'l II .
How To Say Goodbye
Glasgow: Tron Theatre, Thu 6—Sat 15 Apr, then touring.
Too many contemporary theatre practitioners shy away from producing ’political' theatre, drawing on post- modern prattle to justify their reluctance to produce work that has something meaningful to say. So it’s heartening to see the reappearance of Glasgow-based company Clyde Unity which, since 1986, has produced a body of work that, without being stridently political, highlights the interconnection between the political and the personal by exploring the relationships of ordinary working class men and women.
Its thematic concern continues in the British premiere of How To Say Goodbye, an award-winning play by Irish-American writer Mary Gallagher. Directed by founding member Mari Binnie, the production is the result of a chance encounter in 1995. 'When we toured New York,’ explains Binnie, ‘someone came up to us saying "There's this play which is very similar to what you deal with." When I read it, I loved it and thought I would love to do it one day.’
Despite the geographical and cultural differences, Binnie felt an immediate affinity with the play's content. 'It is similar to a lot of Clyde Unity’s work,’ she says. ‘It looks at the complexities of relationships and it deals
Telling the truth about working class life
with emotions. That's what we're probably known for as a company. It's about the lives of ordinary people - working-class American characters who are struggling to make ends meet.’
Set in the 705 and 805 the play weaves together past and present as it traces the lives of four friends from their late teens to their early twenties. In the process it examines their developing relationships as they negotiate the transition from carefree adolescence to the joys of wedded bliss and wailing babies. But the exploration is contextualised by highlighting the insecurities of the American job market.
For Binnie, the play is increasingly relevant as the Scottish economy becomes dominated by temporary contracts. ‘There has been so much of a shift in employment and a lot more is contract based,’ she says. 'I see loads of parallels about my own life. I remember as a child thinking that by the year 2000 I'll know what I’ll be doing in life and what my career is, and then you realise that's a load of bollocksl'
The economic and emotional insecurities of life are ideal subject matter for contemporary drama. And anyone familiar with Clyde Unity's work might expect a production that raises important issues, but not at the expense of a good night's entertainment.
Moments Of Madness Glasgow: Tron Theatre, Wed lZ-Sat 15 Apr. 8 " c"! \
The Arts Council goes out on a limb for Volcano
58 THE LIST 3o Mar-l3 Apr 2000
It’s surprising to discover that established Welsh theatre company Volcano's latest tripped-out satire, a shamelessly surreal blend of drama, farce and physical theatre, is based upon the most sedate of premises: a conference discussing the chequered future of British theatre.
Before embarking upon his chaotic critique of perceived reality, Volcano’s Peter Davies began on an equally cynical, but perhaps slightly less metaphysical note. ’In Wales, for example, the Arts Council is in complete and utter disarray,’ he says. ’We don’t even know what our grant is going to be for the new financial year. That’s really the background to writing it; the idea that these people sit round the table and talk, but they can’t keep to the subject matter in hand because they realise how futile it is.’
Set within a bizarre stage recon- struction of Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin, the group (consisting of academics, political hacks, and the chief executive of the English Arts
Council) mirror the disgruntled sailors in the 205 classic by committing an act of all-out mutiny. Unlike their celluloid counterparts, however, these guys begin by rebelling against their own sanity. ’They start seeing horses and prams, which then appear on stage,’ says Davies. ’It’s almost like they’ve taken a tab of acid.’
Deliberately defying the rigidity of genre conventions, Volcano’s portrayal of intellectual dementia contains elements of tragedy, parody, historical- drama and even musicals, as much a subversive artistic statement as a 'psycho-political’ one.
’This is a bizarre show’, says Davies, ‘and you can sit there and go with it or not. I really hate going to a theatre and within the first five minutes, thinking, right, i know what this play’s about. i just think it’s boring. Art should be difficult and contradictory and sometimes bloody-minded. To me, that’s central to what Volcano’s been about for the last ten years.’
Re: heading the boards
THE NEW PROGRAMME for this year’s Edinburgh International Festival has been launched with the usual stir, as theatregoers and professionals alike turn their eyes to August in buoyant anticipation. Some of theatre and dance highlights are dealt with on page 3, but to further whet your appetite, need we say more than Peter Zadek? His 1995 Antony And Cleopatra, which marked the return of the Berliner Ensemble to Edinburgh created quite a stir, and this year’s Hamlet, with a female lead, looks set to do the same. A new face at the Festival is Anne Bogart, whose SITI company will present Cabin Pressure, a theatrical experiment which juxtaposes the theories of such eminent theatre thinkers as Stanislavsky and Artaud with audience responses to them. Perhaps there's still some life in the old dog of metatheatre yet.
THE SAC HAS announced plans to develop the MacRobert Arts Centre, which will improve the existing building and add a film theatre, workshop and creche. The new development will also form a base for the Wee Stories Theatre Company, and the Puppet Animation Festival, providing children in the region with better access to the theatre, which must be good for future audiences. We welcome the development, which at £3,350,000, is less expensive than a new building.
SCOTTISH STUDENT THEATRE will be boosted by the nomination of The Hunting Of The Snark for the National Student Drama Festival, one of fourteen plays narrowed down from an original field of 126. The Bedlam production, which was praised in last year’s Fringe, turns Lewis Carroll's poem of semantic absurdism into visual life, with twists of ironic humour and much nonsensical imagery. A last chance to see the play before it travels off to what we hope will be theatrical glory is offered at the Bedlam from Fri 7 to Sun 9 Apr.
Don Jaun to turn this one down, girls:
The New Don Juan and other highlights of The International Festival