ntio _ ispositions

The Brunton Theatre Company is threatened with closure, but if this Hamlet proves to be its last production, it promises to go out in style.

Words: Steve Cramer

So many of our conversations are about other

conversations going on underneath the talk. Seduction. grief. trauma. they're all negotiated through small talk. This sense of unspoken crisis is particularly present in the conversation of the two men at the centre of the Brunton Theatre Company‘s Hamlet. Director David Mark Thomson and lead

actor Liam Brennan can't be drawn on the subject of

the threatened withdrawal of East Lothian Council‘s funding of the company and the Scottish Arts Council‘s apparent unwillingness to step in to prevent its closure. but the tension underneath the talk is evident.

Well. they can‘t talk. but I can. Here we have a well-run and artistically nourishing theatre company which. following the announcement of a new cultural strategy for Scotland that speaks of preserving and nurturing the arts. is being closed without. it would seem. a second thought. The quality of the work produced by this company is unquestionable. while its achievement at the box office a 66% capacity over the last four productions is healthy. given the theatres position as a 3()()—seater in a smallish East Lothian town. The county hasn‘t another theatre of this scale. so why is its local company being liquidated? Those presiding over this imminent act of cultural vandalism have questions to answer.

It is appropriate though that conversations about other conversations should come to mind. for there are few better examples of this in the cannon than Hum/(II. The Dane. bent on revenge as he is for the

to answer.

Those presiding over this imminent act of cultural vandalism have questions

Last Dane To Brunton? Liam Brennan

death of his father and the dishonourable marriage of his mother to his murderng uncle. is obliged to practice a hidden agenda with his powerful family. so his talk must always be a metaphor for what he really means.

Thomson is fascinated by the play’s metaphorical workings: ‘Hamlet's hard to like as a character. because he has a selfishness and introspection about him that is nearly obsessive. But it’s because he has to go round the houses and do things in an indirect way. The whole play is a bit like that. so a lot of the scenes are about plays within plays.‘

This provides some insight into Shakespeare’s most fascinating. but irritating tragic protagonists. but Brennan. whose Mat-lth with Theatre Babel so stunned audiences a couple of years back. sees an essential humanity in the character.

combined with a relentless quest mentality. ‘A lot of

the character comes through with his comment “I know not seems". He needs to find an objectivity underneath appearances. he needs to see through what seems. Just as Macbeth watches himself from the outside and comments on his own monstrousness. so Hamlet watches and comments on his own role as revenger. He becomes fascinated by the role he‘s playing.‘

Brennan envisions his character’s story as one of

self-development. his energy rechannelled by the trauma of his father's loss and the apparent withdrawal of those around him. ‘Polonius asks

()phelia to withdraw from him in a moment of grief

and he’s obviously very hurt by this. His grief is at first a kind of adolescent indulgence. but after he‘s sent away. there‘s a journey from this to manhood.’

Brennan is perhaps the fittest actor currently working on Scottish stages. while Thomson's ability with Shakespeare is proven. Together. they make a truly appetising combination. Add such notables as Michael MacKenzie as Claudius. Anne Kidd as Gertrude and Alison McKenzie as Ophelia and there‘s potential for a top rank Scottish answer to the German and linglish productions seen over the last few months. In the Brunton‘s circumstances. we might well not see its likes again.

Hamlet, Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh, Thu 1—Sat 17 Feb.

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Stage whispers

Re: Treading the boards

NOW FOR THOSE Mrs Worthingtons who haven't heeded Noel Coward’s advice, there are still opportunities for talented young people to appear under the lights. Scottish Youth Theatre is putting out a final call for talent among young people from the ages of 16 to 21 to gain theatre experience for the year ahead. Courses are available in acting, directing, choreography, stage management and administration/ publicity. Applications close on Friday 26 January, so you need to act sharpish, but if you’re interested, phone the company on 0141221 5127. This year's productions, to be seen at Glasgow’s Tron and the Tramway, will be Sandy Wilson’s The Boyfriend and Paul Wignall’s Merlin The Wild Boy.

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WHISPERS WANDERED ALONG to the newly refurbished Arches recently, and found its new spaces much to our liking. A bright and shiny cafe should help both the theatre and its punters, while the newly opened-out spaces seem to offer a variety of artistic possibilities for both theatre companies and others. This new version of an already fun venue should feel exactly appropriate to the latest National Review Of Live Art, to be staged there shortly, as well as adding greater flexibility for both the home, and visiting theatre companies. We wish Andy Arnold and his crew much luck with future development, for there are more spaces yet to be opened and enjoyed. Meantime, go and see what’s there now.

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Last year's Scottish Youth Theatre production, Macbeth

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