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Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, until Sat 8 May

Any suspicion that the long awaited return of the mighty prodigal VIP would be as disappointing for Scottish audiences as it was for Chekov’s Uncle Vanya was quickly dispelled by Brian Cox’s splendid performance in John Byrne’s mid SOs-set adaptation of this classic. That sense which, after Schopenhauer, we’ve lived with over the last century that we can never be quite happy in the moment, and have only an imagined happiness in the past or projected future - is strong here. And there isn’t much of a future in this version.

Byrne’s own clever and whimsical design catches the mood of nostalgia and disappointment that hangs over the remote north- eastern Scottish estate created in this version.

Varick (Cox) is permanently pissed off with his brother in law, Sandy (David Ashton), a pontificating media pundit, who’s married the beautiful but useless Elaine (Isabel Brook) after the death of his first wife. Varick is enamoured of the young woman, as is louche local doctor

Micheal (Richard Dillane). He, in turn, is passionately loved by Varick’s niece Shona

(Madelaine Worrel). Problems are added to by a semi senile matriarch (Edith Macarthur), and several old estate workers who are variously abused by the posh visitors. The play then becomes an elaborate mechanism to prevent

anyone from being happy.

If Byrne‘s version of the classic tends more toward exposing the humour of the piece than its

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dark, tragic side, there’s enough comedy value in for Vanya’s attempted murder weapon of a gun at this evening to please the most demanding of punters. And if its chronology of the 605 is a little out of kilter, it would be churlish to complain, given its sense of fun. Mark Thomson’s production doctor with an altruistic side is also well

the close - just wait for it. Cox is commanding in the lead, capturing the hysteric in his character nicely, while Dillane’s slightly dilettante English

has a gorgeous, kind of fey feel to it, saturated as measured. The supporting performance of Kay



King’s Theatre, Glasgow, Mon 3-Sat 8 May

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72 THE LIST .’ i ' "

Along came Joan

The l iiiii‘y awar<l-winniiig actress. (I()ll‘:[)l()l(? With the OBE and vast works for charity we've come to expect from such folks. is touring as the lead for a relatively obscure piece of popular theatre from the bliss iii/l C/rc/e. lhe play. by Alan Melville. w; s something of a sensation in its day. by all accounts. touring widely on both sides of the pond Wllll Tallulah Baiikhead Hi the lead. Collins herself sounds like the kind of trooper to do it JUSIICO as an older lady who announces to her three grown up children that the portrait above the fireplace is not. in fact. their real lather. light coii‘edi, prevails after this. as a search is instigated for a surrogate iii an era when single motherhood was much liowned on. It's not exactly Incendiary slull these days. of course. but there'll no doubt be frocks to look at and laughs to be had. And feel free to sink a (3&l at the interval. if you're not so interested iii youth and beauty (Steve ()raiiierl

it is with snatches of Beatles songs played on an accordion. And there’s a wonderful replacement

Gallie as the old family servant is a treat to behold. A damn good night out. (Steve Cramer)


Shelagh Stephenson's 1996 hit would dearly love to be a bigger. deeper. more resonant play than it actually is. It tries so hard to pull away from its Sitcom form. but its poetic leaps and spiritual ambitions never quite take Wing.

It's a comedy-drama about three women reunited for their mother's funeral in which Stephenson attempts to say something profound about the nature of memory. She works the theme relentlessly: it's in the Sisters' disagreements about the past; in the stOry of a hospital patient with amneSia; and in the central metaphOr about water retaining the curative properties of a medicine even after it has been purified.

The Memory of Water is like a mainstream version of Suspect Culture‘s Timeless inot to be confused with a timeless version of Suspect Cultures Mainstream) and, like that play. goes to a lot of trouble to make the simple point that memory is unreliable.

As someone recently bereaved. I expected to be moved by Stephenson's further thesrs that the dead live on in our memories. but however eloquently put. it's an unremarkable observation that carries little dramatic weight.

Still. at least she tries. The play has a pleasmg sense of purpose and ambition and is often funny. Its real weakness is emotional indulgence. Stephenson uses the impending funeral as an excuse for a lot of soppy soul-searching about motherhood. loneliness and the passage of time. With its bOOZy tirades. it's Eugene O'Neill-lite. the women's traumas being an addendum to the drama instead of a motivation.

Muriel Romanes' production for Stella QLiines. the Byre and the Tron is. however. of the highest order. Alexandra Mathie. Jennifer Black and Molly lnnes are excellent as the sisters. establishing their love-hate relationship with pace, tackling the funnier moments With flair and opting for emotional depth when the jokes get laboured. They're a dazzling team who perform With an infectious enthusiasm. (Mark Fisher)

Memories light the water of their minds