Citizens‘ Theatre, Glasgow, until Sat 15 Nov 0...
The trick that Noel Coward pulls off with his characters is not dissimilar to that of his predecessor in comedy of manners, Oscar Wilde. Both have a talent for imbuing selfish and unlikable folk with real charm. Elyot and Amanda, perhaps his two most memorable characters, are pusillanimous, self- absorbed and spiteful, and if we met such folk in real life, we might have every reason to dislike them. But given the Coward treatment, we find ourselves cheering them on to further appaling conduct.
In case you’re not familiar with the story, we meet Elyot (Philip Bretherton) on honeymoon in France with his much younger, and rather flakey second wife Sybil (Candida Benson). Former wife Amanda (Selina Boyack) has, by gothic mischance, arrived with her stolid, pompous windbag of a new husband Victor (Simon Roberts) in the hotel room next door. A meeting between these tempestuous former sparring partners sparks off old passions, and the pair abscond to Paris with barely a thought for their current partners. Pretty soon they’re in the midst of familiar battles, with their abandoned spouses in hot pursuit.
King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, Tue 11-Sat 15 Nov
The ioke is that we never get to meet Abigail. She's a bit like Godot in l'i/alfI/Tg for Godot — a character both fundamental and absent.
In Mike Leigh's comedy she's the teenage daughter of the divercee. Sue. While Abigail is holding a wild house party — this is the year of punk and the Silver Jubilee — her mum's trying to hold her nerve over drinks and nibbles round at the neigthurs: a scene of cringev-rorthy middle-class neurOSIs.
There's the hyperactive hostess Beverley. her workaholic estate agent husband Laurence and mild-mannered new neighbours Tony and Ang. Their attempts to enjoy themselves are thwarted by their unvoiced feelings of existentialist despair. They have all the trappings of bOurgeois comfort they desired. but none of the happiness that should have come with them.
It is out of this excruciating sOCIaI ritual that Leigh draws his comedy. The cinema work he has been celebrated for in recent years — Life is Sweet. A// or Nothing. Secrets and Lies — has been full of dark social commentary with a bitter comic edge. Dating from 1977 and a celebrated BBC Play for Today episode. Abigail's Party is more broadly funny. though jUSi as sharply aimed at its target. Suburban pretentiousness was never better observed.
This production arrives in Edinburgh after a spell in London's West End. (:Ourtesy of Theatre Royal Bath and Hampstead Theatre. (Mark Fisher)
Ian Spink’s production is as clever as a barrel of weasels, pacing itself sharply, and adding a modernity, partially through Antony McDonald’s cool minimalist art deco glass and steel design, which speaks in ringing tones to a contemporary audience. The fact is, you can’t explain why you can be truly and completely in love with one person and not another, and you’ll always
Philip Bretherton and Selina Boyack: We want to hate them but . . .
be drawn to the one, regardless of how appalingly they behave. ln telling us this much, Coward is truly relevant. A standout performance from Boyack, putting a real subtlety into her shrewish Amanda, is a highlight, but all the performances are strong, and the pace and sheer charm of this piece makes it well worth the journey if you don’t live in Glagow. (Steve Cramer)
Campiness and fun
DANCE INBAL PINTO DANCE - BOOBIES Theatre Royal, Glasgow, Tue 11 Nov.
The latest offering from Israeli choreographer, lnbal Pinto. is actually named after a group of birds from the Galapagos Islands. But you'd be forgiven for raising a smile at the title — and indeed the show. With a penchant for the absurd side of life. Pinto and desrgner Avshalorn Pollak have established themselves as a captivating force in dance theatre. And needless to say. there's a healthy dose of humour in everything they create.
With a company of eight dancers and two actors at their disposal, Pinto and Pollak have delved inside the bizarre mating rituals of the aforementioned birds. with equally bizarre results. Pesembling escapees from a Shakespearean comedy. the performers scarnper across the stage in electric blue wigs and harleCtuin plus fours. hiding beneath vast. billowing skirts. Serious choreography sits alongside surreal images of feet-tickling. and the eclectic score features everything from traditional Korean folk music to American jazz piano and Haitian percussron. Modern dance can often take itself too seriously. so companies Such as Pinto’s are a breath of fresh air. Missing it would be a real boob. (Kelly Apter)
NEW ADAPTATION THE LEGEND OF KING ARTHUR Macrobert Arts Centre, Stirling, Mon 10 Nov, thentounng
Martial arts? Brazilian music? Video technology? It's not what yOu'd generally expect from a retelling of Sir Thomas Mallory's Morte D'Arthur. or from Tennyson's poetry. but this adaptation of the story of King Arthur and the round table has been given the eclectic and theatrically adventurous makeover we've come to expect from Red Shift. and there's more than a touch of political metaphor abOut this adaptation
King or PM?
‘We didn't set Out tO make a parody of Tony Blair's government. but in the rehearsal room. we were struck by how it Jumped out at yeti." says Jonathan Holloway. artistic director of this spirited English tOuring company. “The latter stages of the career of the round table. when they seemed to lose purpose and were
' grasping for causes to
find themselves again is very like the current government. Arthur is desperate to do the right thing. but he's a victim of his own strategies and personal frailties. For most of us. I think the first term of this government was a “wait and see'. but now we see them going through all kinds of contortions to appear to behave with integrity. but we know that they're like all politicians. they Just don't have any.‘ All this. and the Brazilian rhythms. too. Be prepared to be tough on war. and tough on the causer of wars.
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