Caucasian Chalk Circle Stirling: LiecRobert Arts Centre, Thu l3 Apr, tlien touring .-.« As timely now as when it was written, Brecht's allegorical play within a play, an exei'Cise in challenging audiences’ beliefs, explores the question of territorial ownership.
The parable, brought to us by Edinburgh-based Benchtours, contains a blend of fairy tale, cliff hanger, melodrama and mordant humour. Beginning at the end of World War ll, two groups of villagers argue over possession of a valley. A storyteller arrives and tells the tale of a governor and his Wife who are overthrown in a coup. The governor lS slaughtered and his wife flees, abandoning their child who is rescued and cared for by Grusha, a palace kitchen maid. When the governor’s Wife returns from exile to claim her son, the trial to determine which woman has the right to the
Pulling a babe
child is judged by Azdak, a drunken village clerk.
Benchtours' ambitious production invests Brecht’s complex slab of epic theatre with power and verve. There are spirited performances from the cast of eight who undertake the Herculean task of playing over 50 roles. The design is visually arresting, and the direction inventive. Often edgy and haunting, the score, composed by Steve Kettley of Salsa Celtica, is superb. Far from being a mere adjunct to the performance, it forms an integral part of it, effortlessly guiding the ebb and flow of action.
All the same, the first section is exasperatingly long, at two buttock- numbing hours. Thankfully the pace quickens in the remainder of the play in which the judgement is made. While Benchtours has made a valiant attempt to vivify Brecht, it suffers because of the sheer scale, scope and length of the text. (Dawn Kofie)
THEATRE REVIEW How To Say Goodbye
Glasgow: Tron Theatre, until Sat 15 Apr, then touring a.
Mixing up roles
Would you sympathise with a young mother who deCides she can't take any more and shoots the craw leaving her husband to care for their terminally ill sen? ’Well, no,’ might well be your response, for her behaViour challenges the entire notion of the gentle compassionate mother that is a cornerstone of our Society.
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64 THE LIST 13—27 Apr 2000
play How To Say Goodbye problematises the constructed nature of maternal instinct, asking the audience to look at both sides of the coin in this highly personal drama. Tracing the relationships between four working-class friends from teenage life to their 205, the play successfully weaves past and present together, presenting an account of their lives that avoids overt moral judgements.
However, what should be a more complex dilemma is undercut by the monochrome representations of the two central female characters. Lorraine McGowan’s boozing, smoking, feisty mother is contrasted too starkly With Anita Vetesse's Philly, the frumpy wannabe-mother who is ever-so-keen to step into her friend's maternal shoes. And the mother’s motivation is insufficiently developed, so that when she does flee the nest, it’s genuinely difficult to sympathise With her. Thus the subtler nuances of the situation are avoided.
There’s also an ineffectual attempt to jolt the audience as husband and Wife play out a tame sex scene while reciting a clinical description of the boy’s terminal decline. If you want to shock the audience into reflecting on the brutal connections between sex and death don’t hold back. But that said, against Morag Bain’s set of wooden beds and boxes, first time director Mari Binnie presents a moving piece of theatre that does pose serious questions. If it's not as complex as it might be, it’s still a worthwhile piece of theatre. (DaVie Archibald)
Dundee: Dundee Rep, Mon I7-Sat 22 Apr.
'Everything is heightened under- ground,’ says Stephen Stenning. A paradox, but he should know. The head of Dundee Rep’s community department is directing Mike Cullen’s The Cut, which is quite literally a deep and gritty moral thriller. Based on the playwright’s experiences as a worker at Bilston Glen Colliery and the real life events of the miners’ strikes, the play is about a hard-nosed ex-union man, released after serving a seven- year sentence for a murder he didn’t commit. He returns to the mines to settle the score and discover the truth about his father's death, a move that provokes dramatic power-playing which builds to an explosive climax.
’lt centres on a ridiculous fight for control and status,’ says Stenning. ’l liken it to teenagers, fourteen-year-olds behind the bike sheds. It’s a testosterone crazed world down the mine and this allows the story to be exaggerated because of its setting.’
Stenning is confident of both the universal resonance of the mining drama and the suitability of its four-strong cast, who are all members of the Dundee Rep Community Theatre. ’lt’s a good production for the cast and vice versa,’ he says. 'There’s something raw and hard-edged about it that fits well with a cast of community performers and there’s a bit of local history involved in it too.’ (Catherine Bromley)
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Alone lt Stands Glasgow: Arches Theatre, Wed l9—Sat 22 Apr.
Sport and theatre are strange bedfellows; the brutal physical passions aroused by some sports are often too base for the palate of the refined art lover. But if you’ve been inspired by Scotland’s recent Calcutta Cup triumph you might want to tackle Alone it Stands, the closing production of Spring Greens, The Arches Irish theatre season.
Written and directed by John Breen, it tells the tale of Munster's historic rugby victory over the mighty All Blacks in 1978; at least, it’s historic if you’re from Munster. Six actors play over 60 characters in a light-hearted look back at the highlights of the game. But the play also ventures off-field when the celebrations of the victorious team are somewhat dampened by the sudden death of the captain’s father. A comic and tragic look at a section of popular Irish culture, the production arrives after garnering a good degree of critical acclaim across the Irish Sea. (Davie Archibald)
CLASSIC TRAGEDY Macbeth
Glasgow: Citizens’ Theatre, Wed 26—Sat 29 Apr, then touring.
Shakespeare traditionalists beware. For the bard’s Scottish tale of sorcery, slaughter and regal retribution is about to be given a radical overhaul in the Scottish Youth Theatre’s latest production. Starting off at the Citz before setting out on the company's first ever tour of Scotland, a core cast of sixteen Will be supplemented by local youth theatre group actors as they present a thoroughly modern Macbeth," catapulted into the twenty- first century by contemporary costume, extenSive use of VldeO prOjection and a techno-inspired score.
'lt’s still Shakespeare,’ says artistic director Mary McCluskey, ’but we're taking a very modern slant on it. It’s not rewritten, just pared down. The great speeches are still there.’ McCluskey welcomes the energetic cinema versrons of Shakespeare that have helped counter the uninspiring way his work is of’wn teach: particular, she pomts to the may Baz Luhrmanns Rowen + I introduced Shakespeare’s writing to new audiences. But not surprisingly she feels that the stage is the strongest place to see Macbeth performed. 'The Cinema can do certain things,’ she says, 'but there’s nothing better than a live experience. (Davie Archibald)
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