NEW WORK 8,000M coo Tramway, Glasgow, until Sat 7 Feb
Metaphors for aspiration abound in our culture, while the means by which we reach our goals are profoundly restricted, primarily by social class. But if you can earn enough to purchase expensive climbing equipment, you can always get halfway up a mountain before sticking your head out of a 23000 tortoise shell and declare you’re living ‘real life’. If that, on an amateur level, amounts to sublimation of repressions and frustrations, imagine the sheer alienation of the professional climber, a world which is at times fascinatingly explored by Graham Eatough’s production of David Greig’s script for Suspect Culture.
In it, we meet a taciturn and graceless woman (Selina Boyack) whose only moment of fulfilment comes on dangerous Tibetan climbs, despite the separation from and anxiety of her husband (John Macauley) and children. The trip on which we find her engaged is led by an experienced and high-profile explorer (Eric Barlow) and joined by an alpinist (Paul Blair) and his writer girlfriend (Catherine Keating). A doctor (Matthew Pidgeon), to whom you’d think suicide would come easily, and a wealthy executive sponsor (Phil McKee) with Boys’ Own dreams join them. I don’t feel that it would be giving away the ending to say a fatality ensues, given the omen-drenched nature of the narrative, and you might be able to work out the victim, but there’s a good deal of tension on the journey.
The first half of Greig’s script goes into fascinating detail about such issues as commercial sponsorship and preparation, while character insights abound among the assorted odd-squad of the climbers. The minutiae of climbing never becomes nerdish in front of Ian
Mixed messages: Paul Blair and Catherine Keating in 8,000m
Scott’s set, which sweeps us from the urbanised Western corporate world to that of a less remote, more exploited mountain than we think in Greig’s shrunken, communication-flooded, atomised world. Much about the play’s central, monumental metaphor will engage any but the most resistant viewer, and while if Greig’s poetic description of landscape has its work cut out in supplanting the visual with imagination, he’s to be congratulated for carrying it off.
All the same, the piece, particularly its first half, is way too long for its own good, and I’m not
sure if it doesn’t send rather mixed ideological messages. For along with the incidental satire of globalisation and consumerism there is a great deal of talk about the self reliance and robust individualism that these very forces seek to imbue in us. So too, the much-vaunted climbing wall isn’t used as much as you’d think. But there are some splendid performances to offset this, with Boyack outstanding in a difficult role, while a cleverly humanised character results from McKee’s potentially grotesque discontented rich boy. (Steve Cramer)
ROMEO AND JULIET On tour until 27 Mar SHAKESPEARE’S R&J Theatre Royal, Glasgow, Thu 4-Sat 7 Feb
Old young love
Look at the Theatre Royal's recent drama programme: October. Twelfth Night (Dundee Rep): February. Shakespeare R&J (New York Splinter Group). MOEllthTIIO. in Perth. Scotland's Prime Productions has just opened its version of Romeo and Jti/i'et belore a lWO-lllOlllll tour.
Is our appetite for the tragedy of star-crossed lovers insatiable? It seems like only yesterday that 821/ Luhrmann's funked--up lilm version was dragging us all to the multiplexes and it must be. oooh. six months since West Side Story. which relocates the story to the New York gangland. came this way.
Not so. says Ben Twist. director of the Prime Productions show which stars
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Tommy Mullins and Victoria Bolt. We do get more chances to see the play than, say. Titus Andronicus. but we don't know it nearly so well as we kid on. 'I came to it quite fresh.‘ he says. 'lt's not a play I've seen an awful lot. And anyway. the amazing thing about Shakespeare is that there's always more to find. It's as fresh as a daisy.‘
TWist is particularly intrigued by the play's treatment of women. ‘The personal relationships within Juliet's household reflect the relationships within the state of Verona,‘ he says. ‘Capulet has an anger and a disrespect in the way he treats his daughter and his wife. which is mirrored in a disrespect for life on the streets. That feuding on the streets brings about Romeo and .Juliet's deaths.‘
For TWIst. the emotional and political connections are there to be made. The New York Splinter Group. meanwhile. is making those connections explicit by presenting Romeo and Juliet as a play-within-a- play performed by four boys in a repressive Catholic boarding school who are swept away by the themes of adolescent love. rivalry and betrayal. The two productions should make a fascinating point of comparison. (Mark Fisher)
CLASSIC ADAPTATION BEOWULF Arches, Glasgow, Wed 11—Sat 21 Feb
As we sit in a couple of leather armchairs in the agreeable envn'ons of Edinburgh's Windsor Buffet. | interrupt the flow of Tam Dean Bui'n's lucid discourse on Seamus Heaney's adaptation of the old Norse epic poem. West Ham's FA Cup highlights versus Wolves are on the teIeVIsion. and I'm keen to see the result. Afterwards. I reflect upon our love of football, for both Burn and l are Hibees. so much of our chat often leads us that way. I wonder if such safe versions of gladiatorial battle are a substitute for the dark survwal led Violence through which our ancient forebears struggled in earlier days.
Perhaps an appropriate thought. for the story of the Danish hero's battles Wllll the monsters and dragons of mythology was in eVIdence as early as the eighth century in Scandinawa. the German lands and Britain. a time of danger and mystery. And Burn maintains that its geography makes the myth even more relevant. ‘Unlike some of the Greek myths. this is very much a Northern European story. and that adds to the effect. It has a sense of the cold. and there's something very Scottish about the long cold nights ~ and even the drinking' Burn says. pausing to lift his pint for a grin and a big swugee.
The scale of Andy Arnold's production looks impressive. incorporating a huge cast of 30 student actors who'll no doubt be excited to be working alongside one of Scotland's most impressive performers. But Burn maintains that it's not Just spectacle they're after. ‘lt's also about the words. This is a text that comes from an oral tradition. and Heaney's version is very orientated towards the vorce. There's a strong element of the Lord of the Rings about the story. and no doubt comparisons will be made. but the language is the strong element. so I think the audience's imagination Will do a lot of the work.‘ But if anyone can help in this respect. it's Tam Dean ., . Burn. (Steve Cramer) P
oetry in a cold climate