Royal Lyceum Theatre. Edinburgh, Wed 22—Sat 25 May, thentounng
‘I was staying in India, sharing a hotel with some Russian arms dealers.’ theatre babel’s artistic director Graham McLaren has got me hooked. How about you? ‘It was a bizarre, surreal experience,’ he adds, perhaps gratuitously. ‘They were there to sell nuclear submarine warheads to India. Late at night when all the other guests had gone to bed, there was just the Jocks and the Russians, singing songs, greitin’ over whisky and vodka and getting morose. We came to life at four in the morning as a people, with rather gin-soaked apathetic, self-loathing philosophies. These are the elements I looked for in a Scottish production. I think we’re more like the Russians than English people are.’
This latest project in babel’s ongoing commitment to bringing world classics to Scottish audiences is a version of Chekhov’s tragi-comedy, rendered Scottish by poet Tom Leonard. ‘He’s never worked in the theatre before, although he’s been asked, but the right project hasn’t come up for him, so I was delighted to bag him. It’s very poetic, and I’m really happy with it.’
A GOOD NIGHT OUT Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh, Sun 19 May
Outside of this country. only one name in Scottish theatre is pretty well universally known. The work of John
Gin-soaked and bleak: another Chekhov comedy then
In Chekhov’s story, Vanya is the estate manager of a property inherited by Professor Serebyakov, a man he has scrimped and saved for, in order to support the old boy’s academic career. But Vanya falls in love with the professor’s young wife Yelena. Beyond that, there’s the usual collection of folk tragically smitten with the wrong people. It might sound the same old, same old in a year full of Chekhovs, but we never tire of stories of love for the wrong person, because most of us have been there.
Behind most of Chekhov’s plays is the idea of what we do to seek redemption. ‘The path to salvation is work for some characters, and that is something that runs through this play,’ says McLaren. ‘But there’s a kind of bleak, middle distance resignation about the play. There’s this recurrent idea in Chekhov’s characters about what people in a hundred years time will make of us, but the sad fact is, we basically haven’t changed much over the century. I think there are two great parallels to Chekhov in the 20th century. One is Beckett and the other is Sartre.’
I’m surprised by the latter comparison, and pursue it. ‘Well, if ever there was a play where hell is other people, other than in In Camera, it’s this one,’ he says. I take the point. (Steve Cramer)
but solemn. ‘What's been interesting about putting the material together is the
S ge Whispers
Re: Treading The Boards
WHISPERS WISHES THEATRE Rubato. a yOung group of RSAMD graduates. luck with their production of Quest. The show emerges from a succession of werkshops With young people of school age aCross Scotland. and incorporates the work of sculptor Michelle Corney and percussionist lina Clark. The dewsed piece intends to address the identity and perception of young women in Scotland. and can be seen at Giliiiorehill Theatre on 10 and t 1 May. and Eastwood theatre on 17 May.
AT DUNDEE REP, YOU CAN see Marcella Evaristi’s Nightflights, a musical fantasy exploring desire, dreams and the unconscious. The play shifts through many lives, with a fairytale element involving dancing princesses and forbidding kings. It also touches on more earthy subjects, such as soldiers and men in pursuit of missing wives, and the whole thing is accompanied by a live musical score. It runs from 13 to 25 May.
ANOTHER PIECE TO LOOK forward to is Festus by Grindlay Court Theatre. which also contains an element of fantasy. A collaboration between the mixed ability company and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. with help from the Traverse. Tramway and Project Ability. this is the tale of a group of chefs lost in a strange land. lncori-)orating dance and live music. the piece has a strong mythic subtext. You can see it at Tramway on t t and 12 May. and later at the Traverse on 23 and 94 May.
McGrath. founder of 7:8/1 Scotland. was much admired as far afield as Australia. where I was a young theatre practitioner in the 80s. His book. A Good Night Out challenged precoiiceptions about the theatre as an ( ssified bourgeois art form. and his writing continues to do so. Now if that sounds academic. the work itself is anything but.
This retrospective of McGrath's work Will show all the (li\./ei'sity. affiintative power and humour of his unigue and iconoclastic theatre. film and television. Si'ice his death in January his Widow Eli/abeth MacLennan. a much respected actor and writer in hei own right. has been ‘x/orking ‘.Vlilt her brother DaVid. of Wildcat lame. and daughter Kate. a writer on HR) Scots/nan. to produce a celebration of his woik which. in
The late great John McGrath keeping With its tone, ‘.Vl” be anything
64 THE LIST '9 i'x'ia, 1’
extraordinary range of i)reoccui)ations, and styles and ways of coinmunicating With people,' Elizabeth MacLennan says. “We've got stuff from the first 728/1 show in 1971. right through to recent work.'
The show Will also incorporate sections of McGrath's film and theatre work. and boasts an auspicious cast of participants which it's hard to imagine any other occasion bringing together. Among the readers and performers Will be Jonathan Pryce. Bill Paterson. Sylvester McCoy. Alex Norton and Catherine Ann MacPhee. all participating in a night of song and performance which \Vl“ be capped With a ceilidh in true 7:84 style. All proceeds from the evening \‘Vlll go to leukaemia research in Scotland. so you can have a grand time for a good cause. iSteve Cramerl
Hit or myth?