THE BREATHING HOUSE Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh, until Sat 17 May 0000

Kenny Ireland‘s forthright comments (Glasgow) kissing the Scottish theatre goodbye, as reported in the last issue of The List, have been followed up by a display of his talent as sensitive in nuance and rambunctious in spirit as the man himself. Peter Arnott‘s new play looks closely at high Victorian history, not as it precisely happened, but as it has been conditioned to exist in our collective imagination, with touches of Jekyll and Hyde, Upstairs Downstairs and those Victorian murders that Orwell so lamented the decline of all thrown in. The result is a big, untidy, rather beautiful play which examines hegemony, creating a text with endless references to eyes and seeing, demonstrating that what we see quite clearly is not necessarily what we acknowledge, it it contradicts the ideological imperatives of our society.

In it, the Edinburgh photographer Cloon (Neil McKinven) buries his first wife and begins a slow movement towards a servant, Hannah (Kathryn Howden). which ends in a secret marriage. Paralleling this is the relationship, a rather more cynical affair on his part, of Gilbert (Forbes Masson) with his family maid Agnes (Cora Bisset). Gilbert's wife Elizabeth (Jennifer Black) acknowledges the affair behind closed doors, and has Gilbert dismiss the lovelorn creature without a character reference.

The dark, amoral Nietzschean drives of Gilbert are, at first, almost comically selfish, as he relocates Agnes to a frugal room in a den of vice in the Cowgate, where he can alternate nocturnal visits to her with sojourns in an opium den and brothel in the same squalid, poverty-ridden building. We all know what a small world Edinburgh is, so it seems little coincidence that Hannah’s unacknowledged daughter Sorrow (Kirsty Mackay) resides there, under the care of her sister Rachael


It won’t look like this

Mr Hyde loves the jobs you hate: Kathryn Howden and Neil McKinven

(Janette Foggo), a religious fanatic and homicidal baby farmer.

This‘ll give you an idea of the dark melodrama that ensues, and the vast, epic scope of a cast-of- 12, multi-charactered event. But there's a project within the subtext, whereby each character seeks both spiritual redemption and normalisation in a society whose utilitarian vision does not allow for both simultaneously. They seek this redemption through a variety of strategies, from science to religion to aesthetics, but each collides with class ideology at some point.

Calum Colvin’s design uses projection and video

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to great effect. sweeping from Victorian theatre scenes to William Morris wallpaper, to stills of Cloon‘s studies and onwards. The cast are universally strong with the central grouping of McKinven, Howden, Masson and Bisset all pulling magnificent performances out of their complex characters. Special mention, as well. might be made of Ronnie Simon‘s creepy gatekeeper to the eponymous den of iniquity. I suspect that a little cutting has already been applied to Arnott's strong and ambitious text, particularly at the Dickensian denouement, and maybe another ten minutes could be lost, but this is a grand night out. (Steve Cramer)

King‘s Theatre, Edinburgh. Tue 13—Sat 17 May


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HAML Macrobert Arts Centre, Stirling, Sat 10 May

We critics hate Harri/er. Well. not really Qtllle the opposite. But we've had to write a lot about it. to the pOint where there isn't much left to say. An enactment of surrogate Oedipa? resentments? A play about adolescence? A play abom the fear of madness? A man who COuldn’t make up his mind? I've heard em all and 50 others. so speak to the hand cos the lace ain‘t listening. All the Same. the text is open to many interpretations and can exhaust endless historical contexts and pertoritiance styles.

A relativer new way of approaching the piece is to do it Without words. Okay. yeti might miss the language. but

62 THE LIST 8—22 Man ;.‘.‘3

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going WllllOLll that little detail .n :ts work. Choreographer Kim Biandstrup is making hzs second 'lll(?"[)r(}l<'lll()ll (:f the ifay through contemporary dance after 1993's/ir7ft; Ht: LINKS through a fain:i a" aitgle this adaptaton. ()Xéll‘.l:.’ll"g the alienated lll(l!‘.’l(lllil| as melancholic ohserxer of the .'.:;r'id areund him. ll‘t‘Ol'lXHélllllg 1 l dancers from a. over the UK and a tried arr: tested learn of Craig G".(E"S as :tesigner. Tina McHugi dealing; with lighting and Iain Dea'de" as composer. the group Cox set to emulate past success. Influenced by contemporan. Cl"(3"lél as well as sue.h disparate elements as mythology and contemporam literature. this looks like a colourful and eclectic eeiitg Out. iSteve Crame'

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