ADAPTATION Les Liaisons Dangereuses Edinburgh: King's Theatre, Tue ll—Sat lSApr.
In her last appearance in Scotland, Siobhan Redmond played a powerful independent woman whose sense of control was suddenly undermined. Now she’s back in her native land and nothing’s changed. The only difference is the big dress.
Liz Lochhead’s Perfect Days, the hit comedy in which Redmond played a Glasgow hairdresser hitting 40 and hearing the unexpected call of motherhood, might sound a universe away from Choderlos de Laclos’s Les Liaisons Dangereuscs, the hit in which she plays a marquise toying with her younger courtiers like pawns in a sadistic game of chess, but the two characters have a surprising amount in common.
Oddly, it’s only when I mention it that Redmond spots the similarity. ‘Les Liaisons Dangereuses is a play about three people who think they’re in absolute control of themselves and when they discover there’s an object in their path, they resort to behaviour that surprises them,’ says the Glasgow-born star of Between The Lines and The High Life, chatting in the circle of the imposing London Palladium. ‘Perhaps there is a parallel with Perfect Days, I hadn’t thought about that.’
Christopher Hampton’s play was a surprise hit for the RSC fifteen years ago. Not expecting much from a show based on an obscure French epistolary novel, the company slotted it in for a short run of under-publicised
Siobhan Redmond living on a ’My Little Pony scale’
dates at The Other Place, its smallest theatre, at the fag end of the season and, as Hampton recalls, was embarrassingly slow to notice it had a major hit on its hands. ’It was an instant success,’ says Hampton, remembering the queues stretching across the Stratford theatre's car park. ’T he RSC, being a gargantuan empire, took a very long time to understand that this play was something the public wanted to see.’
But there’s nothing the Great British public likes more than a racy costume drama (see this issue’s feature about Pride and Prejudice and Madame Bovary for more of the same), and with its combination of frocks and seduction, the production went on to be a phenomenal success.
This latest revival by the Mobil Touring company casts Redmond’s Marquise de Merteuil against Clive Wood’s Vicomte de Valmont, the two of them entering a wager that he won’t be able to deflower the virginal Madame de Tourvel (Sophie Ward, rumoured to be returning to Scotland to play at the Citizens’ Theatre this autumn). The similarities between Redmond and the Marquise are not immediately apparent. In real life Redmond is single-minded and intelligent, not dominating and manipulative. But, says the actor, there are more similarities than you’d think. 'I am bossy,’ she says. ’And I am a narcissist. And I am someone who violently objects to being left. And I’m not keen on public ridicule either. But obviously I exist on a much more My Little Pony scale than this woman does.’ (Mark Fisher)
Victor Spinetti: ’Television you do for money and films for fame'
Pride And Prejudice
Edinburgh: King's Theatre, Mon 3—Sat
Jane Austen’s classic comedy of manners has proved to be one of the most enduring works in the English language. With the BBC still basking in the glory of its enormously successful adaptation of the novel, Sue Pomeroy’s slick touring production is hoping to make a similar impact on stage when it arrives in Scotland.
A powerful ensemble cast features Jane Robbins and James lnnes-Smith in the roles of the opinionated young lovers, Lizzy and Darcy, while two of the country's best-loved performers have taken on the roles of Mr and Mrs Bennet. The long-suffering patriarch is played by star of film, television and theatre, Victor Spinetti, and Pip Henton, plays the indomitable Mrs Bennet. ’We get on so well that we could even share a dressing room if we had to,’ laughs Spinetti.
While he's best known as a screen
actor, Spinetti insists the stage is his true home. ’I love it because you get an instant reaction,’ he says. ’Television you do for money and films for fame.’
But though it’s the place he’s happiest, Spinetti is critical of the snobbery of British theatre. ’Oh, vou don't do panto do you?’, he says iv the haughty tone of an industry snob. Spinetti does do panto, and it’s particularly apt that a performer with short shrift for superior attitudes should be appearing in Austen’s critique of them.
'Some people only play Mr Bennet acerbic,’ he says. ’But at the same time I think you have to show that he’s very devoted to his family. Which basically means, I can knock Mrs Bennet about, but I'll kill anyone else who does.’
So much for the psychology, what about the hard work of nightly performances? Spinetti lets us in on why he's in such good form. ’I gave up smoking,’ he says, 'so I’ve got the breath now for the long sentences.‘ (Catherine Bromley)
NEW THEATRE 24 Hours
Greenock: Greenock Arts Centre, Sat 8 Apr, then touring * it it it
lan Reekie’s final production as artistic director of 7:84 is an up‘and-down affair, with the sum of its contingent parts, rather than its whole, making it an entertaining and endearing evening of theatre. It’s a compendium piece, comprising a succession of playlettes by six writers, which at times comes dangerously close to losing its audience's interest. The writing is by no means of even quality, but the unifying locale of a 24-hour supermarket and theme of social inequality wins out.
The format recalls the Traverse's High/and Shorts, with the weakest script running first, but on this occasion, higher quality work follows. The first piece leads us back into the familiar postmodernist territory of many roads and few maps. Helen Devon’s working-class ducker and diver leaves the audience with too many opportunities to stereotype her, so that Carolyn Bonnyman’s concerned bourgeois social worker can patronise her with impunity. But this tale of poverty on the Giro, whose complex language games don’t wash with the format, is followed by theatre which states its political theme more clearly and is all the better for it.
There are a couple of real highlights, particularly the tale of three disparate characters with different voices but the same problem. Bonnyman returns as a woman ’doing the double' with the D55, and horribly guilty about her income running all the way up to bare subsistence, while Helen Devon, with the dole her only source of income, suffers weakness and hunger. They’re joined by Paul Cunningham’s disaffected city guide, whose hilarious and savage monologues about the hegemony which controls all of them, feeding them pap about enterprise and hard work, then slapping down every attempt to rise from their situation, is about as truthful a cluster of words you'll hear in the theatre all year. For its political difference from the norm alone, this is worth seeing, but it's also very funny and moving. (Steve Cramer)
Hilarious and savage monologues: Paul Cunningham
30 Mar-13 Apr 2000 THE LIST 59