Edinburgh: Traverse Theatre, until Sat 26 Feb a: in:

Those who recall Edward Bond's

1973 play The Sea may find some striking similarities between this production and the earlier play. It’s not that Catherine Czerkawska, the author of Quartz, is guilty of plagiarism in all likelihood she has never heard of the play - but to contrast the two similar narratives is to receive an object, and in some senses abject, lesson in how the theatre has changed. Bond's play deals with a harmless beach- dwelling eccentric, who becomes the subject of his community's hostility. The frustrations of the people of the remote town of the play's location eventually visit themselves upon our dropout hero, and destruction results.

Pretty much the same thing happens in Quartz, although the characters are more closely related and the setting is Scottish, not English. The difference, though, is that Bond’s play is relentlessly social, pinning the blame squarely upon a corrupt class system in its darkly comic narrative. Czerkawska's play seems to acknowledge its social context, referring frequently to the sectarian divide which blemishes its South

“it”: ~- '*

Layabout lover: Liam Brennan and Alice Bree in Quartz

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Ayrshire location, but never taking this thematic to a conclusion, as if it were not polite to discuss it too much. This makes it a play for people like one of the characters, Claire, the craft shop owner, nice liberal people who read the right books, but thank heavens for the BUPA card, and let’s not involve ourselves in any of those nasty 'isms'.

For all that, there's a moving quality about the play's slightly self-conscious poetry, which explores the subjectivity of its protagonist, Michael (Liam Brennan) through elegiac monologue. His is a mind that never quite rids itself of its Catholic upbringing, as he repeats Hail Marys in times of stress brought on by his religious zealot mother (Maggie McCarthy). She sees the piece of apparent stone which Michael finds on the beach as a holy talisman, while her son seems to view it as a prop to his largely dormant sexuality. This latter problem

frustrates potential girlfriend Claire (Alice Bree) whose attempts at seduction are rebuffed. A do-gooder priest (Paul Nivison) is introduced, but can’t stop the destructive conflicts that follow.

Roxana Silbert's production brings out some of the human drama inherent to Czerkawska's text, but also at times insists upon a rather too mannered style for the play's naturalism. The exception to this naturalism is the Irish mother figure, who seems to have parachuted in from another play, and it’s perhaps wise that McCarthy should choose to play the character with an emphasis on comic grotesquerie and stereotype. Brennan's lost soul of a beachcomber is strongly and plausibly played, but Bree seems a little nervous of her character of twice-jilted thirtysomething. 0n the whole, a good night out, but where's the beef?

(Steve Cramer)

PROMENADE REVIEW Horses, Horses Coming

In, In All Directions

Glasgow: The Arches, until Sat 19 Feb *iee

_ All i ecti '. ~ 54 THE US'I' l7 Feb—2 Mar 2000

Hope opera: Horses, Horses Coming In

It is, of course, the ideal time of year to ponder the tragi-comedy that is love. Whether you are perched smueg atop a veritable mountain of Valentines missives, or wreathed in self-pitying solitude, you can’t fail to notice the Iudicrousness inherent in human relationships; so three hearty cheers for a production that captures all that fever and foolishness.

Horses, Horses Coming In, In All Directions spirits its initially befuddled audience around the labyrinthine Arches, dangling before them tantalising scraps of text and music, and striking visual images. Stories by Italo Calvino and Angela Carter, a Patti Smith song, a dirty Japanese folk tale, and Alina Reyes's carnal classic The Butcher all present different facets of the romantic experience. A library buzzes with sexual tension; love strikes on the brief trip from the Kingston Bridge to the hereafter; and the predictable phases of a relationship are envisaged

Directed with generosity and vision by Ben Harrison, the cast make charismatic companions, leading the audience by the hand through a dazzling variety of rooms and moods. At one point, we're snuggled under the covers with them for a bedtime story; they also ask us to dance, sing to us, fiddle with our hair and steal our drinks.

Taking centre stage or singing from the sidelines, Cora Bissett is as dynamic and appealing as ever, and Harry Ward is equally engaging. But an extra touch of magic is provided by the startling Itxaso Moreno, a blonde-dreadlocked imp with a thick Basque accent and a demeanour that is, at once, savage and childlike.

The spirit of the production is somewhere between naiveté and knowledge; the violence inherent in fairytales; the predatory sexuality that lurks behind romantic cliches. Whatever its deeper themes, however, it remains primarily an exuberant, uplifting romp. Mc ill


Glasgow: Paisley Arts Centre, Sat 26 Feb, then touring *uhk

Nicola McCartney's script for LookOUT Theatre Company’s portrayal of family dysfunction revolves around the character of Jen (Gillian Kerr), a visiting young career woman rediscovering her family's complex emotional tensions. Yet, it is her sister Josephine (Kate Dickie), who represents the strongest element of the production.

Jo, battling an undisclosed communicative disorder, must rank as one of the most insightful and sensitive portrayals of disability on any stage. Her own seemingly fragmented stream-of-consciousness dialogue is delivered with such charm and intensity that the bewildering ramblings of the other three characters seem shallow by comparison.

Jealousy, alcoholism, bittersweet nostalgia and repressed anger are all sources of pain for the three women but, as much a criticism as a testament to McCartney and Dickie's theatrical skill, ’Jo’ overshadows them all. The sheer despair and potency of the frustrations of the family is best exemplified in their interactions with their disabled relative and, as a result, the audience's attention, if not the narrative, seems entirely dependent upon her stage presence.

McCartney’s use of poetic monologue and interwoven, often broken dialogue effectively portrays the intended sense of emotional claustrophobia, but this only approaches real poignancy in the scenes involving Jo’s unpredictable and mesmerising contributions.

Likewise, Home’s contorted set and unsettling choral/white noise soundtrack, perhaps unintentionally, serves to complement her psychological imbalance. As a result, the considerable focus and attention required from the audience in deciphering even simple character interactions is a mixed blessing. This is a sometimes rewarding, but often frustratingly exhausting experience. (Olly Lassman)