A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM Citizens’ Theatre, Glasgow, until Sat 17 Nov 0...
The Citz has endured even more straitened times than usual this year, but with only two spaces operating and a shortened season, the grand old place has once again produced the goods. This unseasonable production of that most produced of Shakespeare’s comedies is pleasing to both eye and ear.
I won’t burden you at too great a length with reiteration of plot. Sufficeth to say that in Giles Havergal’s trimmed-down production the two pairs of young lovers are still as charmed into love with the wrong people as we’re apt to be in real life. So, too Titania and Oberon still fall out, Puck is still mischievous, and Bottom and the mechanicals are still shite at am-dram.
Havergal’s design is strikingly atmospheric. Initially, a black polo-necked cast confront the audience straddling two rows of chairs, with the incantatory spirit of the play’s premise played up by delivery. If the cast initially look like so many guests on The Late Show, they soon draw us into their world. The chairs are shortly flown and suspended above the heads of the characters, making the branches of the forest of enchantment a very man-made affair.
It’s a clever conceit; the play’s world of love and misadventure is really about the desires denied to us in the everyday, waking world. The potions employed by the fairy folk are just a plot device to liberate and explore this unconscious world of erotic fixation.
Now, Glaswegian Bottom might sound like an unpleasant condition connected to the excessive imbibing of 70 shilling, but John Kazek’s soap-dodging, dopey crooner works perfectly with the spirit of this piece. Kazek makes a gourmet meal of the part, creating the careful mix of audience sympathy and detachment so needed for the ass-headed dolt. Helen Devon’s Titania is also deftly realised, with some nice movement and timing exploiting to the full the comic potential of a woman enamoured of misshapen and inappropriate partner.
But the true standout in a good cast is Malcolm Shields, whose Puck combines an electrifying energy with comic precision. As he darts relentlessly about the stage, the sheer vigour of his leaping, scrambling, somersaulting performance pulls you into the action. And it’s not just the physicality that impresses. He displays a strong ear for dialogue in his exchanges with Greg Powrie’s hectoring Oberon.
Bottom feeders: Malcolm Shields and Greg Powrie
There’s the odd longeur in the early moments, but concept and performances (and one, in particular) make it a good night out. See it, for Puck’s sake. (Steve Cramer)
MODERN CLASSIC DEATH OF A SALESMAN
King‘s Theatre, Edinburgh, Tue 6-Sat 10 Nov 0
If you'd been at Glasgow's Theatre Royal the other week to see Arthur Miller's modern tragedy of the ordinary man. you'd have seen an ageing bloke. his focus wandering to the point of crisis. suffering from interminable experience. reduced to despair and losing the will to live. It was me — bugger Willy Loman. But I'm sure I wasn't alone.
Miller's stOry of the elderly Loman, whose illusionary embrace of the American dream imposes impossible demands upon an eventually dysfunctional family, has been told many times. but seldom as lifelessly as here. Graham Turner's Loman is stylised to the point of implausibility. and while Nicholas Asbury as son Biff. whose traumatic experience of his father as a teenager has left him rudderless in his 303. is stronger, there isn't enough
commitment from the cast over all. Add a bog-standard set by Neil Irish and some accents that are closer to Urdu than New York and you've got a rough night out.
But more lamentable are the reasons for doing this. There were several hundred of them in the stalls below me. As a Highers and A Level text. there's easy money for any theatre company in touring such productions. But such was the quality of Neil Sisson‘s production that. as these kids chatted. tussled and coughed like consumptives through the latter stages, it occurred to me that this production COuId have been commissioned by King Herod. rather than Compass. such was the slaughter of theatre innocents. lt's short sighted. it seems to me. to mount a kind of read through as a pedagogic aid. when the quality is such that few of these teenagers will return to the theatre when not compelled to. Don't do it guys. we need young people in the theatre. (Steve Cramer)
Guys in disguise: Tom McGovern and Steven McNicoll
SHAKESPEAREAN COMEDY COMEDY OF ERRORS Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh, until Sat 17 Nov .000
There's not much that's funnier than other people's paranoia. and director Tony Cownie knows it. This romp of a production empowers its audience to see what the characters, in their increasingly farcical bewnderment. can't: that it's all a bit of a mix-up.
To retell a well-known story. Shakespeare's comedy has old Egeon (Robert Paterson) captured in the bandit country of Ephesus. where the duke of that country (Barrie Hunter) is moved to grant him a day to raise a fine for his trespass or forfeit with his life. He‘s come there to search for his family. All have gone missing over a period of years. his sole surviving son Antipholus (Jimmy Chisholm) and his servant Dromio (Steven McNicoll) being the last to vanish. Little do these two know that each have a twin in the city where their father searches for them and each twin has the same name as their sibling. From all this. you can see the potential farcical escalations. revolving around wives. talismanic gold chains and money.
Against Hayden Griffin's clever. though cramped Royal Mile set, the twnis who represent the centre of the comedic storm are all well performed. There's some magnificently daft mugging and clowning by McNicoll and Mark McDonnell as the two Dromios. who are suitably mystified by their ostensible masters' increasingly erratic patterns of beating and praise. while Jimmy Chisholm and Tom McGovern work well as the two Antipholuses. Chisholm. in particular shows an endless capacity to find the extra touch of timing and movement which offsets this piece. where logic is endlessly met with illogic and sanity is immediately dubbed its opposite.
The beauty of this production is that it is through flawless rationality that people are made to behave like headcases. so the humour is self-sustaining through its Through The Looking Glass form of common sense. It's not a profound night. It's not meant to be; but it's great fun. (Steve Cramer)
l-— 1:3 No\. 200‘. THE LIST 61