SHAKESPEARE King Lear Glasgow: Old Fruitmarket, until Sat 12
Jun: Edinburgh: Royal Lyceum, Tue
lS—Sat 19 Jun. . . When speaking of bringing classm
texts to the Scottish stage, Graham McLaren talks the talk and walks the walk. The artistic director of Theatre Babel has brought back into our halls a succession of Shakespeare productions which you thought you’d seen, but hadn‘t, or not for a good long time.
‘When we put on Hamlet a couple of years back, it hadn‘t been done for fifteen years, and our Julius Ceasar was the first production by a Scottish company for 35 years,‘ says McLaren. ‘This new show is the first Scottish King Lear for nearly half a century.‘
Now, as a country, we like to pride ourselves on our relationship to classic theatre texts, so what‘s gone wrong? The young director finds the answer, at least in part, in Scotland's cultural heritage, particularly that part of it which believes, like the Old Firm, in the inherent superiority of the foreign import.
‘We‘re still predominantly a receiving culture,‘ says McLaren. ‘We defer to Robert Lepage — fair enough, in a way. It's not that it‘s not good, but we spend all our time tugging our forelocks, and waiting for big English or foreign productions of the classics, rather than doing stuff ourselves.‘
Funding bodies, claim McLaren, are part of the problem, since in Scotland there seems less opportunity than he would like to explore classic texts: ’They seem to encourage the idea of a kind of quasi-Lepage production. Put lots of lights on it, shave your head and fart into a jar as a co-production with a one-legged Venezuelan dance company, and you can do it and call it Electra, if you like.’
This might sound dismissive of much of what passes for avante-garde in the contemporary theatre, but there‘s nothing of the Philistine about McLaren. He feels that a
Blind to all reason: Ian Ricketts as Gloucester in King Lear
Scottish perspective can bring a freshness to Shakespeare which gives it contemporary relevance. One need only consider the recent arrival of the Scottish Parliament to see the importance of this production. Lear divides his kingdom and strife ensues, a narrative which parallels recent alarm about independence.
For this production, set - unusually for Babel - in period, Peter D‘Souza plays the eponymous silly old bugger who splits his kingdom between two unappreciative daughters and expels the loving one, Cordelia (Pauline Lockhart, who doubles as Lear‘s wise Fool). McLaren himself plays Gloucester's illegitimate son, Edmund, the sexy bastard who causes all the trouble by loving-up Regan and Goneril, causing a catfight which spills over into civil strife. (Steve Cramer)
actress, who, in a prewous production, played Chet Baker in the last three seconds of his life.
'You can take from it what you want,‘ says deSigner leSSica Worrall. 'EIviS took from black culture and didn’t give anything back, but really Josette is just the most extraordinary performer — her colour is not why she’s there.’
A highly stylised piece of multimedia theatre, 707 is based around the structure of IZ—bar blues, also taking inspiration from Edward Hopper’s Automat, and combines dance, movement, poetry, Video and mum to create a very surreal hour of Visual and
MULTl-MEDIA THEATRE People Show 107
I Edinburgh: Traverse Theatre, Wed
l6-Sun 20 Jun.
The moment before EIVis Presley walks into Sun Studios for the first time is stretched, IWisted and distorted almost
56 THE-HST lO-24 Jun 1999
The King and I: Iosette BusheII-Mingo
out of recognition in this slick new production from People Show. Interpreting the King's nervous energy as a symptom of Tourette's Syndrome is just one of the unusual slants of this show. Another is that he is played by Josette Bushell-Mingo, a black, female
aural stimulation. The emphaSis is on loops and repetition, deVices which highlight the prominent themes of time, isolation and waiting.
‘It IS very intense, but it also has its moments of peace,’ explains Worrall. ’I see it more as a performer within a piece of art than theatre really.'
Stage whispers Overheard while waiting in the Wings.
MUCH GLITZ WAS shown at the recent launch of the Royal Lyceum's millennium season, which presented tasters of its eight upcoming productions. There is a distinctly Celtic flavour to this lot, with three plays by Scottish writers, two by Irish, two adaptations of classics by local writers, and a new production of Macbeth.
Among these. Liz Lochhead‘s adaptation of Chekhov's Three Sisters seems likely to add to her successes over recent years at this theatre. Stellar Quines‘ justly acclaimed production of Helen Edmunson's The Clearing will also be revived, and seems particularly resonant, since its representation of Cromwell‘s ethnic cleansing activities in Ireland might well parallel current events in Europe. Subscriptions are already reported as up on 1998 for a season beginning in September with another old favourite of the Lyceum, Brian Friel, whose 1966 play, Lovers, will enjoy a revival.
NOW, WE WOULDN‘T normally urge theatre-loving readers to eschew True Dramatic Art in favour of the dreaded box, but you might want to make an exception for Channel Four's new satire of subsidised theatre, Coming Soon, which begins on Thu 17 Jun. In it, writer/director Annie Griffin casts a jaundiced eye over devised theatre, a medium she‘s performed in Scotland.
The script spares no one their blushes. Among the victims are a couple from the Arts Council who are interested in sponsoring talent of a sexual, rather than textual variety, and who prefer pretension to quality in theiftheatre, which is, at best, tokenistically Scottish. There‘s also a gay stalker of a critic, hell-bent on a reviewing revenge against an actor whospurned him. But it's not just a luvvie's revenge, since even the actors are portrayed as a group of talentless dysfunctionals. Could the subsidised theatre really be this bad? Er . . . um . . . well . . .