Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, Sat 24 Mar-Sat 21


N o matter how terrible the fellow, you can never be sure that some girl won’t go for him.’ So says Elaine C. Smith, in a rasping New York accent as she sits over her bowl of soup in an Edinburgh city restaurant. A few more people look up from their coffees and lunches around us, some now wondering if she really is who they thought.

She’s quoting Adelaide, in Guys And Dolls, the legendary 1950 musical adaptation of the story by Damon Runyon, and, let’s face it, seldom has a truer word been said. For Smith, whose life of late has been nothing but one-woman comedy shows for both theatre and television, this musical has a particular appeal, and is quite unlike the usual line in musicals. She illustrates the difference from contemporary musicals: ‘If you go to see Chicago in the West End, you’re seeing exactly the same show as you’d see in New York or Sydney, or wherever. It’s the McDonalds of musicals, like a lot of those big Lloyd Webber shows. You can have an actor doing the part for six months, replace him and nobody notices the difference.’

This kind of off-the-peg role is quite different, says Smith, from this Frank Loesser—scored classic, where she feels challenged to make her own version of Adelaide, the burlesque singer, who forms part of a gallery of rogues. In this story, in case you don’t know it, a group of Salvation Army middle-class God- squadders descend upon a group of gamblers and

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racketeers in an attempt at conversion. Some cynical

motives are revealed all round, but romance inevitably intercedes and the feel-good factor gets upped for one

and all.

Smith insists that along with all this good-natured fun, there’s also a distinctive voice in the American musical of this era, which speaks to a Scottish

‘If you see Chicago in the West End, you’re seeing the same show as you’d see in

New York; it’s the McDonalds of musicals.’ they’ll have a good time with the whole cast.’

If her excellent New Yorkese is anything to judge by, she’s quite right. (Steve Cramer)

audience. ‘Scots have always responded well to the American musical, because they’re about ordinary Joes. British work around this time was all about the



Tron Theatre, Glasgow, Mon 19—Sat 24 Mar.

Douglas Maxwell will be introduced with Manfred Karge by Dr. Steve Cramer of The List on Mon 19 Mar

Elaine C. Smith: Never a Mary Doll moment

upper classes, or if you had the working classes, they were always cockneys, so there was more for people to

empathise with in the American musical.’

Smith adds star quality to Kenny Ireland’s production, along with such notables as Andy Gray, but her enjoyment of the role is very much about the ensemble. ‘You can immerse yourself in a show like this, and the public profile thing disappears,’ she says. ‘If people want to see Elaine C. Smith do something, they might be disappointed,

because this is a show. But if they come along,

Cool Britannia may have been a particularly irritating piece of spin. but it‘s amazing quite how many avenues of cultural life the perfidious little phrase has snuck Into. Designer Stella McCartney's Union Jack fetish and the summer of Britpop may have emerged from the fair isles of Britannia but they managed to maintain their cool for a nano-second.

Yet one strain of the British cultural virus which spread out into the Eurozone is still very much alive and that. as you may have guessed. is the theatrical. In 1999 more performances of Mark Ravenhill plays were put on in Germany than those by the Romantic bard and national hero. Schiller. In the following year whilst David Harrower's Knives /n Hens was put on only a handful of times in his homeland. there were around 40 productions occurring throughout Europe.

In celebration of the BSAMD's 50th anniversary. the school In collaboration with the German performance school Ernst Busch. is hosting a mini festival of performed readings which consists of works in progress by Scottish playwrights. translated versions of recent German

plays and a series of adaptations of European classics by native writers. While Europeans have picked up on events in Britain, this week of performances attempts to redress the balance by listening to European practitioners as much as they have listened to us.

Hugh Hodgart. head of acting at the RSAMD says of the relationship with Germany: ‘When I visited two years ago with students I was surprised by quite how much what was going on in German theatre struck a chord with what is going on here.‘

Audiences will get the opportunity to test his theory by watching sneak excerpts of plays by Douglas Maxwell and Zinnie Harris as well as more complete versions of David Greig's adaptation of Ubu Fioi and Harrower's translation of Pirandello's Six Characters In Search Of An Author. Then compare them with challenging works by German writers Karge. Von Mayenburg and Reese. With question and answer sessions hosted by The Li'st's editor Mark Fisher and theatre editor Steve Cramer, this festival of ten shows is worth attending in Its entirety. (Tim Abrahams)

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Stage whispers

Talk of the green room

THE FINDINGS OF THE recent Boyden Repon in England are bound to create a stir of interest In the Scottish theatre world. As a reSuIt of this independent commission, the English Arts COLinciI has acted With VlgOLll in addressing the shortfall in theatre funding that has so beset the English theatre since the creation of the National Theatre there. Although this new approach to theatre funding has created a few cas‘ualties. its oveii'iding implications are those of improvement of the funding. duality. and no doubt. resultant audiences in English theatre.

With Such improvements in the pipeline. it might give us pause to think of our own theatre. which was. before Boyden. already generally worse funded than the

English rep system. Whispers might be in danger of reiteration here. but the one potential fly in the Ointment for our own theatres is the proposed Scottish National Theatre.

There can be little doubt that a ocuntry that boasts such companies as the Traverse and the Citizens' Theatre (to name but two) deserves funding to at least edual the average English rep company, but Without Boyden-style improvement. there seems little prospect of this. Meanwhile. there are already Subtle signs that at Holyrood the feeling is that Since the grand desIgn of the national is about to be given the green light. why sh0uld more money be p0ured into the regional theatres?

With limited funding for the local theatre System. and the imminent creation of the Leviathan of the national, are we in danger of producing a magnificent head on a withered body?

15—29 Mar 2001 THE LIST 61

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