Glasgow: Citizen’s Theatre, Fri 26 Nov—Sat 18 Dec
Pre-millennium malaise stalks the land as we all glance back on the past while simultaneously keeping one eye precariously on the future. And the world of theatre isn’t any different. But rather than reflecting on recent history, Citizens’ director Philip Prowse has elected to step further back in time with a
production of Noel Coward’s Cavalcade. The play, which was the
inspiration for the television series Upstairs Downstairs, traces the fortunes of two English families - the upper-class Marryots and their servants at the start of the play, the Bridges. The narrative leads from the 1899 New Year celebrations to 1930, charting the momentous historical landmarks of the time. In between, the nature of class relations are explored through the romantic relationship that develops between two of the central characters, Fanny Bridges (Michelle Gomez) and Joe (lay Manley), the Marryot's youngest son.
’This was a momentous time in our history,’ explains Manley. ’When you look at the rapid development that went on from around 1899 to 1930, it mirrors the pace of modern life.’ Gomez also insists that the play invites further parallels with the present. ’The whole show ends on a song called "20th Century Blues”,’ she states, ’so it brings it round full circle to what could be "21st Century Blues". It’s very relevant to do it now as a little jog up to the Millennium.’ She maintains, however, that it’s no simple history lesson. ’lt'll make you smile and we hope that it'll make people laugh, but it’s not a comedy. There is a serious study of the past, but it is jollied up.’
Coward’s original production was highly acclaimed for its spectacular set, and Gomez is optimistic that this
Class act: lay Manley plays Joe in Cavalcade
production will receive similar praise. ’lt’ll be just beautiful,’ she exclaims. ‘Quite apart from the acting and the rest of the production, Philip Prowse’s greatest strength is the spectacle of all of it. He has a fantastic eye, he has great vision and his design is like watching art move. It’s the opulence that Philip manages to create from nothing. It’ll knock your socks off.’
With the Scottish Arts Council’s Scotland Onstage Scheme providing additional funding for this first full- scale production of Cavalcade since its 1931 premiere, the Citz looks set to leave the Millennium on a high note. ’I think it’ll be a real showstopper,’ states Manley confidently. 'It has seventeen actors and 30 extras, so to see 47 people on stage will be quite unusual. You won't have seen anything like it this year in Scotland - simply on the scale and size of it alone.’ And Gomez’s last word on the matter: ’lt's really a very beautiful dance through nostalgia that everybody can enjoy.‘ (Davie Archibald)
Bending over backwards for art: Curve Foundation
his taut balances and body slides.
Cooper's When Disturbed, Then Disturbed has been seen before with more effective casting, as it needs a visible chemistry between the couple to retain the power of its confrontational sensuality. Westworld, a new piece to live electric guitar and drums, is a curiously mixed bag of ideas, bizarre costume touches and some familiarly tottering Cooper steps. His interest in off-balance combinations of bodies has been effective in the past, but looks a little inconsequential here, despite company members Soraya Ham and GregOry Grosjean efforts to look steely and striking.
By far the best piece from Cooper is Extreme And Fragile, peppered with interesting images, from sharply angled bodies to subtle flexing of fingers as the company streak through the constantly changing lighting patterns. There’s a fresh energy to the commissioned score
CONTEMPORARY DANCE Westworld Edinburgh: Traverse, Sat 20 Nov
Over the last few years, Ross Cooper has steadily built his Curve Foundation into a major force on the contemporary dance circuit in Scotland, and the Westworld Tour 1999 represents his largest scale effort to date. In addition to three works by Cooper himself, there is the additional bonus of a solo
80 THE LIST l8 Nov-2 Dec 1999
choreographed by Siobhan Davies; her own interpretation of L’Apres-midi D’Un Faune, created for, and danced by, Rambert stalwart David Hughes.
This is a powerful piece of physical posing by the charismatic Hughes, who exudes energy and intensity in a compact, narcissistic display of strength. It's a long way from Nijinsky's period shocker, but continues the erotic suggestiveness effectively, Hughes's presence draws the eye compellingly to
from Jan-Bas Bollen, inviting the dancers into stop-and-go sequences of movement, beautifully highlighted by the strobe lighting that catches them in competitive jostling and manoeuvring. Ham and Treffel are almost frighteningly intense and powerful here, burning with driven energy. Cooper gathers good dancers around him and has drive and ideas; the work is still in need of a little focusing and fine tuning, but is always watchable. (Don Morris)
TRUE CRIME THEATRE
Blood On The Thistle
Glasgow: Citizen's Theatre, Thu 25 Nov-Sat 18 Dec.
No doubt you've heard of Bible John. Perhaps even Peter Manuel. But what about The Demon Butler or The Casanova Con-man? No? Well, their stories are fully documented in Douglas Skelten's Blood On The Thistle - a casebook of 20th century murders committed by Scotland’s most notorious serial killers. But what kind of subject matter will Celtic killers make for the theatre?
We're about to find out in a new adaptation of the book by Kenny Miller, which he also designs and directs. ’l’ve taken four of the murderers from the book,’ explains Miller, ’and tried to put it into some sort of basic drama so that there's some link between them.’
So is this an attempt to recreate the horror of their crimes theatrically? 'No,’ states Miller emphatically. 'That’s obviously in the play, but I’m not recreating it in a gory sense with blood and guts and all that. I’m not glorifying it. It’s done exactly the same way as a piece of evidence is presented. The power of the mind is much greater than anything you can actually show on stage.’
Theatre is notoriously awful at creating the type of fear that cinema excels at, but clearly Miller's not about to fall into the trap where others have previously stumbled. 'lt's a profile of what these people were like, not a gory peep-show,‘ he states. ‘They are actually quite interesting characters. What they did was appalling, but the way that they manipulated and pushed people is actually very interesting. Each one of them wanted to be caught. They pushed the police force as much as possible to see how far it could go before they eventually had enough evidence to catch them.’
It's less an attempt at cheap scares, more a psychological investigation that attempts to offer some serious analysis. So don't be going along just to find out about The Demon Butler.
Face of a killer: the Sunday Mail/Daily
Record artist's impression of Bible John
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