Tramway, Glasgow, until Sat 7 Oct Jr st *
Rumours of blasphemy were exaggerated. Edwin Morgan's epic, three-part retelling of the Gospels proves to be a rather reverential affair, centring on a fierily defiant, achingly vulnerable Jesus.
Charismatically played by Paul
Thomas Hickey, this is a thorougly human Messiah. In early life, confused about his identity, he admits to sexual curiosity towards a male prostitute, experiments with herbal mind-expansion and fathers a daughter. Later, Jesus the demagogue condones John’s homosexuality. However, these provocative issues are handled perfunctorin in Raindog's production. Jesus’s druggy vision culminates in predictable cliche; while the love scene confusingly implies a celibate outcome (only later we learn it led to a pregnancy). And Jesus's verdict on homosexuality, a subject that Morgan, as a gay artist, understandably places focus, amounts to a dismissive one-liner, though it is followed by a beautifully poetic rumination on love. So much for kirk-baiting controversy. In fact, AD sets out to be a mystery cycle for the millennium, immersing Jesus in a contemporary context. This point is pressed (or rather hammered) home by multi-media projections above the stage. A compendium of images, statistics, slogans, live video and archive footage, it's a clear attempt to place Jesus in the world of Pinochet, Microsoft and Third World debt. It’s well-executed and far from irrelevant to Morgan's themes, but superfluous. Raindog has mined rich source material a little too hungrily, clogging its arteries with cultural cholesterol.
This production speaks more than loudly enough in the conventional languages of theatre. Kenny Miller's set designs are superb; cool white structures with bold indicators of location, period and mood. There’s an elaborate lighting plot and a powerful music score. There's fire, water and a handsomely dressed cast of 36.
Well red writers: Red
AD? Jesus, is that the time?
Director Stuart Davids marshals all this with tremendous skill, though he cannot resist the occasional mawkish moment. The acting is variable, but there are some tremendous performances: Kate Dickie makes a ravishingly poised Salome, while Frank Gallagher brings seductive charm to twin roles as Satan and a shrewd Pharisee rhetorician.
Morgan's interpretation is largely secular, with little emphasis on the Christian message; there are few sermons, fewer miracles and no resurrection. Its keynotes are righteous anger against greed and repression, and an astute analysis of the politics surrounding Jesus' career. He has written with vigour and affection for his subject but, like the production, lacks restraint. For example, we don’t need to see at such length how expediency and conservatism lay behind Jesus’ death sentence.
But for all its faults, this ambitious project deserves praise, not just for its scale, and reinvention of a story so quintessential to Western thinking, but because amid all the sound and fury so many of its nuances strike exactly the right notes. (Andrew Burnett)
But what’s it all about? Is there a narrative through-line? Apparently so, 'We do take one j0urney which is completely linear throughout the show,’ PinsOn says. ’lt's about love and moments of total honesty. It's about a number of people, and one woman in particular, and what condition she's in, which IS pam.’
Pinson says the distress that can grow out of love is a necessity, in spite of the pain and risk. ’No matter how you suffer, you have to keep feeling,’ he says. 'It’s important not to close down. These moments of intensity are the times when we see Ourselves most
0 " f‘rdiﬁ..
The Arches, Glasgow, Wed ll—Sat 14 Oct, then touring.
You expect Edinburgh’s BOilerhouse to create theatre from an eclectic range of ideas. But few shows, even by this unconventional company, can have been built on such a disparate array of s0urces as Red. Over the last few months, the company has solicited writing from throughout the community, all as possible contributions to this project.
’We got about 100 pieces of writing, and chose some of them to take into rehearsals,’ explains artistic director Paul Pinson. ’The stuff we didn’t use wasn't poor, it just needed to fit into the jigsaw puzzle. We’ve had writers in reSidence too — Isabel Wright and Gary Young - who’ve worked with us in the process, doing some more writing. Maybe yOU wouldn’t think so, but the writing is very coherent and has a strong physical vocabulary. The language isn’t just banal front-room conversation either, it’s very raw and powerful.’
To be performed in a succesSIon of unorthodox venues, including clubs, Pinson insists that the piece draws strength from both its theatricality and its relationship With music. ’Music is cruoal to us and so is being close to our audience, phySically. When someone sings on a stage, you can be distant, but if someone sings right next to you, you have to feel the experience. We’re not into frightening the audience With prOXimity, we want people to take the journey With us.’ (Steve Cramer)
COMEDY Jeffre Bernard ls Unwe I
King's Theatre, Edinburgh, Mon l6-Sat 21 Oct. , We’re a sober lot here at The List. Like most journalists, we lead abstemious and puritanical lives. None of us have ever awoken on lounge room floors littered with post-party detritus, in stairwells or under railway arches. No, we wake up in our own beds every morning, and absolutely not with the leather-mouthed exclamation: ’My God, we didn’t, did we? And who exactly are you, anyway?’ That’s why we’re so intrigued by the journalist who did all this, and worse.
Tom Conti, a few months after The Last Of The Red Hot Lovers, returns to Scotland with Ned Sherrin’s tale of the life and lusts of the notorious Fleet Street hack and electric soup fan. Conti has a ready explanation for the fascmation Bernard holds for the public. ’He could be qwte charming, at least until he passed a certain pomt in the evening,’ Conti insists. 'But he was a completely irresponsible human being who didn’t give a toss; you only have to ask some of the women he was involved With'
Yes, repulsive, isn’t it? But aren’t you just a bit fascmated? 'lt's a terrible price to pay, but it’s a very seductive lifestyle for those of us With normal lives, who have responSibilities and take them seriously,’ says Conti. ’The idea of getting up in the morning and gomg exactly where you want to go is very appealing.’
For all that, there's also a tragedy about Bernard, which Conti wants to bring out. ’There’s a kind of cowardice about him. He has this “I'm my own man and go my own way” thing, but that position of apparent strength is actually a fear of involvement With people, and a related fear of making decisions about y0ur life.’
Conti, who played a kind of Rupert Murdoch figure in a new American TV series, Deadline, is becoming quite the expert in journalistic lifestyles. But he’s not method, so you won’t spot him in the bar afterwards, Nor, of c0urse, would you catch anyone here at The List. Honest. (Steve Cramer)
Tom Conti: lsh he unwell?
w t v: t i Unmissable
t at t it Very OOd
« a t Wort a shot
it * Below average
* You've been warned
S--l9 Oct 2000 THE lIST 63