Tron Theatre, Glasgow, Thu 26-Sat 28 Apr 0...

Jonathan Christenson and Joey Tremblay, writing-directing team of Canada’s Catalyst Theatre, have done some serious fooling around with Sophocles’ classic Electra. Drawing upon their own geographical circumstances, they ditch ancient Greece in favour of a mythical northern kingdom where winter once ruled and skating on the local pond was the pinnacle of privilege. The result is a perverser tragic cartoon about the burden of heritage, the price of change and the damage inflicted by parent upon child.

This 90-minute production, an award-winner at the 1999 Edinburgh Fringe, opens with the ingratiating Pootsie (Sian Williams) speaking of her ancestors with a combination self-effacement and puffed-up pride. But dammed up behind her folksy encomiums is raging grief for a murdered father. Kid brother Kirbus (Dov Mickelson), sporting similar carrot-coloured hair and child-like garb, also suffers from arrested development. Wracked with nervous humiliation, this hunched-up, rolling-eyed doughball struggles to breathe in his late pop’s shadow and all the expectations that arise from being a male heir.

The root of the Plunket offspring’s problems is widowed Momma Belle (Julianna Barclay), a sneering grand dame who returns from vacationing in tropical climes with big, hateful plans to literally dissolve the Plunket reign. Given these seismic betrayals, the scene is set for vengeful destruction.

It takes a while to warm to the script’s painstaking yet occasionally crude mix of vernacular language and high-flown emotion, and the tone of tightly controlled, satirical storybook ceremony. There is, however, a full-fledged dramatic pay-off. Williams and Mickelson are devastatingly good, their complex sibling bond shot through with dignity, disgust and desperation. Painfully aware of posterity, Pootsie and Kirbus embody the dangers of mythologising one’s own past. The show closes on a note of piteous poetry, inflamed by the knowledge that the real horror is in the familiar.

(Donald Hutera)

Electra glide in snow



Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Thu 19-Sat 21 Apr, then touring.


While Tongues explores the child‘s initiation into adulthood. Skunk Hour examines parental responsibility and influence. Fraser's play focuses on the desperate parents of a problem child during a last-resort session with a child psychologist. ‘lvly driving force was this fear that is a new experience for my generation of parents,‘ says Fraser. “You put your trust in psychology. but who's really going to be able to explain what set off the boys who killed Jamie Bulger? Who do you blame? The child in Skunk Hour isn't the traditional concept of the problem child. He's not been abused. he's not from a broken home. There's this sense of him being a very ordinary kid. yet something very bad has happened and the child is at the centre.“

Tragedies such as the Bulger case or the Columbine High School massacre

Give Little Ones a big hand


TALKING TO YOURSELF The Arches, Glasgow, Wed 2-Sat 5 May.

As Gap adverts like to demonstrate. everybody's fundamentally the same. A disheartening thought as the search for yOur indiViduality gets tOugher: lost underneath all that khaki. no delibt. But for Sally Hobson. Winner of an Arches New Director's Award. it's our souls that connect us as people. not Our wardrobes.

Talking To Yourse/f. a devised production. takes a look at seven people in a Glasgow taxi queue. 'It's an expl0ration of what makes us humans.’ says Hobson. 'what makes us so extraordinary'

She believes one thing that makes us human is the ability to face up to reality. Such as the character taxed by taking responSibility for her ailing parents. ‘This girl finds an expreSSion for herself through ballroom dancmg.‘ she says. ‘Doing something enjoyable gives her the ability to deal with difficult Situations again.’

This sense of resilience could be a Glaswegian characteristic. But Hobson strips away cultural identity to


Hobson’s choice is taxi ranks: Sally Hobson

discover what's at the core. Using her cafe latte as a iiielaphoi. she shares her perspective: 'Il you grow up in Scotland you have a Scottish cup. if born in Ireland. an Irish cup. but your essence is the liquid inside. and that's the factor I'm looking at.‘

(Mererid Williams;

Perth Theatre, Thu 12 & Fri 13 Apr, then touring 000.

Russell Hunter's interpretation of Samuel Beckett's sell—reflexwe old man contains; enough visual humour and singularity to help us reinvent the old Irish misery guts on the spot. John Yule's direction allows Hunter enough free play to make the old man's recollections through his anally-retentive collection of tapes an intriguing jOurney through subjectivity. time and change.

Hunter looks a little like a startled hamster as the lights go up. Willi Wild haii. huge eyes and a shuffling gait which avoids the cliches of 'little old man walking'. As he plays and replays the tapes before him. we begin to reflect upon both the uncertainties of old age and the inevitable consequences of a not-(juite-fulfilled


He intelligently recreates the text's slow. elegiac movement from humour to pathos. savouring the Beckettian music-hall banana—eating business. before making us consider our own ageing bodies as he pauses for reaction to a succession of increasingly tragic reflections. bottled for posterity by the old man. A deftly-crafted evening of eXistential angst. (Steve Cramer)


LION IN THE STREETS The Arches, Glasgow, Tue 24-Sat 28 Apr.

On my family outings there was a designated place to meet should we get lost. It fuelled the assumption that we were always safe. always protected. Canadian playwright Judith Thompson. whose acclaimed play premieres at The Arches. makes it clear that, in the harsh reality of this world. there's no room for such naively.

Park Life: Lion In The Streets

The birth of the tweenager is as big a phenomenon today as the birth of the teenager was in the middle of the last century. And while the media cling to a new source of exploitation. more and more parents are clinging to psychologists. Lift/e Ones from Glasgow's Lookout Theatre consists of two short plays about modern childhood and parenting: Skunk Hour by Rob Fraser. former theatre editor on The List. and Tongues by Isabel Wright. author of the acclaimed

62 THE LIST 12—26 Apr 2001

demonstrate the danger of simplifying the problems of 21 st century childhood. and Fraser stresses that. though the issues that Little Ones tackle are universal. there may be no universal resolution. ‘Neither of the plays is didactic.‘ he says. ‘We're saying that these are new things and there mightn't be any real answers. but everyone has an opinion. The plays are about putting the arguments out there. and hopefully provoking as much thought as possible.‘ (Olly Lassman)

For Isobel. a nine-year-old Portuguese girl lost in Toronto. youth and innocence provide little defence against the darker sides of life. ‘lt's very powerful watching brutal experiences through a child's eyes.‘ says director Adrian Osmond. ‘Adults you expect bad things to happen to; it shouldn't happen to children.‘

But it does. both on and off stage. This play allows no escape from cruel truths. drawing us into lsobel's search for home. ‘It‘s both a phySicaI and spiritual journey for the audience too.‘ says Osmond. ‘a journey through life.' Through a fu3ion of styles. with six performers playing 28 roles. it explores a variety of situations.

Beyond this vision of a ruthless world. however. lies an optimism. 'You travel through these dark corners of human nature but leave with this sense of hope that things can change.‘ Osmond says. Forget contingency plans; protections about facing reality and beating your enemy first. lLaura Jukesl