« “i3 “‘
Rodney Matthew and Gavin Kean play with tremendous verve
NEW PLAY Colquhoun And
Dundee: Dundee Rep, until Sat 1 Apr *it*
John Byrne’s first play, Writer’s Cramp in 1977, was a fictional, and none too serious, biography of a second-rate Scottish artist whose flame dimly flickered in the middle part of the last century. Revived recently by Edinburgh's Royal Lyceum, it proved to be both funny and insubstantial, an over- extended sketch more than a fully- grown play.
If Writer’s Cramp was the prototype, Byrne's latest venture is the finished article. It's about two artists, Robert Colquhoun and Robert MacBryde, who graduated from Glasgow School of Art in 1937 and hit the London art scene with a delayed but significant bang, before falling back into obscurity. It describes a similar period of history as the earlier play — the curiously conflicting impulses of wartime austerity
and artistic decadence; the wave of Picasso-inspired modernism giving way to the abstractions of Jackson Pollock — the principal difference being that Colquhoun and MacBryde were real.
The Gilbert and George of their day, they were sexual and artistic equals, storming the barricades of the English art establishment with a hard-drinking, tough-talking Scottish swagger, half bluster, half honest self-belief. They are played with tremendous verve by Gavin Kean and Rodney Matthew in Hamish Glen’s production (designer: J. Byrne) as a self—nourishing unit, loving but unsentimental and with no hint of the camp.
It’s a more mature work than Writer’s Cramp and no less funny for it, Byrne writing in a rich and erudite language that would be called literary were it not so punchy. If it fails at the final hurdle when the story just stops, it is nonetheless a vividly evoked character study, and a testament to the vigorous passions of the artistic temperament. (Mark Fisher)
SPRING CLASSIC A Midsummer Night's Dream
Glasgow: Citizens' Theatre, until Sat 1 Apr, then touring air a: k it
Anyone questioning Shakespeare’s contemporary relevance would do well to see the Arches Theatre Company’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. For Shakespeare’s magical comedy of anarchic sexuality, love, repression and desire is given the full Arches knockabout treatment, and it works a treat. Director Andy Arnold and his trusted comic crew have lifted the words from the page, polished them up, transported them to the 20th century and presented a riotous, and completely accessible, two hour frolic through a world of fairies and fantasy. You’re not likely to hear such a wide assortment of accents in one Shakespearean production. Yet they prove, if ever anyone was in any doubt, that his language is perfectly suited to
80 THE LIST 3O Mar-13 Apr 2000
The Arches produces a total stonker
the rich extremities of dialects and idioms. There are some great performances, but on this occasion individual praise is probably inappropriate. For it would be unfair to single out specific individuals from this genuinely powerful ensemble piece — the 'straight’ actors often being perfect foils for the Mechanicals to steal the laughs.
The strength of the cast is matched by Arnold’s energetic direction, and Alan Tall’s musical arrangement of brass and bongos perfectly captures the irreverent nature of the piece. At times the production may be lacking in polish and narrative clarity, but it more than compensates in sheer spirit and style. Indeed the ‘play within the play’ contains the most brilliantly hilarious ’bad' theatre you’re likely to see and has the audience (both young and old) rolling in the aisles. Too many productions of the bard's work fail to rise to the occasion for Shakespearean virgins, this one is a total stonker! (Davie Archibald)
NEW PLAY Journeyman
Glasgow: The Arches, Wed S—Sat 8 Apr.
For the fans, boxing is a world of glamour; for those who oppose it, it’s a demeaning world of legitimised violence. For the boxer, it may be the only means of escaping impoverishment through an exhausting, endless routine of training and hard work, interspersed with very brief periods of intense pain.
Frank Shouldice — whose play garnered much acclaim at the recent Dublin Fringe — tells the pugilist's story. ’I was a journalist in the US for about five years and I covered a lot of boxing,’ he says. ’At every gym you went into, there’d be a guy in the corner working away at the
Broad canvas of boxing experience: Ger Carey
punchbag. These guys weren’t champions, they’d be someone you never heard
of. Journeyman is about that boxer.’
Shouldice's play, which he also directs, was successful enough to gain the company, Chambermade, its first performance outside Ireland. But, is the subject matter suitable for theatre audiences? Shouldice points to the play’s record. ’Many people, particularly women, are repelled by boxing,’ he says. ’But the play engaged audiences. The show worked, and a lot of people were saying that it wasn’t what they expected afterwards.’ (Steve Cramer)
The Routledge Reader In Politics And
Performance Routledge, £15.99 it 1k it A
In academic circles, developments in the field of theory have altered the intellectual landscape considerably over the last couple of years. Over two decades of the dominance of such post-modern theorists as Lyotard and Baudrillard, an inflexible politburo of academics emerged who proscribed any engagement with the political world outside of the academy as ’grand narrative’ and studiously ignored (indeed, tacitly endorsed) the ascendancy of the New Right in the world outside. Recently though, a political change has become
evident, and the left is enjoying a resurgence.
For this reason, you might want to browse this theatre reader, which reprises, in the form of soundbite-sized essays, the work of such great thinkers on the medium as Brecht and the British Marxist Raymond Williams, as well as adding the work of such recent thinkers as Stuart Hall. Broken into manageable segments, this might provide non-academic readers with both insights into current thinking behind new modes of performance, and a guidebook to what is to come for the thinking theatregoer. A book recommended to students and the
public alike. (Steve Cramer)
IRISH THEATRE Bimbo
Glasgow; The Arches, Wed lZ—Sat 15
Apr. The latest instalment of The Arches‘
season of Irish productions, Common Currency's offbeat comedy, Bimbo, takes an irreverent look at some of the quirkier aspects of female sexuality. We're talking seductive, opera-singing refrigerators, a short, lecherous rubber doll with a bagpipe obsession and two lanky marionette supermodels.
'We’re using a mixture of puppets and actors,’ says writer Rosie Barnes. ’The scenes with the puppets are kind of madcap and surreal, but there’s also
Puppet-and-people-sex, Irish style
a strong plot, which is carried through by the two main actors. That sort of thing
really works: puppet-and-people-sex!’
Angst-ridden Jo is undergoing an identity crisis triggered by her trans-sexual best friend casting aspersions on her femininity. She decides to go sexuality shopping, including a spate as an asexual lipstick lesbian, distracted, of course, by intermittent one night puppet-sex sessions with her latex lover.
'The starting point was the idea of identity and what that means,’ says Barnes. ’There's a lot of observational stuff; the puppets are just one aspect of the production. The serious question being asked is to do with when somebody says, "I'm a woman". If it's nothing to do with your body then what does it actually
mean?’ (Olly Lassman)