The Clearing

Glasgow: Tron Theatre, until Sat 25 Sep 1% i: i

As with Arthur Miller’s The Crucible, the intention here is to explore contemporary issues in a period setting. Helen Edmundson's play may be set in 17th century Ireland, but the author was compelled to write when ethnic cleansing became all the rage in the modern world. Unfortunately, while the piece works extremely well as historical drama, it never achieves the profound, timeless universality of Miller’s Salem-set masterpiece.

That said, this Stellar Quines production has much to recommend it. Jan Bee Brown’s set is striking, if somewhat underused, and the performances range from very good to excellent. Helen Lomax shines as Killaine, whose innocent nature has no place in the harsh reality of Cromwell’s Ireland, while Janette F0990 is subtly compelling as the pragmatic protestant, Susaneh. Veronica Leer and Hugh Lee work hard as the fiery Oirish wife and English gent hubby at the centre of the story, although only truly convince in the second act, when getting their teeth into some juicy anger, remorse and duplicity. Most memorable of all is Kern Falconer as Sir Charles Sturman. His portrayal of the governor is spookily reminiscent of Peter Cushing’s Grand Moff Tarkin in

Cromwell's Ireland or NATO's Serbia?: The Clearing

Star Wars, and so comes close to unbalancing proceedings as the audience comes to relish his evil presence. It's a risky performance, but an exciting one.

Ultimately, what prevents the production attaining must-see status is a lack of surprises. No doubt Edmundson was aiming for a sense of tragic inevitability, instead she has created a predictable drama.

(Tom Richardson)

Going County Down: Una lllchean and Russell Hunter in Lovers


Edinburgh: Royal Lyceum, until Mon 2 OCt ****

Brian Friel demonstrates a mastery of theatrical convention which is seldom equalled in contemporary theatre. Well performed, as it is here, the manipulation of an audience’s emotions comes easily to Friel, proving the adage that exceptional talent can make the very difficult look simple.

The first of the play's two separate, but thematically linked, pieces tells of Margaret (Katherine lgoe) and Joe (Patrick Moy), two teenagers ostracised by their schools over the issue of her pregnancy, who atop an idyllic Irish hill, on a gorgeously recreated summer afternoon, plan for both their final exams and their marriage, as indifferent to the world's views as love makes young couples. lntercut with their bickering, loveplay and projection

of the future is a flat, unemotive reportage, in the style of a BBC 2 documentary, of their imminent fate. It’s impossible not to be moved by the combination of love and kismet.

The documentary narrators of the first act, Russell Hunter and Una Maclean, return in the second as a middle-aged couple whose conjugal ambitions are thwarted by her God- bothering mother. A very Irish farce, this, with a lightness of touch that generally prevents a degeneration into the sheer knockabout.

A fine night all round, and if the ages of the actors don't quite match their characters (lgoe looks not so much hours, as ten years late for school) this is a minor consideration in the face of the performances. Special mention should also be made of Russell Craig's astonishing picture postcard first act set. The Lyceum must thank Thespis every night for this immensely inventive designer. (Steve C ramer)

reviews THEATRE



Touring throughout Scotland ****

The nastiness lurking in the woodshed of the human psyche is powerfully exposed in this impressive first production from Theatre Archipelago, rising triumphantly from the ashes of the sadly missed Communicado.

Set in a remote rural community, at the seemingly innocent rituals of wake and wedding, the wolves of the title are an effective metaphor for one man’s latent brutality, guilty secrets and incestuous desires. The constant threat of violence lies just beneath the play's veneer of grotesque comedy. At one point, an innocuous conversation goes on in the foreground while a young girl is quietly raped in a cobwebby corner. Later, a scuffle breaks out as a mourner is giving a muffled rendition of 'Green Green Grass of Home'.

Thematically reminiscent of lbsen's Ghosts Teresa Lubkiewicz’ little-known play is fascinating in its examination of crabbed age imposed on youth and the way past misdemeanours return to wreak havoc in the present. The piece bursts with ideas - indeed, the many plot strands occasionally threaten confusion. However, Bill Findlay and Helena Kaut-Howson's energetic adaptation (linking the play’s original middle- European setting with the crofts of North East Scotland) combined with the atmospheric staging, and brilliant ensemble playing (including a revelatory Andy Gray and Mary McCusker) mean that the production is never less than compelling. (Allan Radcliffe)

There wolvesl: Pointed symbolism in Werewolves

MODERN REVIVAL Bold Girls Paisley: Paisley Arts Centre, until Sat 25 Sep, then touring *‘k*

’If this is hell, it could do with a lick of paint,’ says Nora from Bold Girls, reflecting the way that when men are absent and times uncertain, its best to focus on details like the new loose covers, than on the bigger issues. As a night out and a good laugh move toward recriminations and some unacceptable truths about life, humour and housekeeping seem essential for survival.

It’s more than eight years since the premiere of Rona Munro's play about West Belfast and in that time it has received numerous accolades and made it on to the school syllabus. Times have undoubtedly changed since then and some unspoken assumptions about life in the nationalist community seem a little dated, not just because of historical developments. Nevertheless this remains a fine, rich drama about the cost of coping which repeatedly and self -consciously transcends its own setting.

The humour and feisty realism are at their best in this production with assured and moving performances from Ann Downie as Nora and Sandra McNeeley as her mouthy and troubled daughter Cassie. If the quieter moments and closing confrontations are less successful, Munro's message and her wonderful language remain intact. (Moira Jeffrey)


Greenock: Greenock Arts Guild, Thu 23 Sep, then touring *hk

The way that we structure the past into coherent narratives in order to deal with the present lies at the heart of Theatre in Action's production of Brian Friel's Faith Healer.

In four monologues, three characters present conflicting recollections of the same series of events. Frank (Mark Price) is the faith healer who opens and closes the piece, looking back in anguish on a life spent saving the bodies and souls of his sick punters. He's followed by Grace (Mary Wells), his agitated, whisky-drinking, chain-smoking ex-lover. Throughout their monologues, both characters lapse into recitations of the names of Celtic villages they have visited as if some magical experience engulfs their lives - their incantation conveying a collective grief, yet only experienced individually.

Frank's manager, Teddy (Paul Cunningham) expertly negotiates his relationship with the audience, provoking an instantaneous warmth when he arrives on stage. But the strength of his performance is not only based on his 'crafty cockney' qualities. His timing and delivery strike the right chord as he jaunts through his numerous comical showbiz recollections before pausing to deliver the ’killer' lines that underlie the darker side of the text.

Three people, one past, three different perspectives. The audience is refused the 'luxury’ of a definitive account. And rightly so. (Davie Archibald)

Giving s a big hand: Paul Cunningham In Faith Healer

23 Sep—7 oa1999 THE “8183