PLAYBOY OF THE WESTERN WORLD Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh, until Sat 28 Sep 0...

Britain’s love for the Irish, provided they keep to stereotype, is legendary. So it is that Synge’s classic has been standard repertory stock for nearly a century. With it, you can show everyone’s favourite notion of the ignorant but loveable lrish peasantry. If you play up the farce of the play’s central erotic tensions, you allow the audience to be as seduced as the characters by Synge’s casual, beautiful poetry of the everyday.

Happily, Tony Cownie’s production avoids these cliches to shed new light on the play. For this it must be admired, but the rediscovery comes at a cost.

Playboy brings the young hobbledehoy Christie Mahon (Patrick Moy) to an obscure Mayo village, fearing he’s killed his dad with a blow to the head from an agricultural implement. He meets the innkeeper’s daughter Pegeen (Meg Fraser) and impresses her with his poetic turns, becoming a local celebrity for his violent past. Pegeen fends off the scheming Widow Quin (Carol Ann Crawford, who, along with the other local lassies, has designs on Christie), dumps her chicken hearted beau Shawn (Stephen McNicoll) and convinces her dad (Gareth Thomas) to allow her marriage. Then Old Mahon (Mark McDonnell), injured, but still quite vital, appears, swearing vengeance on Christie, and all the trouble starts.

The downside of Cownie’s meticulously observed evening on Geoff Rose’s colourful,

Ronnie Simon, Matt Costello and Meg Fraser: fine performances, but an outdated classic?

authentic set is more to do with the play than the production. Played much straighter, you realise that this classic, for all it touches on gender politics and the psychological aesthetics of violence, doesn’t quite speak to a contemporary audience. Stripped of its farcical elements, some scenes are too downbeat to engage. So too, the love affair at the centre feels a little passionless. All the same, there’s no shortage of entertainment from the performers, who are universally strong. Fraser moves the register of her voice from low droning to piercing shriek,

adding a shrewish touch to her character, which both engages and appals by equal measure. McDonnell’s Old Mahon is an absolute treat, bringing a dark and brooding humour to the old psycho, and making the character fascinatingly ambiguous. So, too, Crawford brings some lovely subtle touches to her normally rather simply played character, adding humanity to her ruthlessness and exposing the causalities of why a woman should behave as she does. It’s a good night out, but don’t expect the easy viewing we’ve come to associate with the play. (Steve Cramer)


Cottier Theatre, Glasgow, until Sat 21 Sep, then touring. COO

lhink back to the films of Alfred l-litchcock. to the depictions of a world where psychosexual tensions bred a McCarthyite paranoia in people. .Just ‘."lf;ll{lilf;(} lippi Hedi‘en mopping a dream

tenement stair from a rusty pail.

‘.'/l‘i|e .Jaines Stex'rart stands ‘.'.'atching. 'You could bleed to death on this stair. and all they'd do is tell you to clean it up.' he remarks. cli;ii'acteristically dryly.

Echoes of this world resound throughout Hona Munro‘s tale of social and sexual relationships. focusing on five characters; who share a stair. but little else. The tensions bets/eei‘. them are. at first. what you might reasonably expect: old Mrs Mackie lDOlHiff} Murrayi is kept awake by dodgy dealing Bobby

iJames Sutherlandi. Lisa and Brian iRosalind Sydney and Duncan R Edwards) are experiencing marital stresses. whilst Kay (Harriet l-lunteri struggles as a single mum. But then things take a more sinister turn when Lisa witnesses a murder. which may or may not be a paranoid delusion.

The problem of grouping four flats and a shared tenement stair into a single performance space is managed With gentle nods towards the Escher school of architecture by designer Lyn McAndrew. but Michael Emans' direction of Munro's emulation of Hitch's style is more troublesome. the S\."\.’ll(lil(}f3 from humour to tension feeling extremely uncoiiifortable. at least with this cast of actors. A cautionary tale to be taken seriously. this production at times falls prey to cliche and hysteria. but beats a boring Neighbourhood Watch meeting any night. (Gareth Daviesi

Hitch and sink drama

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King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, until 21 Sep and touring 0.00

To hear the reaction to Gregory Burke's debut when it opened last year on Edinburgh's Fringe. you'd think it was the best play since King (ear. Even given the hot house conditions of festival hyperbole. this one was acclaimed far in excess of what it or any other play could possibly merit.

That can't be healthy for a first time writer. though in the short term. Burke and the Traverse Theatre have nothing to complain about: Gaga/in Way is now enjoying a major Scottish tour. having completed a London run and With New York in its sights. Yes. it's a And the best of luck to them. Good, but not that good Gaga/7n Way is a good play. You might even argue it's an exceptional debut. You should certainly see it. not least in John Tiffany's recast production which. away from Edinburgh's hysteria (audience or production. l'rn not sure). has become more measured. more clearly laid out. more evenly paced. It's very funny. uncommonly thoughtful and not a little tense.

So yes. it's good. but it's not that good and for two reasons. The first is theatrical. Set in a Dunfermline warehouse. it concerns two disillusioned workers who kidnap a senior manager and. inadvertently. a young security guard. It is a conventional heist play in which the drama is created less through the characters actions than through the fact of one of them haying a gun.

In itself that's not a bad thing DaVId Mark Thompson's A Madman Sings to the Moon pulled off the same trick brilliantly at the Brunton a few years ago —» but it does mean that Gaga/tn Way would seem flat and static if it wasn't for the (lax/le and wit of Burke's dialogue.

The second reason is political. In his portrayal of a post-ideological society. Burke has hit on a vital contemporary theme. His characters know about the old power structures and their iniguities. and don't have any coherent alternative. But by dismissing first the benign capitalist. then the mix—andmatch liberal. then the old~school socialist. Burke leaves us with the nihilist. And. topical though that may be. it's impossible to love a play that offers us orin despair. (Mark Fisher)