Byre Theatre, St Andrews, until Sat Sep 8 see.
Tim Firth’s four-time Olivier Award nominated comedy, Neville ’5 Island, was never going to represent a massive gamble for the Byre, but this latest production refuses to rest on borrowed laurels. Scottish theatre’s never had it easy, and original commissions are risky ventures, especially for a new playhouse; it seemed a wise move on the part of the Byre to follow its previous original project with this seasoned character comedy. 80 it’s a surprise to discover that one of the greatest strengths of this production is actually rooted in the commendable artistic talents of the Byre Theatre’s design and special effects crew.
The plot itself is simple fare, a wise—cracking yarn of corporate male-bonding on a desolate Lake District island. The script taps into the instantly entertaining vein of middle-management squabbling, the four inept mineral water execs waving their adolescent machismos around while struggling to survive by clobbering trout with a Nokia. The result is a funny, often touching display of male ego wrestling, with
null SlORY' DR KORCZAK’S EXAMPLE
Bannerman High, Glasgow, Tue 11 Sep, then touring
TAG Theatre‘s four-year project Making the Nation. aimed at giving Scots young people the chance to experience the political process through theatre. culminates with the true story of [)r Kore/(M's Exarrrp/e. The play tells the little known tale of the life of Dr Korc/ak. a director of a JOWish orphanage. whose groundbreaking work in developing the concepts behind contemporary children's rights took place in the horrific envrronment of war-torn 1930s Poland. 'Kor/cak was way ahead of his time; the UN declaration of children's rights. which countries all over the world have signed up to. was essentially influenced by his work.’ explains writer. David Greig.
‘His whole career was dedicated to children and children's rights. that children weren't just the property of adults. but had rights themselves. ways that they should be treated.’ Set in a Warsaw ghetto. the play focuses on the tragic struggles of Kor/cak and the children against the Nazis. Portraying Kor/cak's attempts to teach the children concepts of equality in an t;ll\/ll()lllll()lli of harr'ownig cruelty. TAG are using the play
some comfortably charismatic performances. After a slow first half, things get pretty bloodthirsty, with a heart-stopping twist in the finale.
Where this production comes into its own, however, is in the moonlit Lake District stage set. Frankly, Neville’s Island boasts one of the most sumptuous and well-executed set designs achievable. The attention to detail is breathtaking. Swathed in fog, the action takes place on the island’s coast, surrounded by water and blighted by occasional downpours. This is not implied or imaginary; thanks to some impressive technical
” God cast away Neville’s Island
tinkering, it actually rains. The lake constructed around the island is utterly convincing and quite beautiful, the actors sometimes even wading through its depths to centre stage. The trees are real, their branches arching high above the stage, as artificial moonlight filters serenely through the fog. The huge amount of effort evidently put into the production has paid off, providing a compelling environment for a clever, but sometimes stodgy script, and helping to make a captivating and memorable experience out of a tried and tested play. (Olly Lassman)
Tron Theatre, Glasgow, Thu 14 — Fri 15 Sep, then touring
to examine the fundamental ideas behind democracy. ‘lt's political. and it's very much about the idea that you have rights. questioning the idea of why it is that you seem less important because you're small. There's a political question too: How do you resist? By example or force? It you think something is wrong. what do you do about it? That's always going to be relevant and very much in the minds of young people.’
(Olly l ; ssmani
David Greig: ‘How do you resist?’
The grass is always greener
Whatever the Buddhists say, it's a universal rule of life that however much you have. it never seems quite enough. So it's easy to sympathise with Chasing Ange/s frustrated runaway. Joanne. After naively falling for the 'streets paved with gold' ideal of the city. seventeen-year-old country girl Joanne creates a new life. then invites two of her small- town friends to come and experience a world which doesn't quite live up to their glamorous expectations.
Writer Rhiannon Tise. whose play aims its message partially at a teenage audience. explains a plot that develops around Joanne's encounter with a disillusioned popstar. who. despite fame and fortune. really just wants a quiet life. ‘I remembered reading something that Robbie Williams once said about just wanting to go back to his house in Stoke On Trent and go and play football with his neighbours. Now people reading that will go “Freak! You could have anything in the world. yet you want to go back to your home town and play footy with your fifteen-year-old neiglil;ours!"‘ explains Tise. ‘lt‘s really about saying: don't underestimate your home and your family. Although the grass isn't always greener on the other side. it can be much more fun!‘ (Olly Lassman)
POPULAR THEATRE THE RISE AND FALL OF LITTLE VOICE
Village Theatre, East Kilbride, Thu 6-Sat 8 Sep, then touring.
If you've seen the film, you'll realise there's little secret to the success of Little Voice. Unabashed by sentimentality. happy to portray characters in terms of absolute good and evil, Jim Cartwright‘s script inherits a tradition of popular entertainment which can be comfortably located in the nineteenth century. along with Dickens and Victorian melodrama. And it’s no less entertaining for that.
The story of Laura. a young girl with a talent for singing, and an ambitious mother with a sleazy boyfriend was familiar, in slightly altered guise. to our great grandparents' generation. Laura's only light in a dark world comes from the romantic interest of a local BT van driver. With good music. and the odd tear-jerking moment, it's hard to quarrel with Cartwright's formula.
This production. with a mixed professional and amateur cast. represents a new departure for the East Kilbride Village Theatre. which will launch its first tour after its home premier. A number of old hands in community and professional theatre are involved, while the leads. Elaine Shirlaw and Sarah Wales are making their professional debuts fresh from training. (Steve Cramer)
Elaine Shirlaw shows us a little vice
(i Sep—20 Sep 2001 THE LIST 59