Edinburgh: Royal Lyceum, until Sat 20 Nov ~k
Kenny Ireland‘s production of this canonical classic seems ill-conceived, even given some nice moments. Among these, one could cite the witches, who are played as rather sinister fairy children, giving them an unexpectedly eerie feel. The design, of two massive stone walls which are manipulated into surprising arrangements, is also effective, if at times a little unwieldy. The problems at the heart of this production lie with two performers whose abilities are unquestionable, having produced splendid performances in past productions at the Lyceum and elsewhere.
Tom McGovern, as the bloodthirsty Thane of Cawdor, adopts a peculiar whining rhythm to his delivery, and a rather supercilious swagger to his gait,
-.o ."q' ... Sat-'9 . 445: N
'is that a dag I see before me?‘: Jennifer Black canoodles
with Tom McGovern's nerdy Macbeth
creating an effect which the audience found, at times, risible. At the Banquo's ghost sequence, Jennifer Black's Lady Macbeth comments to her terrified husband, 'you have displac’d the mirth', an unfortunate phrase, as the audience were moved, not for the first time, to inappropriate tittering at the sight of his antics. In all, the performance seems almost facetious, with hopping, twitching and gibbering bathetically diminishing the supposed gravitas of the Scottish General. Black, as well, overplays her hand, the culmination of her ‘unsex me here’ soliloquy being an anything but sexless embrace of her husband, a breast- groping adolescent clinch which seems inappropriate to a married couple, even given the passionate nature of their relationship.
In all, we might call this a misfire, and hope, indeed expect, better from performers and a director of this quality next time round. (Steve C ramer)
CONTEMPORARY CLASSIC Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?
Glasgow: Citizens‘ Theatre, until Sat 13 Nov but
In the Citizens' Theatre's main-stage production of Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?, Kenny Miller‘s monochrome set comprises four white chairs on a white floor with two angular black walls sloping back to a black doorway. The colour contrast suggests a world of stark oppositions, perhaps epitomised in the love/hate relationship of the central couple.
George (Peter Guinness) is an ageing academic involved in an almighty war of words with his wife Martha (Ellen Sheean). It's a relationship that would make the most experienced marriage guidance councillors contemplate a career change. When they invite a younger couple (Stuart Bowman and Lorna McDevitt) back for a late~night drinking session, all hell breaks loose in an alcohol-sodden orgy of word games, threatened violence and impotent sexual encounters.
Throughout the verbal exchanges, the oppositions are developed; history and science, past and future, truth and illusion. But as the play progresses, it becomes apparent that, rather than seeing the world in appearances, it's necessary to scratch below the surface to uncover shades of grey. And below
62 TIIEUS‘I' 4-18 Nov 1999
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Mixing Guinness and strong drink: Peter Guinness in Who's Afraid at
that surface we’re less likely to find the absolute truths that we so often cling to.
This is a powerful production which is generally well acted —Guinness, in particular, brilliantly captures the rhythm of the dialogue. His performance is often understated, but simultaneously captivating; a striking confirmation of the old ‘less is more’ adage. But the show's main strength lies in Giles Havergal's direction, which allows the acerbic wit in Edward Albee's writing to be the real star of the show. (Davie Archibald)
ADAPTATION The Woman Destroyed
Glasgow: Citizens’ Theatre, until Sat 13 Nov M
Monologue is inexpensive, which is important, given the current financial austerities facing the theatre. It's also capable of opening up entire worlds on-stage as well as exploring the individual psyche for close-focus observation. Kenny Miller’s production is more concerned with this latter advantage, examining the claustrophobic environment of a married woman exiled by both husband and family, festering alone and making bitter observations about her past and present.
Andrea Hart's profoundly dysfunctional mother has clearly suffered: she has been rejected by her most recent husband and recollects a troubled past, which includes that most unnatural of tragedies, the loss of a child. It's New Year's Eve in Simone de Beauvoir’s Paris, and as the celebrations go on, the woman makes some desperate phone calls and engages in the socially conditioned act of cleaning her conspicuously polished apartment.
There are moments of real power here, but this woman is profoundly unsympathetic. Her attacks on her banker husband are one thing, but even her maid is not spared, and her ravings provide a more than adequate explanation for her isolation. Perhaps this is the point, but surely the issues at the heart of the play are obscured by its narrator. (Steve Cramer)
Married to a complete banker: Andrea Hart
MODERN REVIVAL Torch Song Trilogy
Cumbernauld Theatre, until Sat 6 Nov, then touring at ‘k * 1r
Torch songs may be music to be miserable by, but Harvey Fierstein’s Torch Song Trilogy has always been a cause for celebration. Set in New York, and written during the last days of disco, these three one-act plays follow Arnold Beckoff - smart, world-weary drag queen — and his unresolved love for the would-be heterosexual, Ed.
Rolled into one, there are three distinct tones to the piece. Act one is glamour and greasepaint, a love affair gone wrong. Act two, a hilarious take on 705 liberalism and therapy culture (it’s no surprise that Fierstein made an appearance in Woody Allen's Annie Hall). Act three, the comic family drama.
So how does this period piece, completed in 1979, stand the test of time in this post-AIDS world, with its first major Scottish production? There's mixed success, with some cast members failing to persuade that they’re straight outta Brooklyn.
However, this remains a marvellous play and Grant Smeaton plays it gently as a thoroughly appealing Arnold. Funny, self-knowing, both cleverer and stupider than his friends and family, he finally meets his equal in the redoubtable Kay Gallie as his mother. The assurance of these two and the sharpness of the script keep Fierstein's torch reassuringly aflame. (Moira Jeffrey)
CLASSIC ADAPTATION CIavrgo
Glasgow: Citizens’ Theatre, until Sat 13 Nov *‘k‘k
The surgical whites so notable in the splendid design of the Citz 1994 Torquato Tasso are back for this new Goethe adaptation. Brendan Hooper's eponymous Romantic intellectual is a mover and shaker with a politically inconvenient engagement behind him. While Katharine Burford's spurned, consumptive lover attempts to restrain her vengeful brother, (Andrew Joseph), Derwent Watson’s slick political operator urges Clavigo to scale royal heights. By this time you know it’ll end in Sophoclean catastrophe.
There are a couple of problems here; Hooper's title character seems a little long of tooth and short of body to convey the Byronic figure we might imagine, and the production is played at such a pace that we’re given little pause to consider the rich depths of Robert David MacDonald's translation.
At times, the actors seemed anxious about last orders — more storm a dram than Sturm Und Drang - but for all that, there are moments of power in the production. There's a kind of grandeur about the finale, which succeeds because it's unashamed of its melodramatic elements; while the essential conflict between what is felt between people emotionally, and what society expects from us politically, is conveyed with intensity. (Steve Cramer)
All hat up: Katharine Burford and Candida Benson In Clavigo