Ni 'W Pl AY SLIDING WITH SUZANNE Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Tue 23-Sat 27 Oct.
It’s hard to ignore the recent ‘chick lit’ success story, a genre epitomised by the escapades of Bridget Jones or, less palatably, the perpetually hormonal harridans of Sex In The City. On the one hand, this has paved the way for a torrent of uninspired pulp dross and sent sales of cheap Chardonnay rocketing, but it’s also introduced a sterling opportunity for top theatre talent to turn their attentions to the lives and loves of the she- loser on heat.
Bringing together the award-winning Out Of Joint and the Royal Court Theatre, novelist Judy Upton’s Sliding With Suzanne explores the highs and lows of another frustrated female thirtysomething on a tragi-comic search for self- fulfilment. ‘Bridget Jones isn’t a bad analogy, but Suzanne’s spikier and angrier than her,’ says director Max Stafford-Clark, the famed champion of new writing who has staged everything from the works of Caryl Churchill to Shopping And Fucking since his early career as artistic director of the Traverse. ‘Partly you want to wring her neck, but she’s also sympathetic and very funny. One of those characters you kind of fall in love with but thank God you’re not involved with yourself.’
The play begins in Brighton, with Suzanne on the hunt for her runaway foster son, leading her to a sordid affair with a bored young convenience store worker and the horrific discovery of the existence of her mother’s sex life. ‘She’s on the verge of a kind of breakdown,’ says Stafford- Clark. ‘There’s a sense that there are people in the world, like Suzanne and this boy, who just aren’t getting their lives together.’
As well as examining the lives of those surrounding Suzanne, the play explores a much rawer sense of bitterness and anger than that possessed of the dithering Ms Jones, attempting to emphasise the very real frustrations that some young women experience. ‘Judy Upton was trying to explore that kind of intense rage that people feel when their life just doesn’t open up,’ says the director. ‘Suzanne went to college, and was taught that education would unlock every
Angry McBeal? Out of joint presents Bridget Jones in a strap
door. And it hasn’t. Here she is at 35, still without a life and no career opportunities. She’s angry about that; it’s really an angry young woman play. The play’s very authentic in articulating that voice and that kind of frustration, and the young people acting in the play is partly what makes it such an interesting evening. It’s been great to perform it in front of a young audience too, and we hope to find that same kind of audience for the play in Edinburgh.’ (Olly Lassman)
MODERN (It ASSIC
DEATH OF A SALESMAN
Theatre Royal, Glasgow, Tue 23—Sat 27 Oct.
To say that it's impossible to underestimate the effect that playwright Arthur Miller has had upon contemporary theatre and to describe Death Of A Salesman as; the master-work of a master plaW/right is going over old ground. The story of blue collar salesman Willy Lornan, who. when the Great Depression deprives; him of his success; struggles to pick up the shattered pieces; of his; personal American Dream. is legend. Compass lheatre's Neil Sissons feels; there's; still more to discover about one of the twentieth century's; defining theatrical works. ‘lhe man who originally directed it. HIE! Ka/an. described this as a great love story.‘ he says. "lhat's a fascinating comment and not
66 THE LIST ta (Jct t No‘.’ your
one you'd immediater associate wrth the play. What you're seeing is a dysfunctional family. the social ssues; givrng rise to a sense of family failure. One of Willy's; sons. Biff, is the great golden hope of the family. but so many expectations have been loaded on him by his father. he's; crumpled. Linda. his wrfe. is fiercely defensive of Willy and his; overwnflated dreams. The play has been accused of putting Linda in a very powerless; position. but really she's his; strength; she loves; him so much that she's; even prepared to see the boys go and never return rather than let them threaten him.'
While past productions have favoured Willy as centrepiece. S'ssons feels; there's much to be said for the depth of emotion in Willy's Wife and his two frustrated sons. Biff and Happy. The symbolism of l oinan as; the epitome of the American Dream disintegrated is; the real essence. although S ssons focuses; upon lvlille 's subtle familial dynamic as a brilliantly conceived means of humanising economic crisis. ‘lt's; not like trying to revwe a creaky old masterpiece,’ he says. ‘llris; play deals; Willi ssues that still confront us. the universal truth expressed through situations; we all immediately understand and identify wrth; that's; what's; so fascinating about this play. and what makes; really great draina.' (Olly l assman)
SHAKE Sl’l Alil THE COMEDY OF ERRORS Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh, Sat 20 Oct-Sat 17 Nov
So. your neighbour hoovers; right next door at nine in the morning on Sunday when you're seriously hung over. Or the guy at work at the desk next to you has set his; computer to make maddening noises all day. Or whatever. lhe point is. we're all irritated by things that are actually not relevant to our lives. If you see someone else being wound up by stuff that doesn't really matter or they're jtlSi plain wrong about. you think it's; funny. and Shakespeare knew that.
[he (Joiner/y Of f iio/s is; really about this. In it. old Aegeon from Syracuse is discovered in the land of l pliesus, mortal enemies of his own country. He's threatened With execution unless he can pay a huge fine. but explains; that he's looking for h s; son. one of a pair of identical twins. and the second to disappear in l phesus, the first haying done so in childhood. Another set of identical twrns, who Aegeon has known since childhood as servants have also gone AWOl in this foreign country. and he's; given 94 hours to sort all this out or he's up for the chop.
It all sounds; darkly farcical. and has frequently been treated in this way. but lorry Cownie. who's directing this production at the Royal lyceum. swears it can be done differently. ‘lt's been accused of being a farce. but l don't think it is.' he says. ‘lheie was a production at the National a year or two ago where they had the characters in masks. I don't understand that approach. because this; play has a real. basic human thing going on. What people laugh at is; these folk getting angry at things that aren't really relevant.'
the distinction between farce and comedy is; important to ()ownie, He wants; to avoid the dehumanising effects; of farce. in which characters lose their identity and are turned into machines about whom we care little. ‘You've got to remember that this play starts With the idea of debt. and we've already seen someone executed] he says. 'lt's funny. but there are moments where the joking has to be painful. where It isn't funny anyinoie.'
If you prefer it done the other way. don't get too annoyed. it won't matter in the long run. (Steve ()rameri
A pair of Knox