POPULAR THEATRE DUMBSTBUCK coo Dundee Rep, until Sat 17 Apr
Quite whether the public is as fascinated by the world of the luvvie as Iuvvies seem to think is a moot point, but there is a kind of appeal about the specific theatrical world of variety that still clearly fascinates Scottish audiences. So David Kane’s decade-old piece of popular theatre, set in an old dark house functioning as digs for a bunch of eccentric performers in the 605, the dog end days of Scottish music hall still carries some interest. Add to this a peculiar mixture of baroque Ortonesque
farce and pure gingham, and you’ve got a nice little crowd pleaser.
Johnny Ramone (Keith Fleming) wants to be a Bobby Darren-style entertainer, but he lacks more than you might initially think. He’s hampered as well by nasty agent Paddy (John Buick), while heartless English dancer on the up Emma (Emily Winter) dumps him with alacrity at her first London offer. Meanwhile, a dodgy German magician (Mark Kane) and desperate singing duo (Emily Pollet and Irene MacDougall) add to his woes, as does the satanic comedian Billy Bone (Robert Paterson) a kind of Alastair Crowley in flannel jimjams. Add to this a psychotic landlady (Anne Louise Ross) and a sinister spy ostensibly from the DHSS (Calum Cuthbertson), and there’s your recipe for a skeletons in the closet farce with the odd homicide thrown in.
James Brining’s production keeps things lively and bleakly chipper in front of Neil Warmington’s splendid grungy boarding house set, although I wonder whether some of the humour wasn’t a bit dated even at this famous farce’s first production. All the same, Brining draws grand performances from his cast, with Paterson’s secret devil worshipper hidden under a sad old git, and Fleming’s gender-challenged egomaniac particularly strong. And there’s something of a warm and rosy subtext in the play’s ideological structure, as a group of rampant individualists learn that co-operation and empathy does them more good than selfishness. It’s not a great text of our time, but the performers extract plenty of entertainment from it. (Steve Cramer)
CONTEMPORARY DANCE SCOTTISH DANCE THEATRE 0000
Edinburgh Festival Theatre, Tue 6 Apr
Tape the A Train
If you thought that masking tape was merely a tool for decorating. think again. Dutch choreographer Didy Veldman has put the sticky
82 THE LIST 1—15 Apr 2004
product to a whole other use. with captivating results. After working with some of the world's finest. and largest. dance companies. the ex—Rambert dancer felt the urge to create a smaller scale. more intimate work. And where better than wrth our ever-blossoming national contemporary dance company? Track takes an imaginative look at Our need to fit in with the crowd. and the pressures placed on us by society to conform to the norm. Neatly sidestepping the potholes of cliche. Veldrnan has one female dancer binding her waist with the aforementioned tape. imitating the svelte figures of the glossy mags. Elsewhere tape is stretched from one piece of scaffolding to the next. delineating those who belong and those who clearly don't.
Sharing the programme is Sean Feldman. SDT's associate artist.
His new work. Moment. is much iri()r(> (lztri(:() tliziri (lziii(:(> lll(}£tlr(). and suffers somewhat as a result. Feldman is an emotive choreographer. and this work allows the dancers to show off a little technical prowess. But ultimately it fails to make a deep mark on the memory. unlike Rui Horta's Broken. which is back for another airing followrng its SDT debut last autumn. The Portuguese dancernaker has a worldwide reputation for creating psychologically astute works. and this is no exception. A short but succinct duet. the piece features a man and woman in turmoil. attempting to repair their relationship Using broken arms as a metaphor for emotional shortcomings. Horta takes us through a range of emotions. before ending with a spirit of reconciliation. Stirring stuff.
LITERARY ADAPTATION KIDNAPPED 00.
Citizens' Theatre, Glasgow, until Sat Apr 3, then touring
Why do theatre companies insist on churning out laborious adaptations of novels when there is a wealth of stage works for them to explore? A prose fiction. such as Robert Louis Stevenson's classic Kidnapped. may be full of drama. but that does not make it inherently theatrical.
There are. of oeurse. some outstanding exceptions to the general rule that novels are best kept out of the theatre. The superb Northern Stage Ensemble. whose magnificent staging of Orwell's Animal Farm recently played in Scotland. seems to be able to extract the theatrical essence from prose fictions as if it was taking marrow from a bone. By contrast. however. this co-production. by Mull and Perth theatres. of
Not a novel idea
Stevenson's grand story treads a well- worn path of accomplished. worthy. yet somewhat leaden drarnatisations of much loved novels.
For a start. at two-and-a-ha|f hours. the piece is too long. Our journey through the eventful two months in the life of young David Balfour (an occasionally over—stretched Davrd Fit/geraldl is too methodical. This is not so much evidence of pOOr adaptation by Robert Paterson and Alasdair McCrone. as of the great difficulty in translating such an episodic novel to the stage in the first place. The sense of heaviness is hardly alleviated by Robin Peoples' moveable wooden set. which. although impressive and ingenious. is also cumbersome.
Which is not to say that director lvlcCrone has not had some Success. John Davidson's live fiddle playing. for instance. is a fine innovation. beautifully echoing the action of the story. There are many fine performances. not least from Andrew Clark, who brings an intelligent humour and energy to the role of the intrepid, romanticised Jacobite Alan Breck Stewart. A handsome and professional adaptation. then. but one which falls to answer that niggling question; why not do a play?