Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, until Sat 30 Mar, then touring .000
NEW PLAY HELMET
Feeling like a machine? Me too, and no wonder. Reification - defined as the process by which we are mechanised, turned into emotionless machines by our social environment - is something that has preoccupied western art for over a century. Plays such as Mrs Warren’s Profession, movies such as Modern Times and novels such as The Mayor Of Casterbridge all addressed the issue around the turn of the last century, but each focused mainly on the workplace as a source of anxiety. But these days, even the world of play and the imagination is
This is the dilemma of the title character of Douglas Maxwell’s new play. Roddy (Tommy Mullins) as he is more properly known, is the bane of the life of Sal (Ameet Ghana) a failing small business owner, enduring the last trading day of his computer games shop The Zone, whose near empty shelves sit in judgement of his failure. Within Neil Warmington’s vast, intriguing, computer game picture box frame, complete with energy boosts, lives and bonus points in the
shape of hearts, the two play out a virtual reality life together. The play explores the dilemmas of
Sal, put upon by wife and family, with a failed stand-up career behind him, and a jealous, losing emotional battle with his more successful wee brother in front. It also examines the imaginative and social vacuum that is Helmet, an alienated boy with no sense of causality beyond the immediate gratification of his electronic addiction, whose tragic past is gradually unfolded.
CONTEMPORARY PLAY LACHLAN’S CHOICE HOTEL
Brunton Theatre, Musselburgh, until Sat 30 Mar, then touring 00.
So the splendid Brunton Theatre has been closed by an appalling gesture of contempt from its possible funders. the East Lothian Council and the SAC. The moronic utilitarianism of the former and inability to recognise good rep theatre of the latter will sadly deplete the quality of life of the peOple of East Lothian
The swan song of the Brunton tells the story of Tommy (Allan Sharpe) an ex- Govan shipyard shop steward. who's liVing out his years in exile as a bar manager in a west highlands hotel. The appearance of a rival multinational hotel across the road augurs ill for the establishment of the title. So too does the appearance of Ros (Jenny Ryan) an executive
60 THE LIST 28 Mar—1 ‘. Apr 200?
aparatchik who arrives to revive the ailing business with strong arm management methods.
Things look bleak for Tommy. his innocently mischievous assistant Kenny (Jordan Young). the domestically troubled chambermaid (Estrid Barton), her ne'er do well son (Nicol Hay) and the hotel's obnoxious cockney chef (Ricky Callan). Then plans are hatched about bottled spring water. local tartan terrorists and an implausible intercession which brings Scotland into the upcoming World Cup.
David Mark Thomson's production of Simon Little's play runs like an old fashioned. cosily familiar sitcom. with thematic concerns about Scotland's national identity. particularly the ability of Scots to masochistically enjoy martyrdom in footie. war and industrial relations. The characters are a cuddly sort of bunch. well conveyed by a good cast. with particularly funny and self-aware performances from Jordan YOung as the cheeky wee shite of a porter and Ricky Callan's irritating pommy bastard cook.
But the production has some langu0rous moments late on and turns upon an outrageously unlikely thirteenth stroke of the clock at its denouement. All the same. a cheery and enjoyable night overall. (Steve Cramer)
Maxwell’s comedy is chipper in attitude and brief in the telling. If the piece is ultimately a little slighter than the weighty social themes it alludes to, no matter, for the play pretends to be nothing it isn’t. Maxwell’s ability to draw us into his characters’ emotional selves, switching from comedy to a sudden surge of pathos has already been seen in Our Bad Magnet and Decky Does A
Bronco, and is once again in evidence here. So too, his recurrent concern with youth and the corruption of innocenceand his interest in males; we’ve yet to see a female character in a full scale production. John Tiffany’s production looks good and draws strong performances from its actors. It’s not big and it is clever.
CLASSIC MEASURE FOR MEASURE Dundee Rep, until Sat 30 Mar .0
Shakespeare's dark comedy is a play about dualities. Defining the all- important difference between ethics and morals. it examines the public and private self. Given its stark examination of power as well as conscience. you might see it as either a deeply emotional examination of character or a detached illustration of the politics of sexual and social being. The problem With Hamish Glen's production fOr Dundee Rep is that it falls squarely between the st00ls of these posSible readings. and we‘re unable to engage fully with either characters or issues.
In it. stand-in city governor Angelo (John Ramage) blackmails the nun Isabella (Emily Winter) for sexual favours. At stake is the life of Claudio (Keith Fleming) whose crime is the impregnation of a girl he intends to marry. Meanwhile. the Duke (Sandy Neilson) the true ruler of the city. wanders the place disguised as a mOnk. and hears no good of himself from local ducker and diver LUCIO (Alexander West). Will the Duke put things right? Of course he Will. Well, up to a point . . .
The intermingling of a succession of big-scale street scenes. added by local writers Ron Whyte and Peter Arnott and played by the community company. bring contemporary Dundonian patois to Gregow Smith's sleazy modern city set. But whether these sequences serve to clog up the action in an unusually tightly constructed Shakespeare. focusing really on only a few Characters. is a moot pomt.
Ramage's morally bankrupt wowser is strong. while there are some fine touches in Alexander West's performance as the Wise-arse survivor whose slanderOus tongue eventually brings him misery. But not all the performances are of this standard and the text‘s dense language is not always realised. Even the nOrmally splendid Winter seems at sea with her central role. The general impreSSion frOm this normally high quality company is that another week's rehearsal and a little more reflection is needed. (Steve Cramer)