SHAKESPEAREAN COMEDY A Midsummer Night's
Glasgow: Citizens' Theatre, Tue 21—Sat 25 Mar.
When Andy Arnold talks about ’overweight blokes running around in tutus, an ageing Bottom and a fairly mature bunch of fairies,’ you could be forgiven for wondering just what you're letting yourself in for. So it’s a welcome relief to hear that Shakespeare’s light-hearted tale of love and lunacy is set to get the full Arches treatment; it’s difficult to imagine a more perfect marriage. Take director Arnold's reputation for vibrantly chaotic theatre with a menacing dark side, combine it with Shakespeare’s most anarchic play and you're looking at an interpretation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream with serious potential.
’Some Shakespeare plays are very suited to The Arches company,’ says Arnold. ’We used to do a lot of very musical, irreverent shows - that was our hallmark - and A Midsummer Night’s Dream lends itself to that tremendously. It's quite a physical piece, for the most part, it’s got a young cast and there’s a fair bit of acrobatics. It's all rather upbeat, but at the same time, the darker, animalistic side is there, particularly with Oberon and Titania: they’re fairly rough, brooding characters.’
Although The Arches trademark ’theatre grotesque' style will be a major element, Arnold is keen to point out that, as well as catering for newcomers to the Bard, fans of the original text have nothing to worry about.
’You’ll get The Arches take on it, but I have to stress we're not playing around with the text.’ he says. ’We’re keeping the original text intact, but it’s not done in a stiff classical style. It’s very accessible to a modern, young audience, without making gratuitous,
Puck knows what they're up to
unnecessary gimmicks; we’re bringing out the humour that runs throughout the text itself.’
With a Glaswegian Oberon, an Aberdonian Titania and Arnold himself Iimbering up for the role of Puck, we're looking at an eclectic mix of regions for the show. 'I think it's good to act as well as direct, because you remind yourself of the problems actors have to deal with; it’s also going to be great fun going on the road with this! I’ve always liked the idea of being like this Eastern European-style travelling troupe, who’ve been wandering from one village to the next.’
And there's no question of whether a seasoned old pro like Arnold is sprightly enough to handle Puck’s manic acrobatics. Well, almost. ’l’m actually quite acrobatic,’ he insists. ’l’m getting back to my old gymnastic hijinks of 30 years ago. This Puck will be pretty athletic, very physical. And, OK, perhaps slightly past it as well.’
A Springsteen in his heels
by Jake Rajs. Working closely with designer Minty Donald and building upon the iconic country and western images suggested by the music, she conceived a flexrble set showing a desert with a highway running through it. The highway is lined with microphone stands, the floor covered with a cut—out of Monument Valley and the horizon spotted with neon signs. Against this backdrop of lost highways and lonely deserts, five performers from varying schools explore the iconography of cowboys and rock stars.
’lt helps to think of the show as a series of pop videos,’ says Zanotti about the eclecticrsm of a show that incorporates cheating lovers, hellfire preachers, Michael Strpe dancing With his ego, the dance moves of Elvis represented in facral movement, stadium rock posturing, line dancing
Love Son 5 In A Lonely Desert Fu l Of Crying Men And Howling Women
Edinburgh: Traverse Theatre, Sat 18
Mar, then touring. Anatomy Performance has, since
its beginnings in 1982, prided itself on producing meticulously researched interdisciplinary projects. Commissioned by Tramway, this, the company’s eighth production, fuses
80 THE UST 16 30 Mar 2000
choreography, music and desrgn to explore the nature of performance itself.
The inspiration came from a piece of old country and western music. Director and choreographer Marisa Zanotti’s first reaction on hearing the record was the one she stuck to: 'lt sounds like love songs in a lonely desert full of crying men and howling women.’
To find a visual dimension to the show, Zanotti turned to photos of American deserts she found in a book
and John Wayne. 'There's no through- line of characters and it will keep chopping and changing like a gig.’
Sound artist Philip Jeck has created an aural collage from turntables, tapes and electronics featuring elements of Hank Williams, Bruce Springsteen and Elvis. ’We’ve looked very closely at the themes and the music and the result is fairly extreme, showrng ridiculous figures with no pride,’ says Zanotti. ’There’s a lot of emotion and dark humour, and some of it’s very in your face.’ (Catherine Brornley)
CLASSIC The Caucasian Chalk Circle
Edinburgh: Brunton Theatre, Thu
30—Fri 31 Mar.
Brecht's work never functions solely as entertainment. As much a politician and satirist as a playwright, he designed every one of his plays to be, at least in part, an exercise in thought- provocation. The Caucasian Chalk Circle is no exception. Based on a folk- tale of non-specific origin, this allegorical epic should get even the rustiest of brain boxes ticking away. But according to director Pete Clerke of Benchtours, it's not short of a few laughs, either.
‘The common conception of Brecht is deeply serious,’ he says. ’In fact, a lot of Brecht’s writing involves the importance of enjoyment. There's a quote where he says "A theatre that can’t be laughed in is a theatre to be laughed at!
As well as the Benchtours ensemble, renowned for its knockabout physicality, the production employs a large chorus of student actors, and features an original score consisting of sax, cello and folk music composed by Steve Kettley of Salsa Celtica.
Set in post-World War ll Europe, it features a play-within-a-play which tells the story of ’Grusha’, a peasant woman of a former war-torn era who is battling for custody of a child she has devoted her life to. Complications occur when ’mummy’, who has abandoned the baby at the war’s outset, returns to reclaim it. The question of the child's best interests comes into play and the resulting conflict works as an analogy for many territorial crises in world history.
'lt comes down to the idea that things should go to those who deserve them, rather than those who have a hereditary right,‘ says Clerke. ’In the prologue, a group of villagers is debating over a valley and who should have it: the ones who fled when the Nazis came, or the people nearby, who looked after it during the war. Within the main play there's a child being torn between two people. It's an extremely potent image.’ (Olly Lassman)
’A theatre that can’t be laughed in is a theatre to be laughed at!’