(ll ASSIC THE SEAGULL Dundee Rep, until Sat 27 Oct 0.0.
It’s surely a Lithuanian thing. I don’t like to get into defining national characteristics; that way madness and war-mongering lies and there’s quite enough of that about lately, if you don’t mind. All the same, compared with this Lithuanian-directed production, there’s something reassuring about your average western Chekhov staging. The playwright’s portrayal of emotional repression chimes nicely with the pent-up character of folk such as the British, Germans and Dutch. The recent German version at the Edinburgh Festival (The Gerry Orchard, if you like) was a case in point, the German sense of seldom- voiced passion and physical restraint being similar to our own. But Lithuania’s Rimas Tuminas presents this Tom Stoppard adaptation very differently.
The story, is of course the same. Konstantine (Andrew Clark), a would-be young writer, sees his great love Nina (Emily Winter) run off with the more successful writer Trigorin (Rodney Matthew) after he arrives for a summer vacation on the estate of Arkadine (Irene Macdougall), Konstantine’s mother. That Trigorin is his mother’s main squeeze doesn’t help Konstantine’s case, and neither does Masha (Meg Fraser), their estate manager’s daughter who’s madly in love with him. Unrequited, she turns to a soulless marriage with Medvedenko (John Ramage) a local schoolteacher who bores for Russia. The other characters display similar repressions, frustrations and failures in love. Dr Freud came to the conclusion that all we really seek in life is love and work. Most of these folk fail in both.
But this production is altogether different from
others you might have seen. Ditching the realist tradition that clings to Chekhov’s oeuvre, Tuminas fills the stage with wild bouts of hysteria, weird frenetic movement and dislocating hyper-real tableaux. He intercuts sequences of cartoonish farce with brief periods of torpor, underlayed by Latenas Faustas’ eerie, insistent score, a recurrent, melancholic whistle. It might all sound like rich meat for the purist, and it occasionally teeters on the brink of wankyness, but it’s engrossing from start to finish.
Meg Fraser’s Masha is a standout as the spectacularly neurotic jilted lover of Konstantin, with her pain producing a plausible callousness
Never a gull moment
towards her dull husband. As the vain and stingy Arkadine, Irene Macdougall creates a kind of pompous majesty, while Sandy Nielson’s world- weary doctor, with nothing but dark wit left after tasting every rich, cloying meat that life can offer is splendid, albeit more like conventional Chekhov than the other characters. Emily Winter is always good value, and here is no different, but her Nina’s tragic final madness is diminished by the fact that she, like many of the characters in this production, is not playing with a full deck from the start. A fascinating, challenging, and really quite nutty night of theatre. Those crazy Lithuanians. (Steve Cramer)
NE W l’l /\Y
THE BALLAD OF CRAZY PAOLA
Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, until Sat 20 Oct, then touring. .0.
Easy to watch, hard to care about
Most of our experrence of other folk rs an ambruuous affarr. What we rrnaurne about those around us rsn't necessarrly true. yet our capacrty to burld narratrye around the lrttle inforn‘.atron we have about therr‘. .'.rrli rnakt- rt so. lhrs exper'rence rs what Stephen (3reenhcrn's ‘rer'sron of Arne Srerens’ l lerr‘rsh text rs about. In rt. Raymond tlﬁrlly toydr. a drsaffected thrr'tyrsh would be drun‘n‘er‘. frnds hrrnself rnyrted to the home of l’aola rKathryn l lf).'.'(ll}llr. who wants hrn‘ to teach her teenage son to play. As he leaves alter the frrsl ?;sson. l’aola recognises
Raymond as the krd brother. or at least half brother. of her old flame Serge. another drummer wrth whom she spent a couple- of wrld. wasted years whrle he was part of a trendy. nearly bro trme rock band. the meetrng; rs the first of a successron and. as one short scene blends rnto another and conflrct bets/eon the two escalates. we're left reflecting upon whrch account of these years rs r‘elrable.
the answer. of course. rs nerther'. Whrle hrnts are dropped about l’aola's betrayal of Serge to the polrce. leadrno to a two year prrson sentence. and l-tayn‘ond's possrble paedopnrlra «no doubt an ever: touchrer‘ subject In Belorum than here:. the play leaves us wrth no closure on the ssue.
Phrlrp l loward's pr‘oductron brrngs strong; performances from hrs actors. and the drun‘beat score by Paddy Cunneen adds to the tensron. l lo\.'./dens l:ar‘ely repressed sensualrty sparks nrcely off Boyd, another repressrye. caught between hero aurorshrp and conten‘pt for hrs absent half brother. lhe problen‘ though. rs that however strong the perfor‘n‘ers. rl's rlrffrcull complctely to engate wrth the characters. who seem to exrst only to demonstrate the play's central thesrs about r‘elatwrly and n‘emory. lhrs productron rs easy to '.'./atch. but hard to care about. Steve (Zrarnerr
S(3()'l lISll Pltl lvlll Ht- COPENHAGEN King's Theatre, Edinburgh, Tue 30 Oct—Sat 3 Nov
For a lot of us. science rs a less-than-rntrrgurng Slll)}(}(Il. It has rts uses. quite clearly. but rts marn purpose seems to be getting us off to the land of nod late at nrght on 0U W. the soporrfrc company of its proponents. frequently replete wrth Motorhead T— shrrts and tank harr, rs somethrng; l remen‘ber from college wrth the san‘e feelrng :nsprred by halls of residence macaroni. So how do you make an enormously important Stll)]()(ll Irke Hersenberg's uncertarnty prrncrpal and quantum physrcs rnterestrnu?
You ntrgltt start by askrng lvlrchael Frayn. the acclarmed author of novels and plays as dryerse as Norses Off. a knockabout farce about farce. and Benefactors. a much- ioyed strong drama. llrs yersron of the true story of a meetrnu between two nuclear physrcrsts. l'lersenberu. who was workrng on the German nuclear \.r'\/arfare programme. and Bohr. a Jets/rsh physrcrst trying rn. Denmark rn 19111. has been Ittll'ltttllltg Elll(lit}ll(l(}S srnce rts debut at the NltiiOltZtl rr: ’998. It begins long; after both of them and Bohrs wrfe Margrethe. the thrrd character. are dead. Each character reflects upon the meetrng). speculating about what went on. and e\./entual|y flashrng back to what was sard.
‘In a yt/ay. what strll fascrnates me rs the rdea of motrye. whrch we can never really guessf says l rayn. 'Wc know that the Gestapo bugged them and p( ssrbly frlrned them. so what was sard between them. much of whrch we know already rsn't so much the pornt of the play as why l~lersenberg made thrs yrsrt. lhat's scmeth:nu we're strll uuessrng at. lhe play presents a number of possrbrirtres.‘
But how does he make these bru— trrne botfrns rnterestrng'? ‘Well.’ says l r‘ayn, ‘when rt was produced rn New York l met .Jochem llersenberu, hrs son and he was very comr)lementary about the play. but he sard that the character wasn't at all Irke hrs father. He sard hrs father" was far more resenxed and less ernotronal than my yersron. but I thrnk that's part of the luck. you have to grye your characters real emotion. so they're beirexable, rather than true to lrfe.’ (Steve (Irarner:
You’ve been Frayned
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