CLASSIC The Dance Of Death
Citizens' Theatre, Glasgow, Thu 26 Oct—l8 Nov.
Hans Holbein’s 16th century woodcuts The Dance Of Death depict skeletal figures leading a series of tortured souls towards their demise. Three hundred and fifty years later, August Strindberg wrote about a death of a very different kind; namely that of a marriage. Although to be fair, the 25-year sham which the play’s central characters have suffered through, was dead before it began. Strindberg himself had seen three failed marriages slip through his fingers prior to writing The Dance Of Death, which along with his sister’s unsatisfactory relationship formed the inspiration for the work.
But despite the relatively run-of—the-mill subject matter, the play is quite a departure from the Swede’s earlier works. Written in the aftermath of a severe mental illness, Strindberg appears to have been looking at the world with different eyes. ’lt’s very lucid and really different from the early naturalistic plays such as Miss Julie or The Father,’ says director Stewart Laing. 'lt’s interesting that he wrote it after his period of insanity because although it’s still set in a living room, there's a really mythic quality to it.’
Set in a tower on a small island, the rich imagery of isolation and loneliness is inherent. Edgar and Alice live alone on the cusp of their silver wedding anniversary, having driven their children away with their constant battling. But their basic tolerance of each other rises to all-out hatred following the arrival of a third party, Alice’s cousin Kurt. ’There’s something manic about the way they're at each other’s throats the whole time,’ says Laing. ’And it's not enough for them to just go at each other incessantly, somehow they need other
‘Humanity versus noisy progress'
‘There's something entertaining about people being vicious.’
people to spark them off.’
In everyday life, watching a couple argue is the emotional equivalent of wet socks. Yet Strindberg managed to bypass discomfort and head straight for humour, just as Edward Albee did 60 years later with Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?. ’There’s something entertaining about watching people being vicious to each other,’ says Laing. ’I think it’s the reality of the situation that makes you want to laugh. It’s the same with most good comedy, even with someone like Alan Ayckbourn, it's about people destroying each other and destroying themselves in the process.’
Despite saying that a bad marriage was better than no marriage, Strindberg does offer a glimpse into how a relationship could, and should, be. He wrote a sequel to the play later the same year, and both will be performed back-to-back at the Citizens’. ’lt’s actually quite upbeat at the end.’ says Laing. ’When the kids come into it in the second play, you see the start of a relationship and Strindberg does offer a ray of hope.’ (Kelly Apter)
the good old days One rs tryrng to make a lrvrng playrng a barrel organ, hence the trtle 'What us really about rs hurnanrty versus norsy progress, rt's very, very humane,’ says Havergal ’The barrel organ occasronally starts up wrth thrs rather charmrng old musrc' and then rs submerged agarn In the ‘beep beep' of cars rushrng past '
'But rts real gualrty rs that rt's much less opaque and drffrcult than Beckett normally rs It's very clear what's happcmrng,’ he says wnh a candour that could have those of us who have secretly found Beckett opaque and drffrcult running across George Square yelling 'I'rn normal’
‘They’re very specrfrc people wrth specrfrc relationships and that's what
The Old Tunes
Citizens’ Theatre, Glasgow, Wed 25 Oct—Sat 18 Nov.
Just when you thought poor old Beckett had been done to death, up pops the Crtr/ens’ Theatre wrth what's belreved to be another Beckett gem wartrng to be drscovered, lhe Old Tunes
Carles l-lawrgai, artrstrc drrector of the
58 THE lIST ‘9 ()z'. 2. ‘.r;. 230’.)
Crtr/en's Theatre rs drrectrng and desrgnrng the production, a two hander to be performed by Crt/ veterans Patric k Hannaway and Der‘went Watson 'lt's a prece Beckett wrote rn the early 60s orrgrnally for radio, and Its a version of a play by a great frrend of hrs Prnget,’ explains Havergal
lhrs rs a tale of two old friends, who meet up on a busy street corner to share a (rgarette and r‘emrhrsc e about
makes rt very clrfferent and entertarnrng and touchrng as well,’ Havergal continues 'I did Krapp’s Last Tape rn the small studro about two years ago and enjoyed rt very much We did Endgame earlrer thrs year and l was Interested rn movrng rnto less well- charted waters to rntroduce people to slrghtly unusual aspects of hrrn In thrs case I wanted somethrng more human and real and funny than he normally rs ' «Stephanie Nobletr
Re: Treading The Boards
WlLL lT NEVER cease? A lengthy artrcle rn an English national newspaper last week once agarn predrcted, wrth the usual prematurrty, the end of the theatre as we know rt. Over the last century or so, wrth the coming, of crnema, radro and televrsron, the cry that the theatre wrll soon be dead has been rarsed, and eventually silenced by the facts. Our latest doom and gloom artrst seems to have no better reason for predrctrng the usual downfall than a drslrke of a theatre that rn all lrkelrhood he seldom attends
The reply as to why peop e contrnue to attend the theatre :n such numbers rs co'nplex, out rt's not often, as the wrrter rrnples, that we feel a nrasochrstzc compulsron to attend a krr‘d oi r'taaIrsed l‘errtage nauseunr. It's hard to see thrs desperate cresrre to preserve ancrent text In Borlerhouse's r"trne(l:aie and very pnysrcal Red, or .n rts youthful cltl(}l€l‘.C€, to cite but one exampie of recent times There's alt-vays so'nethmg about berng .n the .mmedzate presence 0‘ an act0r, close to the physrca rty that lends good theatre a power that overwhelms, at Its best, any other medzum. Don’t knock ;t ‘trll you've tned :t, mate.
WITH THE IMMINENT opening of Glasgay!, Scottish theatre audiences might well have issues of censorship at the forefront of their thinking. Timely, then, that Politics, Prudery And Perversions (Methuen £16.99), a new book by Nicholas de Jongh should address the issue through the history of stage censorship. With access to until now undisclosed files from the Lord Chamberlain’s office, de Jongh comes up with an entertaining account of the history of British stage censorship until the abolition of the institution in 1968. A must for those with an interest in theatre history, the book also serves as a timely reminder of the often political agenda which lies behind issues of ’public decency’. t Recommended.
Joe Orton's Loot: disliked by the censor 1