BILL T JONES/ARNIE ZANE
Theatre Royal, Glasgow, Tue 22-Wed 23 Jun
l The artistic community has found a number
I of poignant and powerful ways to deal with
E the devastation of AIDS: books, films, plays,
' visual art, all trying to express the pain of
illness and untimely death. Founded in New
York by its eponymous choreographers, the
Bill T Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company
has lost a number of friends and dancers to
1 AIDS over the years - not least Zane
i himself, who died in 1988. Touring Britain as
part of the company’s 20th anniversary tour, the company will present four works, the highlight of which will undoubtedly be D- Man in the Waters. Set to a Mendelssohn string octet, the dance was created by Jones during the last months of Zane’s life.
‘lt’s one of Bill’s signature pieces,’ says
Shaneeka Harrell, a dancer with the
company. ‘lt speaks so much about him and Arnie, and all the people who have come and gone through his life. You can tell the urgency, the joy, the realness of people dying, trying to help and carry one another.’ The ‘D’ in question is Demian Acquavella, a dancer
spot for Demian’.
It’ll make you throw up
with the company who died having performed the piece just once. Since then, the work, although created for ten dancers, is only ever performed by nine, leaving what Harrell calls ‘a signiﬁcant
Last seen in Scotland at the Edinburgh International Festival, the company is renowned for performing fresh new works. But an anniversary is a great excuse to reminisce, so we’ll be going back to 1987, 1988, 1993 and 2003. ‘lt’s really interesting to see where Bill’s work is now, and to see where it came from,’ says Harrell. ‘Bill and Arnie’s vision was of a world that was very mixed - artistically, intellectually, spiritually, it all adds to the movement. It’s very unique, and you always walk away with imprints on your mind of what you’ve just seen.’ (Kelly Apter)
Philip Howard, artistic director of the Traverse Theatre, reckons Scotland’s strong suit, abroad and
or the past couple of weeks F I've been doing theatre
business in Germany and Palestine and. not for the first time. I've found out more about Scottish theatre by leaving it behind for a while. Apart from the obvious. well-rehearsed observations that German theatre has loads of money and Palestinian theatre has none — and recognising our own position between these extremes — I've been trying to concentrate more on how Scottish theatre is perceived in these countries and elsewhere across the globe. The international standing of Scottish theatre has. for some years. resided almost entirely in the increasing popularity of its playwrights. There are exceptions to this. of c0urse. but it's the Syndrome of writing the nation and the process of asserting a Scottish identity within the international theatre scene that have fast become Our strongest assets.
It's hardly a new idea that
devolution for Scotland was achieved partly as a result of a
at home, is its new writing.
cultural movement. fuelled by writers. artists. Cultural critics (much easier in a small country with a robust identity) but Scottish playwriting didn't stop there. And — believe me — everyone is talking about it and about our writers. among them Zinnie Harris, David Greig, David Harrower, Stephen Greenhorn and Henry Adam. Funders such as the British Council are switched on to the increased interest in Scottish voices and are reacting with impressive levels of speed and enthusiasm (the Scottish Arts Council, emasculated as it is by a seemingly endless torment of reviews and cultural commissions. is not so well equipped). Given this support. it‘s time we woke up to the fact that the more good new plays we produce from Scotland. the more we put Ourselves on the European and world map. Maybe Scotland could learn a thing or two from the new EU accession countries. who know, cent for cent. cultural spend is the single cheapest way of profiling the
nation, stimulating foreign investment and increasing tourism. I still believe that doubling cultural spending in Scotland would bring dividends in trade and tourism threefold.
So, what are these supposed virtues of Scottish playwriting? A dexterity with language; a political nous which comes from Scotland’s distinct identity (both of which can be traced back to the glory days of the Scottish political theatre tradition); a permanent fascination with the urban/rural divide; an upfront comic style stemming from the music—hall tradition; and a paniCUlar knack for histOry plays — all the attributes that make new Scottish plays so popular at home are exactly what makes them so appealing abroad.
And while I doubt that the current infrastructure of Scottish theatre is strong enough to serve the new National Theatre as it's designed to do. I have no doubts about the ability of Scottish playwrights to rise to the challenge.
BARD IN THE BOTANICS Botanical Gardens, Glasgow, until Sat 24 July.
The courage and fortitude of the British is something legendary among such foreigners as me. Never mind the blitz spirit and all that malarky; for me it's more about folk all over the UK showing up to open air parks in summer to see some Shakespeare. I mean, it's bound to piss down, but still you show up in droves.
And why not? When you think about it. Shakespeare was presented under an open sky in its time, so I suppose there's something like an authenticity to the experience. I've always rather suspected that Lear's tempest scene required no special effects in Shakespeare's time. as you could rely on the weather to suck, regardless of the season. The summer gardens of A Midsummer Night's Dream might. however. have been an awkward bugger to stage. So hats off to director Gordon Barr for attempting this once again this very summer. And a good Dream it was. by all accounts
Getting a bard on in the park
(it. occasionally. a wet one) when it was staged in a previous season. The concept of setting the piece in a sleaZy night club against a background of 19303 musical numbers chimed well. it seemed, with audiences.
There's also a rather cruelly comic version of Richard II/ directed by Scott Palmer in the first couple of weeks of the festival. and a devised piece by Glasgow Repertory Company, the firm behind the whole shebang. /nfinite Variety is a piece based on the women of Shakespeare. These kind of ‘round up the Bard's characters' shows have become something of a familiar wheeze in recent years. but hell, it‘s summer stock time - get out there and enjoy the rain.
10-24 Jun 2004 THE LIST 65