CLASSIC REVIVAL Pygmalion
Glasgow: Citizens’ Theatre Fri 17 Sep—Sat 9 Oct.
The story of Professor Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle, the development of their relationship, and their conflict with ‘posh‘ society is one well known enough in our world to have attained the status of urban myth. From Rex Harrison and Audry Hepburn exchanging production numbers, to Julia Roberts and Richard Gere exposing, in a light-hearted manner, the
sexual and class mores of their '31.,
society, we have indeed often walked down this street before. Usually, when a theatre turns back to George Bernard Shaw‘s Pygmalion, the originator of all this, we‘re reminded of the fundamentally more rigorous examination which Shaw imposed upon his society than occurred in these frivolous entertainments. The exploration of interlinking themes of class, gender and language is often seen as the centre of this classic Shaw ‘Argument Play‘.
But Simon Dutton and Lise Stevenson, who play Henry and Eliza respectively in Philip Prowse‘s new production of this classic narrative are more interested in the nature of the relationship between these characters than in the play's social themes, though they acknowledge the importance of the play‘s ideas. ‘Eliza was living in a time when women were really nothing unless they were married,’ comments Stevenson.
‘She‘s frustrated because she‘s not able to support herself. Even when
she‘s a flower girl earning sixpence a day, she has more control of her life. You don‘t have to get into the head of a woman who lived 100 years ago to understand that - we‘ve all had relationships where the other partner was stronger.‘ So the emotional foreground of this piece is important. even to the seemingly unemotional character of Henry Higgins? ‘He‘s like a child,‘ comments
Dutton dressed as glam: Simon Dutton‘s posh Henry Higgins in Pygmalion
Dutton. ‘he's an emotionally stunted academic. His relationship with women is very strange, and his relationship with his mother is very like a child‘s considering he's a grown man.‘ This production promises to bring emotional credibility to Shaw, whose plays in performance are very different from their apparent coldness on the page. (Steve Cramer)
THEATRE PREVIEW The Clearing
Glasgow: The Tron, Thu l6-Sat 25 Sep. ' Set against the turmoil of Oliver Cromwell’s ‘ethnic cleansing' of lreland, Helen Edmundson’s tragic love story has, in the light of recent brutality in the former Yugoslavia, become significantly more poignant.
Director Muriel Romanes accepts that ‘the play should have more impact now than it did seven years ago
Benchmarks of history: The Clearing
when it premiered at the Bush Theatre in London‘. In remounting the production, Romanes endeavoured to secure the original cast but, accepting that this was 'a bit of a pipe dream — you never get that', satisfied herself with the return of the major players and some exciting newcomers. Describing her cast as ‘the most amazing group of people' she is keen to stress that, as with all Stellar Quines productions, the play is very much an ensemble piece, ’The actors must own
this play themselves,’ she says. ’l’m
there to facillitate their ownership of this piece.‘
Stellar Quines began as a project to redress the imbalance of a male- dominated world in theatre. It continues to be the only women's theatre company in Scotland and prides itself on presenting issue-based plays with a heavy investment in the actors.
Romanes describes the action of The Clearing as being ‘very episodic’. Short, fast-moving scenes are presented against the backdrop of a stunning pastoral set. ‘lt's very naturalistic,‘ she explains. ‘l'm trying to draw the audience in by making it as simple and evocative as possible.’
Romanes also works as an actress and a teacher, but her viewpoint on this piece is very much as a director. ’For me it's about the effect the play has on the audience,’ she says. 'lt’s very seductive, it has a lulling effect. I believe theatre is about seduction and engaging the audience. This play fulfills everything theatre should ’
CONTEMPORARY ADAPTATION Hamlet: First Cut
Kirkcaldy: Adam Smith Theatre, 15 Sep, then touring.
If you remember last year’s authentically decadent adaptation of The Aspern Papers, you'll know how effectively Red Shift can create atmosphere around a very literary text. This time, they're upping the tempo too. Hardcore beats, desrgner street-gear and some seriously pissed-off kids — you could be forgiven for thinking that the company's radical new production of Hamlet sounds more Irvine Welsh than Kenneth Branagh. From the same critically acclaimed troupe who produced a feminist Timon Of Athens and gansta-style Romeo And Juliet, Hamlet: First Cut is set to breathe new life into a play which, in its traditional state, has just about been done to death.
Jonathan Holloway is the director responsible for putting Shakespeare’s favourite son in a brand new pair of combats. ’Red Shift is all about making rigorous contemporary drama that’s accessible to the broadest possible audience,‘ he says. ’I always try to think to myself, "If I was going to the theatre this evening, what would I want to see?"'
But this isn't just Hamlet with a street-hip re-spray — as its name suggests, First Cut is based on the controversial original text ‘. . . a much faster, story-driven, less ruminative version of the play,’ which is arguably more accessible than the traditional five-hour epic. This versuon is closer to a conventional revenge tragedy, a kind of Jacobean take on the B-movie western.
Holloway is interested in paring down the narrative to its essential, action-packed form. 'l’ve purged the thing rigorously,’ he explains, 'nothing is going to slip through the rehearsal period into the performance that isn’t enjoyable and stimulating and exciting. That’s my motivation.’
As part of all this, Holloway has created a kind of futuristic, sub-Blade Runner world, in which various metallic objects surround the small group of paranoics at the centre of the play. Prepare to have your perspectives shifted. (Olly Lassman)
Polonius punk: Hamlet: First Cut
9-23 Sep 1999 THE [18149