Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Fri 30 Nov—Sat 22 Dec

It’s not easy being tall. At 6ft 1in, I find the experience of meeting someone much smaller slightly perplexing. Linda McLean looks about five feet in her high heels, and as I shake hands with her I get that familiar feeling that I ought to stoop to make her feel more comfortable. But even as you look at her, the big clear eyes create a sense of assurance that renders such gestures superfluous. And as she speaks, an intellectual lucidity and a chatty, approachable persona makes you forget the issue in seconds.

She’s with me in an Edinburgh cafe to talk about Olga, the latest Traverse European production in a recently launched programme of cross-continental collaborations. Anyone who’s seen the wonderful cult movie Harold And Maude will be familiar with at least the broad outline of McLean’s version of Laura Ruohonen’s acclaimed play, which ran for two years straight in its native Finland. In this piece, an old lady who’s lived since the turn of the last century hooks up with a man in his early twenties, and a mutually fascinating relationship occurs.

‘He lives on the edge of and outside of the law, and she’s a little old lady,’ says McLean.

and worst of their society, but it’s more complex than that. She’s not just a dozy old girl, she’s really sharp and has screwed up her own relationships in the way he has. The relationship isn’t sexual, by the way, that would be demeaning to both characters, but it develops in a surprising way, with both of them achieving things through it.’

The task of rendering a piece of continental theatre into something Scotland can relate to is not always easy, but McLean feels her task has been made simpler by some striking parallels between Scottish and Finnish culture. ‘It gets dark for a long time in the north of Finland, and there’s a lot of, “lets go to the pub, get drunk and come home and brew our own liquor” there. There’s also a very Presbyterian mentality there, and inequalities between Swedish and Finnish speaking Fins which isn’t, historically speaking, unlike the English/Scottish divide.’

I ask her about the striking flyer in which Eileen McCallum holds a handful of cherries and her reply continues her Scottish theme. ‘Well, there’s a lot of Finnish nationality wrapped up with the idea of berries, but its used as a dig at sentimentalism about the country in Laura’s play. It attacks all that, just as we might attack that shortbread, tartan and Rabble Burns thing here. The play isn’t sentimental about these

Cherry orchard: Eileen McCallum

‘Each represents what people see as the best


Citizens’ Theatre, Glasgow, Mon 3-Sat 8 Dec.

Welsh hair-bit

Many ‘.’l(,“.’.’ Irvrne Welsh as a Peter Pan figure of the literary .‘rorltr. The boy who never ‘.'.'ant:: to gro‘x.i up. Critics have saed that he glainorises drug use and stems over the conseguences of hard trying. But then doesn't the ever present theme of death in his ‘J/ork render this argument Joid'? Others praise Welsh for gi‘xirig a voice to the underrerrresented underclass. love hini or hate liiin. there's no fit:ll,’llltj that he can tell a story. And his I‘.()‘/(:l (i/t/e If; a one finger salute to those Hire

64 THE LIST flu. {1"

deemed his work ‘iinmature'. This is grown-up stuff.

G/ue has been adapted for the stage by Harry Gibson. whose prevrous adaptations of Welsh's novels Trainspotting. Marabou Stork /\/i'g/rtmares and Film. were highly acciaiiried. It tells the story of four childhood friends: ‘Juice' Terry. ‘Wee' (Bally, 'leilky Bar Kid” Carl and ‘Busmess‘ Birrel. The Iads grew up in an Edinburgh scheme together and have progressed from primary school pals to boo/ing buddies. The action takes place when the boys meet up after the funeral of Carl's dad. One of the four hasn't suryived and the others struggle to cope wrth their feelings of guilt IoIIowrng his death.

'It's about masculinity and emotion.’ says Gibson. ‘lt's very Pinteresgue in the sense that these are guys who can talk a lot Without actually saying anything. That's the painful bit. These guys have been in pubs for years. blethering and telling stories. out they don't get around to saying how they feel.‘

And what of the criticisms that Welsh glorifies drug use? 'He understands conseguerices. How do you survive all those years of getting fucked up? And how do you feel about your dead friends? That's when he started writing, when he realised old friends had been gathered to their maker through Junk or the Virus. There's a strong sense of reguiein in his writing'

We all have to grow up sometime. If you're not ready. stay at home. (Kik Heidi

things. Eileen is great in the role of Olga,

because she’s very intellectual about these things, just as the old lady is.’ (Steve Cramer)

MUSICAL CHICAGO Playhouse, Edinburgh, until Sat 1 Dec .0.

Slick, if a little heartless There's an eternal paradox at the heart of Bob tosses big ti'ne bursa-cal. if“) original text, by Maurine Dallas Watkins. :s cleari‘, an attack o" the ii'or'aily, bankrupt American ethos. with particular spleen reserxed for the e‘t'er‘ii'e'ieurzai ethic. Kander and Ehb's music and Fosse's legendary choreograph, :lo thezv best to carry this off, but there's bound to he a contrat‘lictic'r at the cer‘tre. since tr‘e Broadway West End musical is also the epitome of these values.

All the same. the story of Box; Ilait tplayed rather gloriousy e". the r‘ighr. it; stand—in Leyla Pellegrinir who murders her boyfriend. Inc-n so'ierr-es for a out of chokey in roaring 20s ()hicago does have a certain appeal. ltoxi, '3; mar". .’"‘-.'£ll :s Velma iAmia—Faye Wrighti who shares the services of < orig; rietence dunner Bf", Flynn IJOlIIt Altmani. His smarmy pox'xers are employee t.:i.'.=:irds all (l"il but wrth particular concentration on Roxy's sad sap rush. .".(l Amos i'\‘a.'t -" Callaghani who finds it hard to sun/rye :n the '-.'.'orlri of rapacious. sei‘ rifeiestt:.i sharks represented in the play

There's no lack of l‘m’él/X in this production, unit“, gr sc; rrtili. (‘lilti he ii, 'i‘ieaut ti. cast going through its numbers i.'.':th assureg sii‘oothr‘ess. Dancing: a cow an experience man‘, of my dates could empathise with. but .t's done .itor‘ai". new; with six female inmates doing ‘(Zeli Block lango' so sex \, t'ia'. 't t'it rnan of me had turned round suddenly I could have had his one out.

Indeed the performances are slick. if a little heartless no pun iota-'idetl throughout. but Altman's is helox'x par. In the crucial production i‘;.'i‘t\i:r 'ltaxfi‘e Da//|e'. \.-vhich exposes parallels het‘.'.'een American rust:ce an.l :\'::t‘.'.r>:.'. t'ie weakn >ss is exposed. It's untikeii. that Last! ride/s star Altman .'..:s cast ‘or “it: singing or dancing skills and his inoi.einerrt is distinctii. .iritlieatrn al. As .l Host. 1. much of the power is lost. His accent. too. is more South, Hairlx t'iari 8.91.1". Biocx; he's either not good. or not il\llltl.

for all that. there are some ioys. [)éllll(itllill'|\. in the leading adies anti '1 Callaghan's Iikeal)le sinuck ol a cuckolded husband. who ."..’t:) The gttittzir"..:t+ n firs: back pocket by his exit. Smooth, gorgeous and a hit iltlll.)‘,'.. Sine tliarnot