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Anything up to a third of a million people will see MISS SAIGON in Edinburgh. We flew to Dublin to see what the fuss was about. Words: Mark Fisher

few weeks ago in Dublin. the touring

production of Miss Saigon ran into a spot of

bother. A pin had been wrongly positioned. causing a cable to snap and making the highly technical show unstagable. The replacement cable could be found only in the [K They cancelled a matinee but. in true sltowbi/ form. impresario ('ameron Mackintosh insisted that the evening performance had to go on. So. instead of sharing the stage with helicopters. limos. neon signs. 375 costumes and a l8()kg statue of Ho (‘hi .\linh. the 4—1-strong cast and l‘) orchestra members went ahead with an improvised concert performance of the Vietnam musical. When I meet a handful of the lead actors in a Dublin hotel some time later. they‘re still feeling the

shock waves. They look back on it with a mixture of

fear and exhilaration. When you're Used to operating on this kind of scale. to perform without all the paraphernalia is like going on stage naked.

Nicky Adams is kicking herself. She plays lillen.


‘We cry every night - you cannot be half- hearted’

the wife of an American (‘11 with a Vietnamese girlfriend in his closet. and on the night of the technical mishap she was on holiday. She says she‘d have loved the challenge and the fresh perspective that the alternative show would have brought.

Leo Valdez was there. though. and is less sure. liamed as a ballad singer in his native Philippines. he plays the lingineer. the fixer who brings locals and visiting troops together. ‘I’m glad we did it. but it's something I’d rather forget.’ he says. looking like a more attractive lilton John. in his yellow tinted shades. sparkly earrings and designer outfit. ‘It went really well and yes. it changed the next night.‘

It‘s interesting because spontaneity and mega-musicals are not natural bedfellows. With that many people on stage and a team of 40 behind the scenes. there's no room for the unexpected. And any good impresario would want to know that his Miss Saigon in lidinburgh was the same as his .Wis‘s‘ Saigon in New York or Sydney or Berlin. But if the actors have been called on to be automatons. they don‘t make it seem so: indeed. they are refreshingly passionate about their roles. ‘\\'e cry every night.’ says Adams. unabashed. ‘You cannot be half-hearted. [ nearly lost it one night: we’d been talking about emotions before the show and I didn‘t let it go.'

At that night's performance she is emotional but. of course. under control. When we go out to dinner later that night. she checks to make sure I saw her cry. She is endearineg committed to the show and I haven‘t the heart to tell her she‘d been in shadow and it made no difference. She and her fellow performers are a happy bunch working animatedly towards the standing ovation that greets them every night and their enthusiasm is understandable.

What is harder to understand is why audiences go for the show in such a big way. ()f it's type. it‘s a decent enough production: the singing is good. the visuals keep moving and it always suggests that it's about to say something portentous about liast—West relationships (it doesn‘t). It's also more artistically successful than the bewildering Les .l/Iiscrubles by the same writers. Alain Boubil and Claude-Michel Schonberg. It is. though. as self-important and humourless as that show. susceptible to trite lyrics and plotted in such a way that does nothing to earn the emotional reaction it seeks from the audience. Do they love it for the spectacle and grandeur"?

I don‘t know. but with 28 million having seen it worldwide and another third of a million expected to see it in lidinburgh. l have to admit that my scepticism puts me in a minority.

’Nam bread maker

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WHISPERS NOTES WITH sadness the mutually agreed resignation of Gordon Laird as artistic director of 7:84. Citing prolonged ill heath as the reason for the separation, 7:84 has announced that a new appointment will be made in November 2002. We wish the company well, particularly for a collaborative project with political comedian Mark Thomas planned for summer 2003. Political theatre is desperately underrepresented in Scotland, and even 7:84 has, over the last year or two, tended to drift away from direct political commentary, through no fault, I might add, of any individual. The Thomas project seems to promise a return to the kind of vital social commentary that we’ve come to expect from the company. Its current tour, Factory Girls, is previewed on p67.

I)". .‘ I ." THE LIST 65