NEW BALLET Offenbach In The
Glasgow: Theatre Royal, until Sat 5 Feb, then touring i: t it it
On the Rodin again: Offenbach In The Underworld
There can be no doubting the ambition of Robert North in staging a large-scale ballet which is as much an opinionated
essay in art history as an entertainment. And, for the most part, he brings off his intentions without sacrificing his audience's amusement. Tracing a broad and slightly selective history from the late 19th century to the early years of the 20th, this lavishly costumed and astutely choreographed piece manages to maintain a lightness of tone which belies its polemical intentions.
Preston Clare dances the eponymous composer with aplomb, leading us through la belle epoch, accompanied by a mass of waiters, peasants, cavalrymen and common folk. Allusions are made to various art forms as time progresses, with the striking image of Rodin's The Kiss suddenly emanating an erotic life of its own during the early part of the ballet. With the arrival of the modernists (Picasso, Stravinsky and Cocteau among them), the stage empties, signalling a new, elitist art form, which excludes the common people.
North is clearly not above a bit of agit-prop, as a balloon labelled 'Art' is popped by these figures, but if the technique is a little direct, the audience seemed to enjoy the gag. The climactic sequence in which the modernists and their supporters are pitted against a disapproving Offenbach and his team in a mighty brawl is well handled, culminating in a pile of bodies, all tangled and bruised, mid-stage.
Accompanied by the music of Offenbach and Stravinsky, there is some deftly realised movement combined with old-fashioned custard- pie-fight fun here. (Steve Cramer)
SEX COMEDY Last Of The Red Hot
Edinburgh: King's Theatre until Sat S &b****
Schticking it to the audience: Torn Conti in Last Of The Red Hot Lovers
Tom Conti has the audience in the palm of his hand, from the moment he appears on stage to the moment he exits it at the close of Neil Simon’s three act sex comedy. Conti has argued
52 THE LIST 3—17 Feb 2000
(in the previous issue of The List) the importance of downplaying performance in order to entertain the audience. Certainly he entertains his audience tonight as adulterous middle aged New York restaurant owner Barney Cashman. But his performance is mannered in the extreme. Barney’s preparations for an afternoon's infidelity in his mother's empty apartment verge on farce, while his New York Jewish dialect is in equal parts baloney and caricature.
Not that any of this is a bad thing, and anyway, whatdaya expect from a Neil Simon play? Simon has made a career of witty, easy-going comic drama that draws much of its humour from a love/hate relationship with Jewish American culture. Thankfully, Conti, who also directs the production, has not seen fit to update Last Of The Red Hot Lovers; it exists in a delightfully nostalgic world. By modern standards Barney's half-hearted adultery, which is resolved without anyone getting hurt, lies somewhere between pathetic and sweet. And the three objects of Barney's affections - an alcoholic woman with a violent husband, a young marijuana-smoking actress and a depressed pill-popping friend of his wife - are played purely for laughs. It's all and only good- natured fun.
All four players - which includes Conti's daughter, Nina, his wife, Cara Wilson and Elizabeth Payne - impress with seemingly effortless performances, which is perhaps Conti’s modus operandi. (Miles Fielder)
SHAKESPEAREAN COMEDY Twelfth Night
Edinburgh: Brunton Theatre, until Sat 12 Feb 1: ~k at
David Mark Thomson’s production
takes a while to spring its trap, but
once there, this represents an enjoyable evening. Regarded as a \ rather problematical play in performance, the source of difficulty in Shakespeare’s comedy of crossed genders and misplaced affections is often Malvolio, steward to Olivia. His imprisonment and psychological torture at the hands of Sir Toby Belch and friends often seems disproportionate to his crime of being a bit stuffy, and forbidding (heaven forfend) a planned bear-baiting session.
In this production, the issue isn't really resolved, the characters ultimately giggling vicariously at his agonies, but our modern-day squeamishness is compensated with a splendid Malvolio in Kern Falconer. His strangulated voice and rigid gait ups the comic ante considerably; the scene in which he is gulled into gambolling about in purple kilt, yellow stockings and tartan jacket is a particular highlight.
Vicki Lidelle provides good support with her earthy mensche-wench, Maria, and Lucy Patterson’s abruptly randy Olivia poaches all the comic opportunities available in a role which has her lusting after a cross-dressing woman. If Edward Lipscombe's 80$ fashion-house design doesn't really capture the sense of abused antiquity we might associate with the play, it looks good and gives the actors a great deal to work with. (Steve Cramer)
Slapper and Dapper: Wench Vicki Lidelle in cahoots with the fashionable John Paul Hurley.
Circus Stirling: MacRobert Arts Centre, Fri 4 Feb t it it
Boilerhouse’s Circus rolls into town preceded by more fanfare than PT. Barnum in his heyday. While advanced publicity on Spencer Hazel's new work has anticipated thrills and indeed spills, audiences may be disappointed by what is a fairly intimate theatrical experience. Backstage at the Big Top, five dishevelled performers act out their own mini Circus show. Though each has a distinct role in Hazel and Grimes’ World Famous Circus, from Ringmaster down to Shit Shoveller, they're all sad clowns with tales of grief and disappointment to tell, fragments of which emerge gradually throughout the piece.
Circus wants us to see ourselves in the painted smiles of these clowns. Life is not, it seems, a Cabaret, but a grotesque Harlequinade, and all the world’s a Big Top. It’s a powerful, fertile metaphor, but one which is ultimately wasted by this overly-ruminative play. There’s still much to appreciate. Characters are sympathetically drawn and their stories are moving and involving. Production design is also strong, the performers fully exploiting the set's network of ropes, climbing frames and swings. However, the slow pace and the production's failure to balance tragedy with feats of daring and zany antics mean that there's minimal genuine Circus excitement. (Allan Radcliffe)
NEW BALLET ‘ ..
Prince Rama And The ,1 '
Demons “ x; a; Glasgow: Theatre Royal until Fri 4, K" v .
then touring stunt . ,
As the merger between Scottish Ballet and Scottish Opera finally becomes a reality, the beleaguered ballet company is in a make-or-break situation under its new artistic director Robert North. To launch his first season, North has chosen his own work Prince Rama And The Demons, a one act ballet for children.
You can see the logic in this move. A child-friendly spectacle, based on the classic Hindu tale, of the attempt by Hanuman, Prince of the Monkeys to rescue Rama’s kidnapped wife from the King of the Demons. lts robust narrative and a multicultural message makes a clear statement of intent.
Unfortunately the demon has all the best tunes, followed closely by the tail- swinging monkey. The prince and princess are just too wimpy to care about, and the narrator fails to help the story on its way with a fey performance where a bit of pantomime vigour is required. Despite the wonderful music — combining traditional Indonesian gamelan and elements of jazz — and the occasional shadowplay, the choreography and the sets fall just short of the mark. The ballet is neither funny nor scary enough to capture the excitement of a big night out. Children will be amused and entertained by Prince Rama, but they won’t be dazzled. (Moira Jeffrey)
Bali dancing: Prince Rama And The Demons