Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Fri 16 Apr-Sun 2 May
The theatrical business of creating isolation in a small group of characters is traditionally a very effective one. In these situations, there’s nothing to distract folk from their inner issues, the urgent psychological needs that we are most liable to defer in everyday life. From The Caretaker to such old dark house tales as The Woman In Black, the theatre can always do the up close and personal intimacy of the claustrophobic room well, because being there in the ﬂesh adds a dimension that such media as film can’t.
So there’s an intriguing element to this debut of a much vaunted new writer at the Traverse. Alan Wilkins is treading the revered theatrical grounds of Scotland’s new writing theatre with his ﬁrst ever full length production. In it, we encounter a couple whose marriage is on the brink of collapse, passionate Munroe baggers with the goal of climbing each of these mighty hills in the course of their marriage. Symbolically and literally, they’ve reached their last obstacle. They encounter another bagger, a boots and braces survivalist, who brings with him a city girl, a photographer lost in the country. Add to this an old man on a ghoulish mission, a bothy and a storm and you’ve got all you need for a tight and atmospheric psychological comedy drama.
I ask Wilkins what it is about people in modern society that compels them to this pursuit. Is there a form of displacement
Alan Wilkins: The Bothy Line
activity in the act of hill walking? This affable chap is well placed to answer, as a walker himself. ‘I think with the characters in this play that’s more true than with the average hill walker. If you look at the history of hill walking it’s a blip in human history. In the past people walked to go on pilgrimage, or to war, or to emigrate from one place to another. It wasn’t until the romantics, people like Wordsworth and Coleridge, that it became a leisure activity. The only difference between walking and Munroe bagging is the latter gives people a structure to work to,’ he says. Here though, there’s much more to the metaphor than a change in the history of leisure. ‘I didn’t want to write a bothy play that was only appealing to bill walkers,’ he says. ‘In many ways, it’s quite an old fashioned play, in that it looks at the theme of trust and commitment. But it’s not an answers play, I want people to be left with questions about these moral and ethical quandaries.’ Go along, and figure
it out in isolation. (Steve Cramer)
ara: Mother was right
King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, Mon 19—Sat 24 April
The Marquise may be one of Noel Coward's lesser known plays. but Kate O'Mara has had her eye on the lead role for a while. ‘Years ago. my mother suggested that it may be a good part for me to play. And she always knew what was good for me.‘
Set in 18th century France. the tale unfolds in a different age to Coward's more familiar offerings. but he still treats the audience to his acerbic wit and plenty of high society shenanigans. 'There is something for everyone.‘ says O'Mara. 'It is very funny and very witty. There's young love. There's middle-aged love. And. of course. there's all the usual risque stuff.‘
Well known for her roles in TV dramas such as Dynasty and Howard's Way. O'Mara also has a formidable reputation in the theatre. “The theatre is my first love. It is all I really get asked to do these days. and I am probably happier. On stage I feel more in control. or at least I hope I am.‘
Finally given the chance to follow her mother's advice. O'Mara is clearly enjoying taking on her character. but it has not been without its challenges. She explains that Coward's scripts are as demanding as they are entertaining. ‘He is very difficult to play. It is like a game of ping pong and you mustn't miss a shot.‘ With a successful tour already under way. this show promises to be table tennis at its very best. (Corrie Mills)
ONE-WOMAN SHOW BERKOFF’S WOMEN Paisley Arts Centre, Fri 23 April There's something about Steven Berkoff. the brilliant. ebullient playwright and actor. which creates a sense of tension. even conflict. between people. Indeed. in my years as a theatre critic. I've heard more arguments about Berkoff than about any other dramatist. Linda Marlowe. his long-time friend and collaborator. dedicates her acclaimed one-woman show. Berkoff's Women. to the late musical theatre performer Georgia Brown. who she describes as ‘a great ally of Steven‘s and mine'.
When I talk to well-kent actress Josie Lawrence. who first directed Marlowe's show back in 1999. this sense of defensiveness of and loyalty to Berkoff is again apparent. ‘People sometimes have an idea of Berkoff as being this misogynistic kind of guy. which he isn't at all.‘ she volunteers. ‘He writes beautifully for women. And Linda wanted to show some of that.‘ The debate over the alleged sexism of the playwright relates more to his personal dealings with women than his depiction of them in his plays; and it will. as they say. run and run.
What is not in doubt. however. is the virtuosity of Marlowe's performance. Taking in excerpts from such diverse Berkoff texts as East. Decadence and Greek. the piece has no central. defining theme. As Lawrence explains: ‘There are so many aspects to Berkoff's writing about women. We liked having outrageous. rude pieces go with something that's actually quite moving.‘ Her collaboration with Marlowe is rooted in friendship. The pair first met on the set of the 1990 film The Green Man. ‘I was quite in awe of her.‘ Lawrence remembers. ‘She was just an amazing lady. with a fantastic personality. She gave me a lift during rehearsals, and the one thing I noticed about her was that she drove very fast. and in bare feet. which was wonderful. We became close friends after that.‘
15—29 Apr 2004 THE LIST 73