g The Golden Ass
Tron Theatre, Glasgow, Thu ill—Sat 23
' Suspect Culture’s Graham Eatough is clearly a man who loves a
challenge. Having recently directed
an adaptation of Candide, always a
problematical text, his next project is yet more challenging. Apuleius' satirical prose piece is a sprawling, picaresque potboiler, full of incident, humour, magic and bawdiness. It’s a good deal of fun to read, but is it stageable? If anyone can do so, it's Eatough, who acknowledges his penchant for big, scary projects.
'There is a perverse desire on our part to take unstageable pieces of literature and represent them as theatre,’ he says with a chuckle. 'But that's part of the point, if you want to challenge yourself, and bring new forms to audiences. We've had to think about different ways of telling stories, different
ways of representing characters, and that's very exciting
The story of this piece, if there could be said to be one at all, is that of a man who is unjustly turned into an ass, having committed an inadvertent crime. He goes on his travels, and encounters witches, criminals, posh folk, poor folk and an entire panoply of Ancient Roman society. Even this much will tell you of its episodic structure, presumably a difficulty in theatre. Yet Eatough sees it as an advantage: ‘We’ve dabbled with this kind of structure since early on at Suspect Culture. Like Airport, this story has an international element. But the episodes help mark out a journey for the audience. In a way, it makes the story accessible.’
Accessibility is a keyword for this production in which the company will be working with non-professional theatre workers from the Gorbals, interpreting the various incidents from the text by interaction with local people. Eatough is particularly keen to stress this
Suspect Culture show us their ass
element of the production. ’lt’s about making a virtue of
participation, rather than apologising for it. It’s a very
different way of presenting a play and a different way of relating to the performers.‘
You can see the point. Eatough's original encounter with the text happened four years ago in Milan, where a Brazillian company was presenting a contemporary reworking of it. This led to a contact with Mauricio Paroni de Castro, the director of the piece, who is co- directing with Eatough. Filtering the text through both its 2nd century origins and its modern Spanish version is a difficult task, and the local people working on the project are, in a sense, interpreting it for a modern Scottish audience.
A complicated business, maybe, but Eatough maintains that there’s enough magic, in both a literal and metaphorical sense to provide a rich and socially satirical piece of theatre for a broad range of audiences.
CLASSIC REWRITE Sisters And Others
Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Wed 6—Sat 9 Dec.
As an intricate exploration of human
nature, Chekhov's The Three Sisters is a play that has touched audiences world-
Wide ever Since its first performance in
1901. Since then there have been
: countless updates of this tragic tale of
female longing and political upheaval,
and some would argue that the epic story of the ups and downs of the
Prozorov sisters has been done to So is it about time that Chekhov’s classic familial drama received a theatrical respray7 Katarzyna Deszcz, director of Scarlet
Theatre's latest take on Chekhov,
Your very good elf sir
64 THE LIST 3O Nov—14 Dec 2000
The Night Before Christmas
Dundee Rep, Tue iZ—Sat 23 Dec.
Yes, I’m at that time again. Vast consumer orgies leaving me bankrupt, excesses of booze making me permanently hungover, gluttonous indulgence causing dyspeptic discomfort. And I’ll need to get geared up for Christmas once November’s over. Now, I’ll spare you the Dickensian catchcry, but Christmas cheeses me off. | emigrated to avoid the hideous family tensions, so it's only during birthdays that you see jealousy over presents, women locking themselves in the bathroom to weep out a year of bitter repression and subtextual sniping among friends. And only my birthday, at that. But for those of you who share my feelings of Christmas jeer, Dundee Rep is offering cool comfort. Anthony Nielson’s play, directed by his father Sandy, is about two layabouts who catch an elf breaking into their warehouse. They’re joined by a prostitute friend and, amid many references to drugs, bad living and modern cynicism, with a good deal of
bad language, they decide what to do with the allegedly magical culprit.
’It’s a complete antidote to all that bloody schmaltz you get at Christmas,’ says Sandy Neilson to explain the popularity of the play, which is also being staged in a rival production at Glasgow’s Ramshorn (Mon li—Sat 16 Dec). ’People are under a lot of pressure at this time, not just psychological, but financial. The prostitute works double time at Christmas just so she can afford it. That means she's got to shag a lot of people, which doesn’t please her mightily. She's looking for someone to blame for the whole thing, so she says "let’s torture the little fucker" about the elf.’
All the same, there’s an air of forgiveness about the play, which is a little closer to the Christmas spirit than we generally get at this appalling time of year. ’It has got something to say,’ says Neilson. ’It's about tolerating each other, and seeing people clearly.’
And is the elf real? ’We don't really know, but it’d be nice if he was a real one. At the end, when the warehouse owner is asked this, he says, "Who gives a fuck?“
That’s the spirit. (Steve Cramer)
Sisters And Others, certainly thinks so. 'A thousand things appealed to me about this play,’ she says. ’I think Chekhov is a fantastic playwright, but I was particularly interested in creating a new work. We had this feeling that it needed a certain spark. So we deCided to emphasrse the psychological relationship between the characters. That was our basic idea.'
With that in mind, Scarlet has produced what amounts to an innovative and controversial interpretation of The Three Sisters. The first half of the production, Sisters, focuses on the story from the mm of view of the women in the play, an all- female performance that Scarlet Theatre first took to the stage five years ago. The company breaks new ground in the second half, Others, which is strictly bloke territory, following the story from the point of view of the men.
As if that wasn’t change enough, the play is also performed in reverse chronological order. Claws out, hard- core Chekhov purists then? ’I am quite sure that some of them will hate what we've done, and some of them will love it,’ says Deszcz. 'But I hope there will be something audiences themselves are not expecting. It’s a risk, definitely, and we are all taking the risk together. But we are expecting an extreme reaction.’ (Olly Lassman)
Is that a seagull beyond the cherry orchard, uncle Vanya?