Edinburgh: King's Theatre, Mon lS-Sat 20 May.
Ben Elton never lost money attacking capitalism. There’s no doubt, however, about the power, sincerity and humour of his satire. One of the finest theatrical examples of this is Gasping, but does the urge to satire and grotesquerie produce two dimensional characters?
Not according to David Haig, who will lead in this shortened and substantially rewritten version of the play. Television and film veteran Haig, who you'll recognise as Bernard, the misbegotten older wedding guest who snogs the bride and finishes altering her marriage plans in Four Weddings And A Funeral, claims great depth to his character. ‘This is what Ben Elton hits on, and what makes his writing so exciting,’ he says. 'If it had been two dimensional and funny, witty, hard-hitting satire, I wouldn’t have taken the part. But this character has a moral conscience. He acknowledges capitalism, but when he gets in there and tries to make a buck, it all goes horribly wrong and he feels as guilty as hell. There's also his vulnerability, which is shown when he tries to corner Kirsten, the marketing officer; it doesn't work out, which gives him an emotional dimension.’
Elton's play tells the tale of a young go-getter who becomes a promotions star by selling an air-cleansing product to yuppies. Being thoroughly pointless and expensive it starts off as the perfect accompaniment to an affluent lifestyle, but as its commercial potential is realised, it begins to affect the very air we all breath. Torn between recognising the threat the device represents and the seductive high power world of the square mile, which his beloved operates within like a
Yuppie Sauna Trauma: David Haig
fish in water, he's left powerless to alter the brutal consequences of his invention.
Haig assures us that although it sounds very like an 805 satire, Elton’s rewrites have brought it up to date. We’re told that the last decade has been different from the grasping period of Thatcherism, but is it really? ’We only have to look around and see such stupid phenomena as the oxygen bar to see its relevance today,’ he says. ‘I think it's more concerned with today's society than the 805. It's all very recognisable. Anyone who's worked in marketing, or in any big corporation will find this very funny, but there's a broad general appeal. We found it fascinating during this tour that there’s jokes for old and young. They don't all laugh at the same time, and sometimes one group laughs while the other looks across the auditorium bemused. It’s very varied, and that’s its beauty. (Steve Cramer)
Sheep and cheerful. An alternative view of Scottish history
and there are different rules. If you want to know what really happened in the War Of The Roses, don’t read Shakespeare. John F. Kennedy was killed, and we’re still arguing about it; Oliver Stone makes JFK, and people get all hot and bothered about whether or not it’s historically accurate. Of course not, it’s a film!’
Educational or otherwise, Mull Theatre’s off-beat take on Scots history could be an enlightening experience. ’We’re touching on key moments over the past 2000 years, but there are also some broader themes as well,’ says Cosgrove. ’For example, drug culture. Few people know that drug culture actually started in Argyle. They were smoking kelp.
’If you’re at all curious about the
The Real Wild West
Cumbernauld: Cumbernauld Theatre, Fri 19 May, then touring.
If you want a history lesson, take a course. If you want to see the complete history of the Argyles and Isles, condensed into one full-length performance and have a laugh about it too, see The Real Wild West. David Cosgrove's latest tongue-in-cheek foray
into Scotland’s chequered past is definitely no substitute for the history books, but then, you probably won't find many academic texts that include a gangsta-rapping Robert the Bruce. 'lt’s a fictional historical piece, more a romp than a documentary,’ he says. If something’s a serious academic work, then obviously people have every right to say; "Hang on, that’s historically incorrect”, but this is entertainment,
effects of kelp-smoking, don’t get too excited. There’s no effect, I'm making it up!’ he laughs. ’A lot of it's done with tongue firmly in cheek, and I think people will be able to tell the difference. If they’re saying: “Ah, but there’s a book somewhere that says this is wrong,” I say: "Get over yourself”, but if people aren’t laughing a lot we’re in big trouble!’
Stage whispers Re: heading the boards
THE ENDLESSLY INNOVATIVE CCA is mid-stream with its dance season, with some interesting looking work in prospect in Lone Twin's On Everest. In this performance piece, Gregg Whelan and Gary Winters represent the climb of the title and get the audience involved as the summit draws near. You can scale the heights with this one on Friday 19 May. On Saturday 20 May, there'll be a double bill featuring Modusforum, directed by up and coming Scottish choreographer Gail Sneddon. Project 05 will look at the darker side of city living, and will be followed by a second piece, created by Glasgow performer Gillian Wylde, whose dance represents her telly-viewing habits since the age of five.
COMEDY FANS HAVE had a ball with the number of clubs opening in recent times. Yet another addition to the circuit is Edinburgh’s Scruffy Murphy’s. Hosted by that Prince Of Naff, Reg ’Voodoo’ Anderson, the first weeks of the club which will run weekly every Friday have some big names on the bills; it might be worth catching this one early.
THE EDINBURGH PEOPLE'S Theatre has been alive and kicking for 56 years. The amateur company's latest production is a revival of Michael Palin's The Weekend, the story of an elderly curmudgeon whose slightly miserable peace is disrupted by the visit of his deeply troublesome family. This dark farce certainly provides them with a funny script, and we wish them well with the performance. If you should wish to be in touch with the group, they’d welcome any new members, from performers to tea-makers. For more information, you can call Val Lennie on 0131 667 8827. If you want to catch The Weekend, it’s on at the Church Hill Theatre, Wednesday 24-Saturday 27 May. Funny old sole: Reg ‘voodoo' Anderson
13-27 Apr 2000 THE LIST 67