The oldest drama stories ever told were those of 5th century BC Athens and tackling three at once can only be
described as a labour of love.
The List went behind the scenes to watch THEATRE BABEL’s actors prepare
for Oedipus, Medea and Electra.
:;'::s.: Steve Cramer
A GIGANTIC, CRUMBLING, COUNCIL-OWNED hall is the Venue. We are directed b_\ the servitor. crouched o\'er a (‘alor gas heater. mid egg and chips in his cubb_xhole. up a llight ol echoing stairs. The building has seen lar better days: its max}; whitewashed corridors still stained with the nicotine long since banned lront the place.
The sound ol preparation reaches our ears. as actors exercise \'UlL‘L‘.\ through a succession ol k'C} .s. lt'ottt .s‘ulr' l'()('(' to outright hello“. \Ve lind a large damp. cold attic room. lull ol variously aged people. clustered in knots among the ancient plastic schoolroom sut'plus chairs. There seems little glamour here. the jeans are lra_\'ed. and no pair ol trainers seems less than a _\'ear old: but (iraham .\lcl.aren. Artistic Director ol theatre babel assures its that. Very shortl)‘. something special \\ ill arise lrom these apparentl} anarchic proceedings. And he‘s right.
.-\lter the arrival ol l.i/ l.ochhead. Scotland‘s leading pla} \\ right and adapter ol liuripedes‘s .llm/vu. the lirst reading begins. The rain lashes against the sk}lights \\llll a lorce close to truculence. but inside \\ e are undistracted. as something equall} elemental goes on. .\laureen Beattie is reading the L‘pt)ll_\lllt)ll\ part ol a \mman in loreign lands. abandoned b_\ her husband lor another woman. ller re\enge \till encompass all concerned. e\en her on 11 children.
l.ater. \xe'll see .\loll_\ lnnes take the lead in [flu-1m. pla_\ ing a _\oung \Hllllilll maniacall) obsessed \xith re\enge upon her mother. \\ho has murdered her lather. 'l‘om .\lc(irath's cottlctttpot'at‘} adaptation has her resenting the leminised role assigned to her. despising her girlygirl sister. \\ho sees no oppot'ltlttil} to right the \\ rong. and urging her brother on to a hlootllhit‘sl} re\enge.
'l'he linal adaptation is l)a\id (ircig‘s ()m/i/ms. \\illl Neil .\lcl\'in\in \trestling uith the issues ol patricide and incest at the heart ol
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this most perlormed ol (ireek tragedies. The storm raging outside e\entuall} appears to add to the traumatic e\perienccs e\pressed in the rootn. and habel’s most ambitious and e\pensi\ e production. \xorking under the auspices ol the sponsoring 'l'ranma}. is oll to a llicr.
\Veeks later. and lull rehearsals are in don nstairs in the malodorous g}mnasium space. ’l‘he lact that no one \xears their Sunda} best to rehearsals is e\plained b} the grubb} space the) are lhro\\ittg themselxes around in. We stop Neil .\lcl\'in\ in to ask ho\\ he prepares lor the mindblouing role ol ()edipus. ‘\\'e|l. you know I'm a method actor . . .‘ 'l'he gag takes a moment to sink in. bill is indicatnc ol the 'iocular atmosphere \thich runs through the entire. large compan) in preparing lor these pla_\s. Maureen lieattie e\plains the parado\: ‘\\c‘re doing these dark. scar}. tragic. black pla) s. so \\hat happens is \\ e laugh all the time. When )ou're doing coined}. it‘s ne\er tnuch lunf
\lit}lk‘ this le\it) mirrors catharsis;
Aristotle’s \\ord e\plaining the sense ol release that an audience lecls alter sitting through the dark e\ents ol traged}. llo\\ do the actors e\plain this leeling'.’ .\lcl\'in\'in comments: 'l \\as \xorried about hoxt do\\tt the_Vd leel. hut \laurecn said. “no. thefll be delighted. 'l‘he) 'll sa). l'\e no‘ killed ma \xeans. he no' shagged me ma. l’\e no‘ uanted to kill in} mother. l.ile‘s not that bad”.'
'l‘he sense ol rela\ation is added to b) the cotttpatt} itsell. \\llU understand the operatic scale ol these parts. Beattie e\plains: ‘\\'hat I‘m doing relies hugel} on \\hat‘s around me. It's a lundamentall) lriendl} atmosphere here. You need to take risks. and here. _\ou don‘t leel like _\ou’re going to make an eejit ol )ttlll'st‘ll. You l'L‘Cl lllst‘ )Ull L‘Ltlt lM‘ 01W” in rehearsal and that's important.‘
.-\nd \\hat ol the grand scale ol tragctl_\'.’ llo\\ does an actor make it real. immediate'.’ .\loll_\ lnnes e\plains ho\\ she balances out lilectra: "l‘here are things _\ou can drau on. acts ol re\engc and \ iolence around (ilasgoxx. l'\e got a brother too. and )ou can drau on