ADAPTATION . BEOWULF
The Arches, Glasgow, until Sat 21 Feb 0..
The smell of smoke and burnt wood that hangs over Andy Arnold’s promenade production — devised from Seamus Heaney’s verse translation of this medieval epic - adds dark atmospherics to the process, if it also gives one pause to make an uneasy glance at the fire exits now and then. But it’s right that it should be there, for the dark, dank universe of these ancient Danish antecedents to our own world gives a ringing authenticity to this piece.
The story is that of a domain benighted by the bloodthirsty Grendell, a creature that takes over a patch of the Danish King Hrothgar’s (Finlay McLean) territory, slaughtering and devouring all those who come near. Along comes Beowulf (Tam Dean Burn) and his band of Scandinavian machos to destroy the creature, but other perils arise to blight the happiness of Hrothgar’s people, so the big guy returns for some more aggro with the creatures
of the night.
Arnold’s production provides some visual fireworks throughout its promenade process, as we follow a 30-strong cast of students from the RSAMD through the cavernous interior of
the Arches’ maze of dark spaces, witnessing weird inventions and treated to bizarre
percussionary rhythms. The monsters themselves, created from a human pyramid of students, are very effective. Burn’s Beowulf is a scary as fuck, while the measured despair of McLean’s quietly political King is well played.
Dundee Rep, run ended; on tour until Sat 13 Mar
Right play, wrong time
Terry Johnson's comedy is at an awkward age. first seen in 1994 and set. two years earlier. at the time of the deaths of Benny Hrll and Frankie Hoxr/erd. it is currently too young to be a period piece and too old to be topical.
It means that when we see a group of friends in their mid to late-80s, dressing and talking pretty much like anyone of the same age today. we are confused by their obs :ssion With Carry On films. music hall entertainers and long dead comedians. A Dead l unny Society dedicate< to old
68 THE LIST l -’:l, J
school comedy wouldn't be impossible today. but .1 makes full sense only when we remember this is all 12 years ago.
When, for example. one of them refers to Ben Elton as sf he were the anti Christ standing against the great traditions of llléllltSll‘fI‘Ell“. British comedy. we have to think back to Elton the iilyective—spouting lefty. not Elton the writer of dodgy West End musicals.
this is why in Borderline's production. directed by Brian Pettifer. Johnson's attempt to mix the silliness of slapstick comedy with the psychological truth of real life is not entirely successful. Where traditional comedy deals in sexual innuendo, here the characters genuinely drop their trousers; where so mucl‘ humour is based on tea." of homosexuality. here the most sympathetic character is gay: and where no one gets hurt in comedy Violence, here the custard pie fight is fuelled by real anger.
But the connections are not as obwous as they should be. making it feel like we're watching two plays at once: one a Jolly romp through old time sketches. the other a bleak drama of marital infidelity. Despite this. as soon as the characters' dilemmas become more urgent than their comic obs 2ssions. the production gets very funny indeed. llvtark l isheri
But there’s some loss of Heaney’s wonderful verse in its sprinkling through a multitude of voices, rendering it occasionally inaudible and concept of its first room. All the same, it’s confusing. So too, while Brian Hartley’s set is beautifully constructed on, no doubt, few
Tam Dean Burn: Scary
resources, I was left a bit mystified by the link between the tale and the middle-modernist
darkly smart and cleverly executed, making it well worth watching. (Steve Cramer)
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Mark Little (centre) as Leigh Bowerey