Citizens’ Theatre, Glasgow, until Sat 28 Feb 0...
The boldness of the concept of Caryl Churchill’s 1982 examination of history, gender and ideology is what immediately strikes one in Hettie MacDonald’s revival at the Citizens’. The idea of placing half a dozen powerful and non- conformist women from various ages through the last millennium at dinner in one room, then having them all speaking at once in that way that the multi-tasking female can (don’t try this at home, guys, it’ll give you a headache) is ingenious, funny, and at times, moving.
But there’s a little touch of early 80$ gender studies about this, too. Where the play accrues power and insight is in the study of Marlene (Daniella Nardini) a powerful career woman who’s left her provincial (and in this production, Scottish) past behind for a career in the big city. Also trailing behind are a forgotten and slightly simple daughter (Cait Davis) and a sister facing a future of poverty and isolation (Patricia Kerrigan) who brings up the child as her own. Meanwhile, the girls at Marlene’s office (Caroline Devlin, and Pauline Turner) play boys with toys business games as ruthlessly as their male counterparts in an 803-set Thatcherite world which is just as depressing in its ethics as its heir in the Blairite new century.
In front of Robin Don’s multifunctional set, depicting the overarching line graphs of business economics, which brood impersonally over all this anguish and humour, we arrive at a point where monstrous hegemony of greed in contemporary culture becomes the focus of
the play, and here it becomes very powerful. Nardini is thoroughly believable as a woman divested of humanity by the reifying processes of contemporary capitol, while Davis, seen here away from her more frequent appearances as a physical theatre actress, is a revelation, giving a tenderly nuanced performance as a teenage girl who is one sandwich short of a picnic, facing a bleak future. Perhaps most memorable
Cardinal sins and women under stress
though, is Lindy Whiteford, who brings a dry, scholarly wit to her Pope Joan, then reappears as a middle-aged woman whose career choices have left her quite alone. In terms of emotional subtext, they’re both great parts, but Whiteford makes the most of them. If Churchill’s text shows its age here and there, its essential humanity makes this a grand night out. (Steve Cramer)
MODERN CLASSIC DEATH OF A SALESMAN
Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, until Sat 6 Mar 0...
Now if you're beaten up and robbed by some thug in the street. you are a victim of crime and. we're told. you have every right to see yourself as a ‘.’|(II|lll. If. on the other hand. you endure a (EOIITI)FOITOI‘SIYO mugging from some low paying. greedy econoirric structure ‘.'./hich tosses you onto the scrap heap in rnisery and debt at the end of your life. you must on no account see yourself as some kind of arctinz. Vrctinhood. !" this sense. shotild not. for some reason. require recourse to Justice.
I‘ there is a play that singles out a culture that's tough on crime and soft on the causes of economic misery. it's Arthur Miller's 194$) classic. Willy l. ornari lPatil .Jesson. is a rriar‘. at the end of his use to Avrier'icar‘. capitatisi't.
‘.'/hose sanity wavers .i'ider
economic stress and the personal disintegration that results from it. His sons — Biff iSteyen Duffyi. an unsettled former athlete whose failure to embrace the American dream stigrriatises him. and Happy (Alex Hasselli. a irriddle manager and patnological philanderer — both demonstrate that dysfunctionality is not some mute gene within the |ll(tl\.’l(IUEti but a phenomenon with distinct social causes. These mate to V‘Jilly's lost dreams of a x'xealthy. semi-mythic brother (Sandy Neilsoni_ and his oppression by an ignorant. x'realth inheriting boss (Greg POR‘JFIU. His ‘.‘./lf(} (Joanna Topei suffers the limitations of her role ill a patriarchal culture. but neitl‘er she nor their dry. cur'rtudgeonly neighbour Charlie i'Tony Borrc/ai can help Willy. John Dove's production is rigorous in bringing out the labour of Sisyphus that as consumer society. stressing the wlrrte goods anr car obsessed culture of Arrierica's post -war boom. and Michael Taylor's functional revolving design sets off this ‘et'shzsation of the material nicely. Paul Jesson's is a strong central performance ‘.'.’llll some smartly understated stipport from Tope's patient. 'oving wife and Borrc/a's stoical neighbour. the evening lasts Jose to three hours. but the fact that you don’t notice this deirvrnstrates the continuing relenance of Miller's text. Steve Crameri
SCOTIISH PREMIERE SMOKING WITH LULU Citizens, theatre, Glasgow, until Sat 28 Feb 0000
As a critic. l try not to write anything longer than it takes a person to crap. because I know that a lot of my work will be read in the dunny. Criticism in the media is an ephemeral busrness. and rightly so. since critics must make snap judgements on the night. which we might have cause to reconSider as the years pass and we become different people. It's a transient business. like the theatre. where you have to be there on the night. usually a particular night. to fully imbibe the momentary pleasure before you. This makes it a very different medium from film. in which a performer can be preserved forever on celluloid. to be experienced and re-experienced in a single moment of life.
But ‘."-/ItCIh€r this is actually an advantage to a performer is a moot point. Certainly an embittered Louis Brooks (Freya Dominic) is bemused by the thought in Janet Munsil's reflection upon a meeting between herself and the ailing British theatre critic Kenneth Tynan (Simon Roberts). The 1920s starlet. whose sexual availability still sirrrmers from the screen in back protection on Kenny Miller's set. is plainly embittered by the Curse of this rrroment of her early life. as men through ages project sexual fantasy upon her. Tynan is one of these. and is afflicted With a recurrent vision of the yOung Louise (Sarah Lawriel. replete in a fetishistic costume. offering various kinky forms of sexual release to a man dying prematurely of emphysema. Smoking is both the source of pleasure and self destruction. a significant metaphor. and as the central figures face their irrevitable demise. the idea of a monument. unattainable to the critic and unwelcome to the actor becomes significant.
Miller's production boasts a clever design and some smart acting. with Brooks' recollections of the bohemian life of the 20s bringing out the nerdishly fascinated critic in all of us. Its theatrical tropes continually remind us of the catastrophic tendency of male sexuality to seek the paradoxrcal corribination of avrd sexuality and innocence in women. and while none of the characters come off well. there's a causality to their lives which humanises them. At times guite movrng. this (swell worth a watch. (Steve Cramer)
A Iu lu of a piece
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