Glasgow: Citizens' Theatre, Wed 2—Sat 26 Feb.
An unequal music: Julie Saunders in Jazz
’It's just brilliant,’ says actress Julie Saunders, delighted to be back at the Citizen’s Theatre, where she was last seen as Maggie in Cat On A Hot Tin Roof. She's here to perform the one-
woman ,-!ay jazz, adapted from a little known short story by Jean Rhys, author of the classic Wide Sargasso Sea. Jazz recounts the story of Selina Davis, a young Dominican arriving alone in London in the late T9305. Cheated by her landlady, Selina falls upon hard times and is prey to exploitation by men and harassment by neighbours and police
’Rhys is a phenomenal writer,’ insists Saunders. 'Her characters are usually damaged or fallen women; very complicated women who also have a lot of humour.’ The play is set at a time when there were few black women in Britain and draws upon Selina’s frustration and intense isolation. But it also explores the recurring theme of Rhys’ writing: the brutal and frequently economic relationship between men and women. Among her modernist contemporaries, Rhys was particularly noted for her capacity to deal With money as an important life issue. This IS understandable, given her own poverty and the affluence of such contemporaries as Virginia Woolf.
Much acclaim arrived in Rhys’ declining years, but too late to greatly effect her fate. ‘She is so truthful,’ says Saunders. ’She was a chorus girl and had a horrid life. She’s very truthful about the way women see certain men. It’s almost as if she was born before her time.' (Moira Jeffrey)
A4 effort: Michael Mackenzie and Jimmy Chisolma
REVIVAL Writer's Cramp
Edinburgh: Royal Lyceum Theatre, until Sat 5 Fe 2-5:: x: kit:
A moment caught between Michael Mackenzie and Jimmy Chisolm in this revival of John Byrne’s 705 comedy was the occasion for both delight and discomfort for a generally appreciative audience at the Lyceum. As the two demonstrated immense verbal dexterity in mimicking upper-class under-graduate slang from between the wars, one felt thrown back to the kind of linguistic schtick commonly heard between the Two Ronnies. This was disturbing, though, for it seemed, as does much of the play, to anchor the satire to its era, leaving little to say in the contemporary world.
Byrne’s social comedy traces the decline and decline of one Frank Seneca McDade (Chisolm), a bathotically mediocre Scottish writer . with delusions of artistic greatness
54 THE llST 20 Jan-3 Feb 2000
from the cradle to a probable grave in the obscure backwoods of his native land. From prep school, through Oxford and on to frustration through the 505 and a brief brush with Warhol’s quarter-how in the 605, McDade is a vaguely sympathetic sap. He comes off second best in encounters with a multiplicity of stereotypical characters from the play's various periods, all played by Mackenzie and Paul Morrow. Some good playing from the cast keeps things bopping along, with Mackenzie’s pompous academic narrator a highlight, even if this figure is also a little dated. And there's a complex set, constructed of giant reproductions of McDaid’s books, to add to the fun, with some unexpected entrances and exits. The text may have lost some of its original resonance, but there's plenty of gusto in approach, which ultimately makes this a worthwhile evening of theatre. (Steve Cramer)
Glasgow: Tron Theatre, Thu 3-Sat S ’ Ebewex
'It's almost infinite, what you can do with circus,’ says Brazilian performer Rodrigo Matheus. ’If you push the techniques, you can go anywhere.’
For Matheus and New Zealander Deborah Pope, co-stars of last year’s Edinburgh Fringe hit Dead/y, that means using the energies of circus, dance and physical theatre to chart a perilous journey into relationship hell. Their vehicle is the seven deadly sins, and the result is a wickedly good, hour-long drama.
Here, gluttony is a mutual devouring that ends with a burp and a belch, and lust a bare-chested series of carnal trapeze climbs, clings and drops that is the last word in eroticism. The pair's come-down is literal, a bumpy knock-down, drag-out fight full of daring flips and edgy, comic abrasions. Avarice converts Pope into a giddy, swinging glitter-girl. As the embodiment of sloth, Matheus reads the papers, indifferent to her hunger for him. And suddenly we're back where we started.
The show, directed by choreographer Sandro Borelli, never stoops to mere tricksiness. Pope and Matheus’ intentions are always thrillineg clear and their emotional detail exact. In calling themselves No Ordinary Angels, they don’t lie. (Donald Hutera)
Careful what you grab: Deborah Pope and Rodrigo Matheus in Readly
CLASSICAL TRAGEDY Grave Gifts Edinburgh: St Bride’s Centre, Tue 1 Feb, then touring.
Mums nag. It's in the job description, it comes with the territory — from the childhood ’tidy that room’ lecture, to the more sophisticated adulthood telephone guilt trip. In short, if you don’t have one or two parental disputes every so often, you're missing out. Based on Electra, Aeschylus's portrayal of the dysfunctional family, this is a contemporary take on the classical Greek tale of one seriously bad mother.
'The hero is forced to avenge his father by murdering his mother, in doing so, is instantly haunted — we’ve focused a lot on that black, hairy aspect of the story and, more importantly, the hopelessness of the cycle of revenge,’ explains director David Stuttard. ’There's this idea of the classics as being about people wandering around in togas with serene smiles on their faces. The real ancients were much, much darker.’
With previous efforts including an outlandish skeletal set design, the company has constructed a macabre stage environment to complement the Electra tragedy’s morbid narrative. ’lt’s as if some dark, cataclysmic event has taken place, like the ghost of Agamemnon is shifting and cleaving the earth above. The set suffers as much disruption as the shattered lives of the characters.’ (Olly Lassman)
Twelve Angry Men
Edinburgh: Adam House Theatre, Tue 25-Sat 29 Jan.
Most people will be familiar with the 1957 film: Henry Fonda reverses the guilty verdict of eleven fellow jurors serving on a murder trial. How he manages this is not by arguing the details of the case, but by exposing each jury member's flaws, which range from idleness to outright prejudice. Less a courtroom drama, then, than a psychological portrait. And that's the attraction for Nick Hastings, by night director of Midnight Oil’s production of Reginald Rose’s play; by day psychology student at Edinburgh University.
'l’d been looking to do something that would tie in a large cast,’ says Hastings. ’The group dynamic is quite pertinent; l was interested in how the characters interacted with each other and how that effected the central hub of the play’s plot.’
Midnight Oil have also updated Rose's play, not in terms of setting - 'We’ve made it modern day and placeless,’ says its director - but by emphasising its corruption theme. ’Coming a couple of years after the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, the directorial slant is to expose corruption within the justice system,’ explains Hastings. ’We wanted to get across the idea that there are fundamental problems with the justice system across the world.’
Sad to say, that’s as true today as it was in 1957. (Miles Fielder)
Psychologist: Nick Hastings, director of Twelve Angry Men