NEW PLAY The Angels' Share

Cumbernauld: Cumbernauld Theatre, Thu Z-Sat 4 Mar, then touring.

Celebrating 25 years of working with the best of Scotland's literary and dramatic talent, Borderline Theatre launch their new season with the first of four new plays. Written by award-winning poet, author and playwright Chris Dolan, The Angels’ Share explores how the past informs the future in a love story about passion and progress.

His second collaboration with Borderline, Dolan previously worked with the company and its artistic director, Leslie Finlay, in 1998 on the touring production of his play Sabina. Later this year, he will also be working with Finlay in the adaptation of Bernard Schlink’s novel, The Reader, to be premiered next year.

Whereas Sabina delineated a romantic comedy and, in part, gave rise to Dolan’s reputation for writing light and accessible theatre, Finlay stresses that this new play will highlight Dolan’s diverse talent. ’lt’s very different in tone and feeling from Sabina,’ Finlay notes, while confessing to be a fan of Dolan’s work. ’T his is not a comedy, although there are funny moments within the play. For people familiar with his short stories, it's much more in that tone. Chris is a serious writer and, ultimately, this new play is a tragic tale.’

Paying tribute to Borderline’s distinctive Scottish identity, The Angels’ Share deals with two of Scotland's strongest aspects; island life and the national tipple. The title of the play refers to the distillation process of whisky and the part that evaporates into the air during the maturing process. In the context of Dolan's play, the title points to the ancient rituals that dominate the lives of a small island community. ’The islanders have their mythic tales,’ explains Finlay. ’The play explores how their lives are not only moulded but harmed by this


Putting the dram in drama: The Angels’ Share

Into this ancient way of life comes Edward, played by Adam Maxwell, a management consultant from the mainland with a brief to turn the faltering whisky industry around. Yet, through his success in modernising the process of whisky production and in his love affair with one of the islanders, Edward irreparany damages the island’s way of life.

The play opens with Edward's daughter, Rosie, about to leave the island. As she shares a final dram with her father, she learns the truth about what really happened in the past. ’It’s a modern parable to what's happening in Scotland today,’ insists Finlay. ’People will recognise the topic, this process of change. They’ll tune in to the strong story, the love and the passion, the wonderful language of the whisky and the alchemy that surrounds it; it's all part of our culture'. (Catherine Bromley)

started out as the journey of a boy going to a city at night,’ explains writer and co-director Matthew Lenton. ’Since then we’ve gone off on many different paths, but we keep returning to that idea.’

The devised process is a key element of the company’s approach. ’We go into a room with an idea,‘ says Lenton. ’That idea is developed by the group working together intensively, then six weeks later we come out with a performance. You do get stressed by the pressure of the whole exercise, but hopefully it gives energy to the final show.’

The visual style is a further central component. ’We’re trying to tell stories visually and physically, with less

PREVIEW Blackout

Glasgow: Tron Theatre, Wed l—Sat 4 Mar.

Of all the emerging Scottish theatre companies, Glasgow-based Vanishing Point have attracted the most critical attention. Their previous show, Last Stand, earned them widespread praise and they now seem set to improve on

Dread and breakfast: Blackout

that success with their latest production. Drawing on the folk stories collected by The Brothers Grimm, Blackout tells the bizarre tale of a young German boy who arrives in Scotland locked in a suitcase. Terrified of all that surrounds him, the boy seldom speaks and the play explores how he negotiates his

new and strange environment. ’It

reliance on texts than before,’ he explains. ’So lighting and design is central, but not at the expense of the story.’

Blackout promises to be a surreal and fantastical voyage into the dark and unknown, but Lenton promises the show will find light amidst the darkness. ‘lt’s a journey among the living and the dead,’ he states. ’But there will be equal amounts of blood and laughter.' (Davie Archibald)



Edinburgh: Royal Lyceum Theatre, until Sat 4 Mar *****

Liz Lochhead's adaptation of Chekov's classic achieves the nigh-on impossible in rendering plausible the central dilemmas of the original in a Scottish post-war context. The Splendour and beauty of this production owes much to her understanding of both the human foibles of the characters, and the political situation in which they find themselves.

The parallel social situation between the ailing fortunes of the latter 19th century Russian middle classes, and those of Attlee’s Britain, where a society fit for officers was supplanted by one designed for sergeant-majors, is quite striking.

The eponymous siblings suffer from various degrees of self-delusion. Katherine lgoe's spinsterish elder sister Livvy, is a model of the stiff upper lip gone brittle, while Milly (Caroline Devlin) and Irene (Louise Bolton) both suffer from divided selves, seeking both emotion and devotion in their relationships, and having to settle for the latter and pine for the former.

All dream of a golden, probably illusionary past, not in Moscow, but Oxford. But as with the original, the place isn’t important, since they are cut off by time, not space. Meanwhile, discreet, carefully ignored affairs go on, and quiet desperation prevails as brother Andrew (Luke Shaw) marries inappropriately and takes to gambling away the family dosh.

Tony Cownie elicits tremendous performances all round from his large cast, but particular praise might be reserved for Jimmy Chisolm as the graceless family acquaintance Sludden, whose obnoxiousness brings a beautifully-timed humour to the evening. So too, Gayle Watson’s Nettie, wife of Andrew, 3 cuckoo in the nest who is laughed at initially, then later feared by the family.

There’s some pretty offensive classism in the way that the audience is encouraged to laugh up its sleeve at her working class accent and customs, but let it pass. There’s also some improbability about the final fate of Hugh Lee's upper class twit, Tulliver- Smith. But again, go with it, for this is an adaptation of rare beauty. (Steve Cramer)

Girls behaving sadly: Louise Bolton, Katherine Igoe and Caroline Devlin

l7 Feb-2 Mar 2000 THE UST 53