Prince Rama And The Demonsl Offenbach In The Underworld

Glasgow: Theatre Royal, Thu 27 Jan—Sat 5 Feb, then touring. Let's try an experiment. If you've been reading an up-market contemporary highbrow novel lately, put it aside for a night and read some Thomas Hardy or Jane Austen. You may find that the storyline is clearer, the prose more lucid, and the text generally more accessible; yet it loses nothing in conveying the complex ideas and emotions which your contemporary novelist can only express through obscurity and abstruseness. This little experiment might illustrate something at the centre of Robert North's aesthetic philosophy, which puts accessibility at its centre and tries to rediscover long neglected methods in creating dance which anyone can enjoy. Before he'd even set to work on his first project, the new Artistic Director of Scottish Ballet came under fire from many quarters in the arts world for an allegedly too conservative approach to his work.

What’s his side of the story? ’A lot of

the criticism didn't come from inside

the world of dance,’ he comments evenly. 'In terms of dance, the people who were critical are on the avant- garde side of the battle, and they do think it’s a battle. It's strange that the avant-garde do really think they can move into the mainstream, which is an absurdity. This is a national company, so we should be working for the general public, not the elite. As far as the other kind of work goes, I like to see it, and it should be provided for, but that's not our role.’

The battle between modernism and earlier forms of dance seems a particular preoccupation for North, so it's not entirely surprising that one of the new ballets Offenbach In The Underworld addresses just this issue. Here, the popular composer of the title revisits the earthly world of the 20th century some years after his death, to find the new artistic influences not to his

; A, ,' )l .,' r. ’s 7‘, 5:. rug/,- M'. 4:,

Robert North: Confronting the conservatism of the radicals

taste. North describes a climactic moment: ‘There's Offenbach and his supporters on one side, and modern artists like Stravinsky, Cocteau and Picasso on the other, and they have this enormous fight, finishing up as a pile of bodies in the middle of the stage. It's an ironic fight, really, because they ultimately find that there's room for everybody. They discover that you don't have to knock down all the old buildings to build new ones.’

This seems a singular metaphor for North’s equitable

attitude to his detractors, while the other dance in the programme Prince Rama And The Demons illustrates his desire for accessibility. This story, originally an Indian folk tale. tells how the Monkey Prince helps the mystical Prince Rama rescue his wife from the evil King Ravana. A dance for children, its accessibility as narrative is all important. (Steve Cramer)

Hair-faced audacity: Suzy Kane in Twelfth Night.


Edinburgh: Brunton Theatre,

Fri 28 Jan—Sat 12 Feb.

Brace yourselves: lllyria has been thrust into the let century. Having previously staged critically acclaimed productions of Romeo And Juliet and Macbeth, the Brunton Theatre Company and its director David Mark Thompson have

shaken up Shakespeare’s comedy of love, lies and mistaken identity for Edinburgh audiences.

‘We‘ve updated it into a modern world that‘s a cross between Times Square, New York and London’s Soho,‘ says Thompson. ‘lt’s a high-tech, fast- living environment.‘ Purists needn‘t take flight, however, as the director is quick to point out: ’We haven’t

reworked the text because then it would have been a version. We didn‘t want to squash the way Shakespeare looked at the world. People will be getting the complete text, very much in the spirit of its author, but with a new life brought to it.’

This new life involves Olivia being

placed as head of a fashion house with her unfortunate family name, The House of Belch. Her errant cousin, Sir Toby Belch (Gareth Thompson), has been deposed as Director of the Board due to his frequent drinking bouts, and Malvolio (Kern Falconer) is Olivia‘s PA. The shipwrecked twins, Viola and Sebastian, cast adrift in this strange and superficial world and destined to turn it upside down, are played by Susy Kane and Kieran Brown.

Confident of the suitability of the play's new, modern setting, Thompson says, ‘Shakespeare is looking at human nature and, through the course of the play, characters learn something about themselves or they are revealed for what they really are.‘ On a play that promises to be an enlightening experience, he adds ‘You break down the fashion and see the world as it really is.‘ (Catherine Bromley)



Glasgow: Citizens' Theatre, Tip; 8;? 26 Feb.

FOHOWing a fine cerifrai t‘r-v‘grr‘raruo playing Henry Hra ‘ri‘-:s :r‘ The regent

Citizens‘ production or an, Londoner Simon Dutton. :xz..;'r ‘.‘t".'.. north to play a SOlrlcv.‘.i‘:.‘1vI Hamm in director Robert Datrd MacDonald's studio prorluctrov of Samuel Beckett s Errtlgarrw

Hamm represents as larue a from his previous character a. ,3: c 25. get, but Dutton clearly rel‘s‘ms (rt.- task. [Bill‘id lll (l \Ni‘ct’lt‘itz.’ .5 i2..‘r'r_- .l different part for me,‘ he very different from TNT/Iii m: rat-r played i've never done .tll‘. bet-01’. before But it's great to be .mie ta hatt- the challenge. He is without question one of the r‘nost irriportarxt xtrrters or the 20th century and it's a brilliant riia‘, That's why I wanted to do ,t

All of Beckett‘s \\.()r'r. hr l)lt,/‘.iJi.t,‘(l widespread literary crr: r~.::. and Endgame is certainly no est. gst: ir: {set

in an unidentifiable Ll("')£)i.i'.t: ins enigmatic tale (HMOHBS true;i between Hamrr: arid hr, E.r‘l't.:".'. t).

not to mention llarrirri's :m-rut :r-z: parents Nell and Natig lt rxas ; : rdm mi endless interpretatrm you: Dutton suggests that me (Vii, :r..r;'.t more strargizttor'mrri than Zest]: A t.’:‘.’ suggest. ’lt's wonderful simf,’ states, 'but it's not riezessarrly complicated as some people rrnglfi. ihlllk. it‘s very funny for one tlrrrrri Oblique humour, but furirty‘

Hamm and Clov can be pret: twrl

a modern day variety ixall act, .:".:r.;:if;ii there is clearly a lot more qwrnr cri here. Beckett also provides a

meditation or. the nature or i‘I'ilthl'r existence \‘Jlill all its r:.ear.rr.<:, _ meaninglessness, which is often Litili portrayed. But this ()deUCiltil‘r led} s set to concentrate on (JC‘Vt‘ii.)l)li.i} lirt‘ comic side of the play ’You don’t need to play the darker side,’ suggests Dutton. ’l tiirrri. :rrrit‘s there, but if you play the humour, which is very much a Hamm and Clo; double act, hopefully you".e got a fresh and funny production ' Popular comedy in a post-cataclysr:.rt settnug. a welcome challenge for the lit'.'. rr, (Davre Archibald,- Hamming it up: Simon Dutton.

20 Jan-3 Feb 2000 THE LIST 53