POLITICAL COMEDY GAGARIN WAY
Adam Smith Theatre, Kirkcaldy, Tue 10—Sat 14 Sep,
Ranting, ribald and important theatre
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involve a security guard and failed student in their
enterprise might turn out to be the most important play
you see in the near future. The massive Fringe hit of last year’s Traverse Theatre programme is returning, having
The other day, a friend of mine returned from a visual art conference and exhibition in Germany, and reported her unease at the amount of political work going on. Complaining that half the work was about Palestine and the rest about various issues of world and German politics, she radiated boredom. The speaker was Australian, but she might easily have been British or from such parts of the white commonwealth as New Zealand or Canada.
In these few places, we are in the habit of looking down the wrong end of the telescope and declaring the rest of the world provincial and ourselves cutting edge. At the end of a long Edinburgh festival, a busy theatregoer could have seen genuinely radical political work from places as diverse as Brazil, India and the US to cite but three, but only a tepid, self-consciously postmodern and apolitical response or, at best, single- issue work from Britain.
This is why Gregory Burke’s ranting, ribald and very funny play about a farcical attempt to kidnap a business executive by two dubious radicals, who accidentally
disproved a truism of the British theatre: that people don’t want to see political work here. After a long West End run, the play has engaged people with its disaffected discourse about the inadequacy of accepted forms of politics to alter the nihilistic course of our culture.
John Tiffany’s production of Burke’s text was, last year, flawless in its timing and vision, and this ultimately violent and rather shocking piece contains disquieting messages for both right and left. I can’t say I was entirely convinced by its seeming endorsement of a kind of simplistic, radical, political apathy, nor by the element of a single voice under the four characters, but don’t, please, take my word for it.
Burke’s anarchic gifts are formidable, and the play has done something toward the shattering of the narrow provincialism of British theatre, which makes it a must- see, or even a must-see-again. Agreeing or disagreeing with Burke is not the point - this piece is funny and genuinely engaging, and contains a bigger vision which we need to see more of in Britain. (Steve Cramer)
PLAYBOY OF THE WESTERN WORLD Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh, Sat 7—Sat 28 Sep
58 THE LIST 7; ".5 80:. 2’35?
lel Synge's classic tragr-comedy has been endlessly produced. but the perception of it over the last few decades has been rather more benign than it was in its own time. These days were exposed to productions that rnrght have been mounted by the Irish Tourist Board, With the emphasis on the charm of the characters. and the beauty of the Irish tongue. In its own time. early last century. the language used by the characters was seen as common and inappropriate to the theatre. causing one of the great theatre riots at the Abbey theatre. Tony Cownie. who Will be directing this production at the Lyceum. is keen to emphasise that said language is still the key to the text. ‘The quality of this play is that it gives ordinary people a poetic vorce.‘ he says. ‘These are really down to earth people. but out of their mouths comes this beautiful. lyrical, language. The problem is that the play is also very physical. and it’s
important to get the language to sing out without the play losing its energy. That sort of problem becomes an active advantage in the theatre.‘
The stery of the youth Christy lvlahon. who arrives in a remote county Mayo village with tales of the murder of his father, thereby giving himself local celebrity status and fostering a romance With the local innkeeper's daughter. Pegeen, has. Cownie maintains. a dark side that he wishes to bring out. ‘lt's actually a black comedy. and the comedy comes 0th in some pretty horrible situations.' he says. ‘You can't forget that these people lived in great poverty; they were t0ugh people because they had to be. They could be exposed to famine as well as great suffering. and they lacked real heroes. That's why Christy is an anti hero. because there were no heroes in the Ireland Synge saw.‘
Tough stuff. but funny. (Steve Crameri
Re: _treading the boards
After another Edinburgh International Festival, the talk of the town in theatre bars and foyers has been a conversation that has become increasmgly familiar, and Whispers feels moved. after a number of chats Over the festival. to comment. This year's Festival presented its usual Scottish flagship show. and the play received what has become an almost ritualised mauling from the critics. particularly English ones.
Grid lron‘s Variety was. admittedly. something of a disappointment. given the high standards set by the company and writer Douglas Maxwell. but it was hardly bad enough for the kind of mugging it received at the hands of several south-of-the- border critics. Maxwell and director Ben Harrison. in partiCuIar. were kicked around wrth merriment by a number of Critics.
You might dismiss this. but for the fact that this has become an established pattern. Such past examples as David Greig's The Speca/ator and the Royal Lyceum's production of Tom Murphy's Too Late for Logic come readily to mind as pieces that equally created a north south drvrde. Some Of the critics concerned are formidable and deservedly respected minds wrthin theatre JOurnalrsm. but yOu can't help but feel that certain Critics have come to believe that the Scottish production at the theatre festival is a necessary wt to be gotten Out of the way so that foreign goodies can be seen.
But this masks a deeper issue. It's been remarked to Whispers by several prominent Scottish theatre figures that the problem for Scottish companies is the tendencv of the Festival to commissmn world premieres for Scotland. while visiting shows tend. on the whole. to be tried and tested hits from their own countries. This seems an unfair advantage. particularly given that Maxwell's and Greig's plays both suffered from teething problems. Unquestronably there were better shows waiting to get Out of these plays. Perhaps a proven hit might be considered for the Festival's international audience in future? Just a thought.