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Youth, truth and beauty: Paul Thomas Hickey and Eileen McCallum

a disillusioned town councillor, who’s frankly a bit of a

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, until Sat 22 Dec, 000.

As I’m writing this review, I’m making a mental note to call my mum. This Linda McLean version of Laura Ruohonen’s Finnish hit does that to you, and in a good way. But this story does far more than give us a fresh perspective on the needs and capacities of the elderly.

In it, Rundis (Paul Thomas Hickey), a nihilistic young man on the wrong side of the law, at first exploits the game old bird of the title (Eileen McCallum), but goes on to develop a mutually needy relationship with her. Posing as a home help, Rundis nicks various items from Olga and flogs them to a sharkish local antiques dealer (Frank Gallagher).

In the background is a suffering young woman (Jenny Ryan), whose painful relationship with Rundis demonstrates, through both dialogue and physical business, his need to be mothered, and his repulsion for this need. Olga and Rundis develop an argument, her slightly puritanical version of a Keatsian vision of beauty, truth and carpe diem clashing with his unbelieving existence.

The two go on adventures, heading for the frozen forests of Finland to meet such oddities as a clumsily philosophical policeman obsessed with technology and

wanker (Lewis Howden). Meanwhile, we learn much about history, identity and gender.

The gentle and rather entrancing vision of Lynne Parker’s production is admirable for both its pacing and its sense of minute observation of human relationships. The script and performances combine to avoid the pitfalls of sentimentality by showing us, not two ideals of disillusioned youth and frail old age, but two flawed but ultimately likeable individuals.

McCallum gives a meticulously observed performance as the slightly mad old biddy at the centre, who has soldiered through both a turbulent century and a dysfunctional relationship with her children. Hickey plays off her delightfully as the emotionally lost, rather spiky young ne’er do well, while a universally strong supporting cast make this all eminently watchable.

Whimsicality, a quality this play has in abundance, is often disappointing for its capacity to pull cheap tricks in gaining the attention and sympathy of an audience. But Ruohonen’s vision, as realised here by McLean, avoids all that, by a kind of intellectual rigour. Underneath this play, there are insistent questions about subjectivity, selfhood and the way in which these things relate to the society outside our psychologised


SUDDENLY LAST SUMMER Citizens’ Theatre, Glasgow, until Sat 22 Dec .0.

. "’3 Fleshy sensuality: Patti Clare

One of the first things we see in Philip Rrowse' production of Tennessee Williams n‘isanthropic class‘ic is a flesh—eatirg plant. But the consuming

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of flesh goes far beyond this. If you remember the cloying. sickly atmosphere of Joseph Mankiewitz's film. with Elizabeth Taylor's white swimsuit acting as a fleshy trap of its own. you'll have an idea of what to expect

Wheelchair bound Mrs Venables (Ellen Sheean) is embittered by the loss of her son in the eponymous season. and the warped old woman. whose motherly affections have an Oedipal edge. wants a form of closure. The only person who can give her this is Catharine (Patti Clare). her niece. and the companion of her son on the occasion of his death. This troubled young woman has been left scarred by these happenings. and has told tales of horror about them, leading to her incarceration in a local asylum by the powerful old lady.

Dr Cukrowicz (Aleksander Mikic). a dodgy middle-European psychiatrist offers a truth serum to resolve the tale. and a lobotomy on Catharine if Mrs

self that won’t, and shouldn’t, go away. (Steve Cramer)

Venables doesn't like what she hears. At a climactic. quite literally hothouse meeting. Catherine's rapacious. self- interested mother (Anne Myatt) and Brother (Carsten Hayes) arrive to persuade Catherine to alter a stOry that might leave them disinherited by the old girl. but she's doomed to tell a ghastly tale of the events of last summer.

Some of the unjust budgetiy restrictions facing the Citz are eVident in Prowse' design. and while not all of the performances are of equal quality. Clare's troubled. fleshily sensual young woman is compelling to watch. while Sheean makes a wonderful twisted old lady. using her electric wheelchair as an object of threat. There's something uncomfortable from start to finish about Williams' script. for the self- loathing that gay men of his era so frequently felt is so pervaswe. More for Williams devotees than the general theatregoer, but still watchable. if not perfect. (Steve Cramer)


A. Jr #2.. ‘33: Stage Whispers

The Talk Of The Greenfioorh

COMING BACK FROM THEATRE babel's superb production of Beauty And The Beast. Whispers had pause. amid the usual delays and expensive anarchy of our privatised train service. to reflect upon the quality of this company's work over the past few years. Recently, the adapter of this version of the classic children's stOry. Liz Lochhead. received the Saltire Award for her marvellous Scots adaptation of Medea. produced by the same company.

This was. I suppose. just another award for babel. Artistic director Graham McLaren has seen his company showered with them in recent times. Just before Lochhead's Saltire. Maureen Beattie won the Manchester Evening News best actress award fOr her performance in the title role. one of a number of accolades she has received. But it's not just Medea. Similar acclaim was heaped upon lain Heggie's The King Of Scot/and by the same company a year or so ago. another example of its first-class theatre practice.

You'd think the affable McLaren could afford to be blase. but no such luck. After its bizarre ornis5ion from the recent round of SAC funding. babel is On tenterhooks ab0ut haying any funding at all after its forthcoming Uncle Vanya. When yOLi look at this Situation as well as that of the Brunton company. which has performed beautifully. only to be ignOred by the SAC. y0u realise that the problem is a lack of priority assigned to the theatre.

Recent years. and Current events. demonstrate that the SAC and Scottish executive will fund. by pure knee ierk. mediocrity and open incompetence in Such areas as ballet and opera to tne tune of millions. Perhaps Our theatre companies Just aren't bad enough to receive this kind of largesse. Or perhaps bigotry toward elitism Will not OCCur in the theatre until our national theatre opens.

Theatre Babel’s Medea