Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, until Sat 18 May 0....

Good art helps us to understand both the individual and the context that shapes the individual. It is about people and the place where they live. The reason that Kenny Ireland’s production of Howard Barker’s dark, very funny, historical metaphor of our times is so powerful is that he shows an understanding of this simple notion. Victory is in no way doctrinaire or didactic; at last, here is a play that is about something.

Kathryn Howden is a woman put upon by the collapse of a former order, one upheld by her dead husband, whose support of the English commonwealth has led to the dissection of his body by the restored forces of King Charles II. In a society, very like our own, where it is easier to profess belief in nothing than in something, she rejects all ideologies, but still sets about recovering the far-flung pieces of her husband’s body as an act of faith.

She’s plagued by the Cavalier, Ball (Gilly Gilchrist), whose long exile after the civil war has lead to a delusionary feeling of power. His menacing frightened ever-impoverished peasants, to the king language is interpreted with real humour by the behaviour cannot be tolerated for long, though, and himself (Bob Barrett), an extravagantly corrupt cast, and there’s a clever, durable design by Hayden his movement by the authorities into the realm of monument to his culture. Even poetry, which we Griffin. forgotten outsider is inevitable. Meanwhile, he see in the form of the broken shell of Milton At the still centre of it all is Howden, who paces manifests a bewildering desire for Howden as the (Crawford Logan) becomes just a means to an end, her performance perfectly, making sense of her forbidden fruit of the old order. a leg-opener for randy Cavaliers. character with a cool understanding of a difficult

Having ensured the safe invisibility of her children Ireland lends a superb symbolic articulacy to role. Gilchrist, whose disillusionment with the old (John Kielty and Helen Lomax) she embarks upon Barker’s text, a complex and genuinely challenging order creeps on apace, is also compelling to watch. her search accompanied by a weak and frightened piece of epic satire. It is at times reminiscent of In fact the whole cast is pretty well flawless. This puritan, Scrope (Luke Shaw). On her way she Bond, another dramatist rarely seen because he’s play represents a reminder that to live is not simply encounters an epic panoply of her society, from regarded as ‘difficult’, for which you might read ‘not to eat, sleep and fuck. Be challenged, don’t piss decadent aristocrats, to ruthless bankers, to bland enough’. Barker’s mad, earthy, poetic about and make no excuses: see it. (Steve Cramer)

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No costume drama, but a complex and genuinely challenging piece of epic satire



The Arches, Glasgow, until Sat 11 May 0...

Not just a shaggy dog tale

It's probably a tenuous link. but if anything connects the double bill of American drama at the Arches. it's the idea of who owns art. and the many reasons. not all of thorn pure. that we have for desiring ownership. Not that they really need a link; they're a tremendous lot of fun.

John Patrick Shanley's For/r Dogs And A Bone is a satire of the rnovre industny. in which each of the four mongrels of the title get red in tooth and claw in ll'ylllg to stake a controlling claim to a ll‘OUlLllTl budget fllll‘ they're making. Brenda (Selina Boyacki is a young actress making outrageous claims about prominent movre connections. karmic chanting and a history of

abuse to advance her claim for a bigger part. Bradley iGrant Siiieatoiil is a producer wrth problems with money. a director and a sore on his arse. Collette llvlorag Stark) is a ruthless. straight talking off Broadv-ray actress who'll stop at nothing to make this her last film before the big time and Victor (Vincent Frielli is the script writer. for whom stepping out wrth Brenda is the least of his probieri‘s. The tussle ends in farcical. despairing indignity.

Tennessee Williams' Lord Byron's Love Letter is a brief curiosny piece which shows the visit of a bourgeois couple to the home of a pair of southern aristocrats who've fallen on hard times. Jill Riddiford and Sean Hay j()lll Stark and Boyack from the former piece as performers. and Sarah Paulley's atmospheric set iS beautifully lit by Bob Pringle. They desperately display the misswe of the title for pennies. and this odd. funny little piece ends in revelation.

Director Andy Arnold uses pace and clever obsemation to fuel the humour of this consistently entertaining evening of theatre. Though Shanley's piece is not especially deep. it's as black and bitter as toasted rye. Good performances all round in a night in which llll‘lllt) is of the essence. but Boyack and Stark are particularly strong as the two cat-fighting wannabe l‘.‘()‘.’l(} queens. Strongly recomntended. (Steve Ci'aiizerl

SUBURBAN SAT‘IRE; GREEN FIELD Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, until Sat 18 May 0000

The neurosis and disai)pointment under the surface of those perfect We: 'l‘t? get yOu a coaster for that' suburban houses is by now as well (i()(:tl'll()l‘.l(3(l ll‘ theatre as in life. We've all been to such rooms full of carefully caught regrets. where our smiles fall heavily among the bric a brac. so there's no reascn‘. shouldn't revrsit this in a theatrical territory already explored by ‘.'."'li{}.’f; like i <5)". Ayckbourn and Betts. It isn't really new. but it doesn't have to be.

Riccardo Galgani's play sees Jo iSharon Small). £1‘.'.’()ll‘i£lll retaining a desperate facade of normality through house pride and a glory box full of mementoes of a past. lost life. greets Bob (James Cunnirigl perfectly maintained green belt show home. Her friend and have absconded at the front door. never to reappear.

Bob. a relaxet . indeed well-nigh comatose. van driver flier: meets Bali l '.'.(‘:." Stewart). Jo's husband. a rudely assertive self made man who clearly il:3l‘.rl >:; his creator. Add to this the nouveau riche and rough as a badger couple lMolly Innesl and Chris (Paul Thomas Hickey) and you've got the formula for the exploration of suburban exrstential angst which ensues. A dead child is the focal point for conflict.

Director Roxana Silbert shows sensitivity to the emotional nuances of the characters. but Galgani's script is vound up a little too tight early on to find a place for his characters to go. and there seem to be some flaws in its verisimilitude and logic.

All the same. a good cast make it work well. and l l/ Cooke's fascinating design. which presents three perfectly believable rooms full of perntless affluence intrigues throughout. Sharon Srnall's performance creates a cyclonic intensity by degrees. clrrnaxrng in Virtual breakdown late on. So too. the comic by»play between lnnes and Hickey rnaxrmrses the satirical potential of the script. It's not a perfect night out. but there are some grand moments late on.

(Steve Cramen

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Vivid suburban existential angst

:' .‘ .. THE LIST 65