We’ve all been told to get a life at some point, but DAVID MAMET’s early play instructs us to avoid one in the theatre.
Words: Steve Cramer
he last time I‘d seen Tony
(‘ownie. he was in despair.
His (‘hristmas show at the Lyceum was very well received by audiences and critics alike. his directorial career generally has moved front strength to strength and he seemed in good health. But he looked like a beaten pup. All of us around him agreed (we had little choice) that it was. as he aggressively asserted. ‘never a penalty". but his beloved (‘eltic were. all the same. out of the (‘hampions League. and this affable. very intelligent. hlokey sort of bloke was as sick as a pike. To see him so recovered a few days later. his faith in human life restored after Rangers‘ defeat at Dunfermline. was very like a before and after demonstration at some mountebank‘s travelling medicine show. Now you might think that all this footy chat is irrelevant to the world of the theatre. but actually it‘s completely necessary.
Why? Because in the all consuming world of professional life we have so few escapes into other worlds. The theatre. like journalism. and maybe like what you do. occupies a good deal of one's life. Without sortie form of release. are we working to live. or living to work‘.’ It‘s a very relevant question to (‘ownie's upcoming production at the Lyceum. David Mamet‘s infrequently seen early play. A Life in Illt’ Theatre. Set at the time of its first production in the late 70s. the play tells the story of two actors. one an older man. garrulous. difficult and sometimes pretentious. in the twilight of an undistinguished career. the other a young turk on the up.
Snuggled up behind a pint in lidinburgh’s Blue Blazer pub. with the splendid performer Jimmy ('hisholm. who plays Robert. the older actor. sat by him. (‘ownie explains Robert's dilemma. ‘l’le's given his life to the theatre. but it‘s about to chuck him out. This is a profession that ruins family life. The hours are so long. and you need such dedication that you take
the job with you everywhere you go. This guy goes home to an empty
house. because his profession is all—consuming.’ he
ACTORS ARE PEOPLE
Jimmy Chisholm and Joe McFadden: An actor’s life?
changes. is more powerful. But it's a structured thing that needs the emotionally heightened effect of actors working together. Actors are people who never grow up. they‘re still playing like children.’
lior all the childishness. though.
we're fascinated by the theatre. Part of
this is the interest we have in the emotional complexities of people who must display bare passion so frequently. ‘.»\n actor lives in a world where they need to use the emotions they feel. so it's perfectly acceptable to show great outbursts of it.‘ says
(‘ownie. 'So when there's this shocking outburst by
says. Robert about an actress who‘s been mugging behind
So far. it sounds rather a tragic play. but it's actually very funny. ‘These two actors aren‘t likeable people.‘ says Chisholm. "They're not the kind of actors we like in the profession. but I think these stereotypical figures help Mamet to cut to the chase. because it‘s not just about acting. it’s about people. At first. you're lead down the path of finding them funny. so the final emotional pay off. where the tone
him while he’s producing something he‘s worked on for ages. it might be shocking to an audience. but it’s understandable.’
All the same. I reckon it might be better to leave these moments for the footie.
Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, Fri 9-Sat 31 Jan
Theatre editor Steve .Cramer has a lot of greasepaint to smell this year
There's simply not enough space in Our theatre section to cover all the exciting work to be done by a completely non-national theatre in Scotland. Among the highlights of this year is Dundee Reps courageOLis deciSion to stage a Howard Barker at the end of its season. The weariness with which so many theatres treat this premier British writer's work is mystifying. even given that it is said to be ‘difficult'. Anyone who saw Kenny Ireland's production of Barker‘s Victory at the Lyceum must thirst for more. and in late April, with Scenes from an Execution. they'll be given it. Three cheers for the Rep for bringing us more of Barker's searing insight into contemporary politics and culture.
Meanwhile. the Arches company won't be idle. airing the theatrical work of another true great among contemporary writers. albeit a more accessible one. in Seamus Heaney. His adaptation of the medieval epic Beowulf should become a fascmating evening under the direction of Andy Arnold. We only have to wait until late February to see it.
As well as hosting the welcome return of the Riot Group. the Tron is busy preparing its own production. in collaboration with Stella Quines. and the Byre. of Shelagh Stevenson's The Memory of Water. This black comedy, which sees the reunion of three sisters with conflicting memories of their mother on the day of her funeral, was an award winner in its original incarnation in London two years ago. and looks set to prove memorable at its Scottish premier.
Meanwhile. the award winning theatre babel will be on the road again with lbsen's A Doll '3 House from March. This company's proven reputation for classics makes this one look like it's worth waiting for. But you'll have to wait a little longer for Boilerhouse's massive site- specific project. Beach, which is in process now. but might not be seen until 2005. But this combination of the directorial talent of Paul Pinson, and writer Gary Young. who last worked together on the splendid Running Girl shows great promise.
theatre babel’s A Doll’s House
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