Edinburgh: Royal Lyceum, until Sat 29 Apr mu
Ned radge of courage: David Rintoul's macho, schemey Theseus
The realisation that the accents of working people are not heard enough on our stages was a profound one, but our attempts to do something about it can sometimes go awry. Edwin Morgan, whose adaptation of Racine’s classic tragedy is the latest in a succession of often compelling translations into Scots from his pen, might this time have reached the thirteenth stroke of the clock. The accent of the council scheme is certainly neglected on our stages, but
it sits ill with characters of this kind. Their political power is part of the play's problem, and to see them speak the particular working-class Scots of this version reminds us of the appalling disenfranchisement of the speakers, not their empowerment.
Thus, when Gerda Stevenson’s eponymous queen declares herself ’radge in love’ with her stepson Hippolytus (Martin Ledwith), the implications, in terms of the power of the state, are not fully realised. When her husband Theseus (David Rintoul) returns from his foreign conquests, having been given up for dead, the suggestion of civil strife seems at odds with the family drama. The principal of rendering the high and mighty ordinary, and therefore understandable, is important, but the other side of the tragedy, Phaedra's inability to distinguish personal passion from public duty, is not explored until late in the play.
For all that, there are highlights. Stevenson’s lead begins in hysteric tone, but the fear that this sort of pace can become wearing is allayed by a consistently energetic performance. Rintoul is all bluster, shouts and threats, but this is quite in keeping with his Maori-tattooed, warrior character. Kenny Ireland moves his characters around the tiny island of entrapment presented by award winning designer lsla Shaw with a sure touch, and there is a kind of primal force in the suggestion of tribal life surrounding the characters.
CLASSIC REVIVAL The Playboy Of The Western World
Dundee: Dundee Rep, until Sat 29 Apr kid:
Blarney rabble: ‘Slick ensemble playing'
creates carefully contrived chaos A century on from its notorious premiere, it's easy to forget that John Millington Synge's rural comedy was once considered deeply subversive by dispossessors and the Dublin intelligentsia. When Dundee Rep’s ensemble company burst onto the stage, swigging from green bottles, armed with guitars, penny whistles, drums and spoons, the suspicion arises that we’re about to be hit with two hours of camp, join-the-dots Irish
blarney of the kind favoured by ale advertisers and Eire's tourist board.
Initial fears are largely confounded, though the production does take a while to involve its audience. The first scene, involving a priest's dispensation to a pair of courting cousins, is less than gripping due to an unwillingness to fill the Rep’s extensive stage and a slightly hesitant cast. Several of the actors are visibly concentrating so hard on the authenticity of their 'Oirish’ brogue, that much of the fiery humour and poetry of Synge’s dialogue gets gobbled up. At this point, spectators may find themselves distracted by the unused nooks of the set, and drawn to ponder whether those crates in the corner of the tavern contain Murphy’s or Guinness.
The production gains momentum with the arrival of Christy Mahon (Gavin Kean) the handsome traveller fresh from the roads, who confesses to having killed his father. From here on The Playboy plays like an absurd, turn of the century Entertaining Mr Sloane, with star struck Colleens flinging themselves at the exotic stranger and the local drunks doffing their bunnets in respect. This second act is great fun, characterised by slick ensemble playing, the cast proving themselves much more comfortable with fast- paced, bawdy comedy. The supporting cast impresses throughout, but it’s Irene Macdougall who gives the most attractive performance as the Widow Quin, lusty and independent with both eyes on Christy's breeches (Allan Radcliffe)
CLASSIC Three Tall Women
Perth: Perth Rep, until Sat 29 Apr *‘kir‘k‘k
Perth’s production of Edward Albee’s most challenging play disproves the myth that regional theatre must be bland and frivolous in order to be accessible.
Edith Macarthur dominates the first act in the demanding role of a 92- year-old, ably supported by Susan Edmonstone and Amanda Beveridge as her nurse and lawyer. Though light ‘ relief is drawn from the generation gap between the women, the scene is ” close to the bone in Macarthur’s portrayal of the horrors of decline. _ W .. Clinging to fragmented memories - 57;? . “as.” against growing rage and frustration at her physical failings, at one point the character destroys a mirror in a childish attempt to hang on to power.
Albee confounds our gloomy expectations for Act Two, splitting the heroine’s consciousness into three individual parts. Even canine ears couldn’t detect a dropped pin during this exchange between optimistic youth, cynical middle age and the wisdom and resignation of old age. Albee doesn't flinch from addressing some fundamental questions. Ultimately it's the flexibility of the acting that draws us in, with all three performers rising to the challenge of creating complex yet recognisable characters at different stages in life. (Allan Radcliffe)
Edith Macarthur gives a dominating performance
PHYSICAL THEATRE Shaolin Wheel Of Life Edinburgh: Playhouse, Tue 9 May.
Take 25 mostly young, robust ’soldier monks' from China’s ancient Shaolin Temple. Mix with the large-scale vision of Western theatrical spectacle. The result is an extravagant curiosity, complete with rock-concert lighting and starring a from-boys-to-men troupe of saffron-robed, kung fu-fighting Buddhists. Designed and directed by some of the guys responsible for the Millennium Dome’s pretty, empty aerial extravaganza, Shaolin Wheel Of Life is currently on an extensive UK tour.
The production is structured as a two-act story-ballet, a potted history lesson of ISOO-year-old Shaolin culture. There are colourful scenes of combat and celebration, plus a Fu Manchu-style Emperor. The main reason to check out the show is the monks’ magnetic physical prowess. Their jaw-dropping skills range from strings of gravity-defying somersaults to the flashy, circus-worthy stunts that end the evening. 'I tell them to pace themselves,’ says producer Steve Nolan, ’but do they listen? They want to give 120% every night. We have lots of knocks, bumps and scrapes, but never any tempers.’ (Donald Hutera)
CLASSIC Happy End
Glasgow: Ramshorn Theatre, Wed lO—Sat 20 May.
Kurt Weill, with long time collaborator Brecht, provided some of the most legendary music and librettos of the last century. His close association with old-style Stalinist regimes has led to a marginalisation of his work. The fact of his influence on modern musical theatre is undeniable, but his work is infrequently seen on the contemporary stage. A century on from his birth seems a timely occasion for this revival of a Brecht/Weill classic.
With a narrative that suspiciously resembles Guys And Dolls, this piece, telling the story of a burgeoning romance between a Chicago gang leader and a young Salvation Army worker in the inter-war years, contains some surprises according to director Iain McAleese. ‘When I first picked it up, I expected it to be like Caucasian Chalk Circle or Mother Courage,’ he says. ’lt’s epic in style, but it's more like a musical comedy.’ For all that, the play still packs a panch. ’lt’s not till the end that the boot goes in, when the message is that it's more of a sin to own a bank than rob one.’ (Steve Cramer)
Kurt Weill: Political outcast and theatrical genius
27 Apr—II May 2000 THE LISTGT