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Begin Again

The wartime film adaptation of Walter Greenwood's Love On The Dole closes with an appeal to never return to the hungry 305. It's a seminal moment in British cinema that sums up a belief that, following enormous sacrifice, a better Britain would have to be born. From that widely held view was born the modern welfare state.

It's this period that David Harrower uses as a backdrop in a revised version of last year's success.

Begin Again starts at the end. It's 1948 and John. a young ex-RAF man, lies dying - the result of a fight over the spoils of a black market deal. The play attempts to retrace the period leading to his demise. We begin as John starts his new office job at the Department of National Insurance. He’s full of the belief that everyone must pull together to build a new cradle-to-the-grave welfare system; but he gradually moves into the black market. Initially involved in the illicit movement of chocolate and eggs, he plans to move into the heady heights of stockings and high heels.

Begin Again starts at the end

But there's insufficient motivation for John's transformation. We guess it’s to help care for his war- injured brother, but it's unclear. Plus his interaction with the female characters (his girlfriend and the gangster's moll) both played by Helen Lomax, is confusing. The lack of clarity is compounded by having both male actors (Ian Macrae and Stewart Porter) taking turns at playing John; the ending gets increasingly fuzzy. Harrower, though is definitely a strong writer. His dialogue is crisp and to the point, but the narrative, or perhaps direction, is frustatingly unclear.

Technically the production successfully recreates the world of film noir. Perhaps not Chiaroscuro, but Kai Fischer's lighting design develops the shadowy underbelly of post-war Britain. Matt Johnson’s set, in particular the four reflective perspex panels, also conveys a world of double-dealing intrigue; and John Irvine's almost cinematic score further creates a theatrical sense of the period. The casual narration so popular among 405 noir fiction also finds a place, partially overcoming the confusing narrative. But you cannot escape the conclusion that this would be much stronger if it was simpler. (Davie Archibald)

a For details, see Hit list, right.



Although genuinely touching in parts, this production always manages to err on the side of caution with regard to sentimentality. There are

The lion sleeps tonight . . . and wakes up in Cologne

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Two days after offering to give his mates a lift to an England match in France, Arthur wakes up on a railway platform in Cologne. He‘s alone and clad in nothing more than an English flag and a pair of socks.

The often amusing episodes which Arthur recounts reveal how he came to be in such a predicament. Truths about his familial and personal relationships, which the hapless soul unwittingly discloses, make it easy to see exactly why his sense of self is entirely derived from his support of his beloved Saints (Southampton FC). The club is his religion, his prop, the thing which keeps him going when all else fails. Hence the pathetic recital of players’ names like a mantra.

some top quality jokes at the expense of football in general, and the Saints in particular. Clever use of the device of the perceptive German station attendant serves a dual purpose. Not only does it provide someone with whom Albert can have a dialogue, but it also takes the popular stereotype of Germans as cold, humourless sorts to task.

This satisfying one-man show has plenty to say about relationships, self- perception, the perception of ourselves by others and how we create identities for ourselves; so don’t be put off by the fact that it centres on 'the beautiful game'.

(Dawn Kofie) I For details, see Hitlist, right

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The Bedsit Ex-Z Cars Jimmy Ellis and Gerard Rooney from the ’l'm not bitter’ Murphy’s ads star in a tight witty script, where moments of pure hilarity are juxtaposed with chilling instances of tension. The Bedsit (Fringe) Observer Assembly (Venue 3) 226 2428, until 30 Aug, 77.50am, £9/E8 (£8/f7).

Begin Again See review, left. Begin Again (Fringe) K tC, Traverse (Venue 75) 228 7404, until 4 Sep (not 30 Aug) times vary, £9 (£6).

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