A Great Reckonin' Perth Theatre, Fri lO—Sat 25 Nov.
Professor Ian Brown is a man of many parts. Not only is he head of department at Queen Margaret University College Drama Department, but also an oft- produced playwright. In his latest piece he promises a very unprofessorial turn of farcical humour, as well as an epic'scope that examines both Scottish political history and the nature of performance itself.
The intriguing premise of A Great Reckonin’ is that a troupe of actors from the royal company of James I (as opposed to the cross-border King, James VI) is travelling up to his court to perform for him before the onset of lent. After delays on the journey, they arrive after lent to find the King assassinated. What follows is a metatheatrical examination of art and politics as the performers enact scenes from James’s life. Along the way, we get the Fair Maid of Perth, a battle of the clans and a picture of Henry V quite different from the inspiring victor of Agincourt popularised by Shakespeare.
Ever since the romantic period, we’ve had an unusual relationship with our artists. It's as if the creation of art is not a job, which
done well, provides us with amusement and instruction, and done badly, provides us only with a sore arse, but a kind of God-inspired gift. Our society treats artists as in some way ‘special', as personalities that are allowed for, regardless of either flaw or merit, as people different from the rest of us. Brown promises to explore this attitude. ‘It's about theatre, performers and how actors relate to one another,’ he says. 'It examines the power relationships that go on in the arts. Some artists claim the privilege of art to take dominant stances. Think of Wagner, for example. The play explores the claim of art to be more important than life. It also explores the
History and humour: Ian Brown
fellowship you get in theatre companies.’
It’s a fellowship that provides the play with a vein of comedy. ‘We’re dealing with the issues humorously, it‘s not a solemn play,’ says Brown. ’There’s a lot of farce, and a lot of the humour emerges from byplay between the members of the company. These people know each other well enough to kid each other on.’
The heart of the play, though, is in its exploration of politics. 'There’s a lot about power relationships in the play. There's a definite parallel between the way the leader of the company runs it and the way the King runs the state.’ (Steve Cramer)
Don't Forget Me
Tron Theatre, Glasgow, Fri 3—Sat 4 Nov, then touring it t k 1%
Mark Pinkosh, star of StarVing Artists’ one-man exploration of the Hollywood myth is himself a product of it; he's worked With Jim Carrey in Man In The Moon and is due to hit the screens in the forthcoming Breakers with Sigourney Weaver. LikeWise, his long- term partner and writer/director of
Don’t Forget Me, Godfrey Hamilton, lives in Hollywood and is a self- confessed lover of The Dream. And both are also earnest members of the part of society that the American Dreamers still prefer not to talk about.
So while there's certainly a deep cynicism here, definitely a sense that all is not as it should be in Tinseitown, there's also an unrequited affection on the part of Hamilton and Pinkosh for Hollywood itself.
Pinkosh plays Angus, a successful film producer, as brash and Jaded as they come, and sick to death of the high pressure, air-kissing Hollywood world. For Chip, a y0ung wannabe, the bubble has yet to burst, and as the two embark on a flirtatious friendship, Pinkosh flips schizophrenically between them, delivering a performance so intense that at times it's difficult not to see two people on stage.
Thankfully free of camp cliches, Hamilton's portrayal of homosexuality is as honest and unsentirnental as his depiction of the Hollywood dream itself; this is as much a piece about homosexuality as a love affair Faultlessly performed, the potency and inevitable futility of Angus and Chips relationship is combined With Hamilton’s adoration for Hollywood There's no sense of infatuation here, Hamilton is eVidentIy 'in love’ With Hollywood, which means lovmg it for all its faults, not least its bigotry. The result is a brilliantly conceived, if perhaps a tad short-lived production, one that succeeds in being utterly Sincere, deeply movmg and a worthy testament to the Dream Machine (Olly Lassman)
FARCE A Servant To Two Masters
King's Theatre, Edinburgh, lvlon iB—Sat 18 Nov.
What is it they say about buses? You wait for one for ages and then two COme along at once. In the Young Vic/RSC production of Carlo Goldoni’s A Servant To Two Masters, Truffaldino is an Out of work servant hit With two jOb offers at the same time. By taking up both of them he heads off on an extremely amusmg, extremely dizzying JOurney in which he tries his very best to serve both masters While trying to keep them blissfully unaware of each other’s eXistence.
The play was written by Goldoni in 1746 and is based on the classic commedia dell’arte characters and Structure. But it's been brought into the let century by Cooking With Elvis and Billy Elliot author Lee Hall. Actor Jason Watkins, who was attracted to the clown-like character of Truffaldino because of his ’clever innocence’, says Hall’s is an 'inspired adaptation’ that adds a contemporary edge to the original richness of language and classic commedia form.
There is something timeless about the capriCIously farCical antics of the commedia dell'arte style. 'Farce is certainly one element of the play, alongside genuine drama and emotion,' Watkins says. ’In farce you have characters in extreme situations, driven to the end of their tether. Characters are so angry or so hungry or so in love. It’s the clash of these desperate characters that brings out the humorOus Situation, an extreme Situation With Which even today's audience can identify_'
And it is true. In a histOry that starts off With Harlequin, goes through to Truffaldino, then on to Buster Keaton, BaSil Fawlty and Rik Mayall in Bottom, we can observe the absurdly futile spiralling of a desperate situation from on high, always knowmg that the status quo is never far away. And if yOu don’t laugh, yOu'll Just have to break down and cry, (Claire Mitchell)
A glass act: Jason Watkins in A Servant To Two Masters
2— i 6 No. 2000 THE UST 69