliefs, we as a society want to believe that this beautiful princess was killed by the evil monarchs.’ Howard Brenton’s play focuses on a somewhat less popular figure than the people‘s princess, however. ’lt's the story of Rudolf Hess, and how that man who was locked up in Spandau for 30 years wasn't him.’ says Wilson. ’The central character
’ringer’ and not, in fact, one of Hitler’s right hand men is one that’s been given a great deal of credence lately - something the play feeds on. ’How did we come to believe that the man who was in that prison was Hess, and what happened to the real one?’ asks Wilson. ’Did the Russians kill him, or is he living in South America? It's about how little we as a society know about what is actually going on.’ The location of the play further reflects precisely how difficult it is to trust any reality an audience or, in the wider context, a society is presented with. ’lt's all set in a sanatorium in the Austrian Alps, where Larry has gone to interview a woman about Hess: there are flashbacks, and we explore her reality. The idea is that maybe the whole Hess conspiracy is her fantasy.’
The use of cine film, video footage, and slide projection (much of it in collaboration with Glasgow School of Art students) is indicative of Proze’s adventurous and experimental approach to theatre. ’We steer away from things like drug abuse in Easterhouse. We’re not trying to educate people, we just want them to leave the theatre thinking, that's all.’ (Rob Fraser)
PSYCHO DRAMA Shades
Glasgow: Arches Theatre, Fri 5 & Sat 6 Mar.
N i We I
Unethical medics: Shades
58 THE lIST 4——18 Mar 1999
Somewhere in a dark Jungian cellar sits a man talking to the lady-moon. His companions are a doctor and a nurse: she wants his body, he his mind. She wants to chop him up With a cleaver to see what he’s like inside. He JUSi wants to help.
'I’m not a big fan of theatre that constantly reflects things the way they are,’ professes Unlimited Theatre director Paul WarWick. ’l think it generates a feeling that things can’t change.’ Leeds based Unlimited
'Theatre are making their Glasgow debut this issue wrth a play about disiomted realities The central character in their new show, Shades, is a recent widower grieVing for his wrfe. As he sinks further into depression, he begins to lose his mind, until one day he wakes up to find himself in the cellar with a prying doctor and a bloodthirsty nurse.
The problem is, Just when yOu’ve categorised the play as a portrayal of mental breakdown, you realise it's a little more complicated than that. Interpret it differently, and the
barbarous medics become serial killers, the man a kidnap Victim and the moon his dead wrfe. Like one of those novels where yoo choose your own adventure, Shades Will keep you guessing until at least the end. ’What we wanted to avoid was a standard social drama,’ explains \lVaTVVle. ’We wanted to try something a little different, to take narrative and plot and give the audience a roller-coaster ride through reality'
This fairground attraction takes in timeless flashbacks, nudity and a funeral where the guests metamorphose into cows it may sound chaotic, but eight months of planning has gone into this show Shades is the amalgamated fantasy of a company already renowned for challenging, entertaining theatre, and somehow, somewhere, it Will all make sense.
As the director says 'The fact that anything can happen in your imagination makes imagination a very healthy state of mind.’
Deﬁﬁous Touring from Fri 5 Mar.
Wildcat Stage Productions return to the theatrical fray this month with Delirious — a musical comedy where the numbers are the product of a deranged mind. Wildcat stalwart Dave Anderson, who collaborated on the writing with Peter Arnott and Dave McLennan, feels that beneath the knockabout fun, the play reflects this confused nation.
'It is a silly piece, but then look at life, look at politics especially, and it’s a very silly busmess,’ says Anderson. ’The guy in this is in a state of delirium, and that’s not unlike the rest of us. We don’t know what's about to hit us — people don’t really understand what the powers of the Scottish Parliament will be for instance. You ask people and they seem to think it’s something like independence, some kind of autonomy. I think when people realise how puny it is, they’re going to say hold the phone, we thought it was going to be different.’
The musical form liberates the writers and performers from the constraints of straight (Jacket) drama. Although this is a broader approach, Anderson believes it can also help score direct hits on specific targets. ’lt’s easier to get points across in songs, because they're so stylised,’ he says. ’You can get away with things that dialogue just won’t allow you to do without sounding like 35-year-old agit prop.’
Completing the cast alongside Anderson are Alison Orr, Leslie Robertson and Sandy Nelson ( best known for his work on the stand-up cichit). All four will be playing and singing live in what promises to be an evening of organised chaos Anderson acknowledges that the play probably bears little relation to Peter Arnott's original outline. ’We’ve done a Marx Brothers on it. Turning it into a piece of complete nonsense, basically.’
Groucho Marxism: Delirious