ONE HELLUVA LIFE King’s Theatre, Glasgow, Mon 27 Jan-Sat 1 Feb; King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, Mon 3-Sat 8 Feb
Barrymore. Keep it clean - I’ve heard all the jokes. Still, there does seem to be something about the name. Even when Conan Doyle invented a butler of that ilk in The Hound of the Baskervilles, he turned out to be a bit of a keyhole peeper. But of all the sins associated with the name, that of John Barrymore - Hollywood matinee idol turned impoverished Shakespearean actor late in life - is the least blameworthy. Being a drunken, philandering waster isn’t exactly loveable, but he undoubtedly did it with a certain charm.
‘Whatever his vices, he was always sought after at dinner parties; he was very funny and popular,’ says Tom Conti, a favourite son making a third return to Scotland with a new play in as many years. The story of this UK premier, which scored Christopher Plummer a Toni on Broadway for his funny and very warm performance in the mid 90$, catches Barrymore struggling, late in life, with a performance of Richard III, relying upon the only other character, a prompt, to pull him through. As time moves on, we hear the tale of the eponymous times.
‘He’d been a really big ﬁlm star until his 405, and had this amazing constitution, where he’d put away huge amounts of alcohol,’ says Conti. ‘Suddenly, he wasn’t as good looking as he used to be, and so the offers of work started to dry up, but he carried on living at the rate he was used to, which lead to money problems. But when he turned to Shakespeare, he proved to be very good at it. Olivier saw his Hamlet, and was bowled oven’
By the time we meet the character, he’s struggling to remember his lines. Does Conti empathise? ‘Well, part
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Tom Conti: Barrymore’s kinda people
of it was just laziness, but he’d reached a certain age which I’m at now, where it gets harder to learn. On the other hand, anyone can dry. I ﬁrst did it at the Traverse 30 years ago, doing a play by GP Taylor called The Black and White Minstrel Show. The lines were quite complex to deliver, and it was second night syndrome. We’d all done well on the ﬁrst night, and had got too conﬁdent. Suddenly one of us dried, then we all did. I did what old actors tell you to do, just make a noise and it’ll come. “Ah well,” I went, but it didn’t come. It seemed a very long time before one of the four actors, Patti Love, came up with a line, then we all got back to it. And no one sent a letter to Westminster saying: “Ban this man.” You don’t die.’
And will it happen on the second night at the King’s? Not likely. (Steve Cramer)
Re: treading the boards
AS THE THEATRE
year begins to take off, Whispers is inclined mention a few theatre highlights to add to the theatre treats discussed in our preview section. At GilmorehillG12. there'll be a performance of Paul Foster's Tom Paine, which is of interest not only to all those interested in an alternative and more radical history associated with the great British-born American revolutionary. but also those who love to see a fine. seldom- performed writer on our stages. Much performed at the Traverse in the 603 and 70s. Foster's work is seldom seen these days. a tragedy. for it represents a fascinating exploration of the relationship between audience and performer.
IT’S ALSO WELL
worth looking out for Horse Country, 3 Fringe First winner, if you didn’t see it a few months back. CJ Hopkins’ play is a panorama of modern American life, told through the conversation of two disaffected travelling salesmen. Roving from the ills of contemporary consumerism to far more existential issues, the piece is performed by its original cast, part of the Americana Absurdum group, and represents a highpoint of contemporary American theatre.
LESS CONVENTIONALLY structured work is available at the Tron. where avant garde performer Ken Davidson presents a kind of alternative
Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh, until Sat 8 Feb 00”
i Maggie Stiff: Siobhan Redmond is 3 mannered but effective
56 THE LIST 16—30 Jan 2003
DRAMA THE PRIME OF MISS JEAN BRODIE
When I taught at Edinburgh University. it was a source of irritation and embarrassment to me that guidelines dictated that my office door should be at least partially open while in individual consultations with students. There. for the sake of problems with academic progress. the poor things would be forced to announce such life-disrupting issues as personal illness, family crisis and pregnancy within earshot of anyone who happened to be passing my door. When I see this adaptation of Muriel Spark's novel, I remember why the guidelines are there. But the miracle of both novel and Jay Presson Allan's adaptation is that a teacher who might be regarded as monstrously manipulative and unfit for her post in life is fraught with a strange. sympathetic ambivalence in art.
Muriel Romanes' production becomes increasingly engaging as it progresses. with Siobhan Redmond's Brodie causing us to feel sudden, unexpected lights of sympathy for her power-abusing, self-indulgent fascist. The stOry of the 19303 Edinburgh schoolteacher's spinsterish transference of her life and opinions
upon four impressionable girls. and her on/off relationships with her school's creepy but passionate art master (Kevin McMonagle) and churchy, rather sheltered music teacher (Peter Kelly) is well known enough. Her eventual downfall at the hands of her chief protege (Claire Yuille) and her straightlaced headmistress (Alexandra Mathie) comes with a surprising sense of the tragic, testament to a strong production.
Bunny Christie‘s set. a long. grey school corridor with its endless doors emphasising both choice and oppressive conformity — another ambivalence — is beautifully lit by Chris Davey. Redmond's performance is generally powerful. though a little mannered in places while, among the students, Yuille's ultimately treacherous Sandy and Susan Coyle's precocious Jenny are exceptional.
Some nice set pieces with a large youth company sets the night off nicely. Among the chinking teacups of the Edinburgh bourgeoisie. there still lurks a capacity for emotional violence. so you might want to see this one just to remind you of how badly folk can behave. (Steve Cramer)
variety Show, Kabaret Uh Huh. Incorporating a wide spectrum of performance, from recitation to song to sketch, we can expect all kinds of theatrical jiggery pokery from this event. which will be repeated three times over the next couple of months. Details of all these Shows can be found in our listings.
Choc tucker: Kabenet Uh Huh