It’s a cliché, but nevertheless true, that in a society geared increasingly to youth culture, where ‘youth’ extends frequently into our 40s, we’re apt to file old age, be it our own or that of other people, under ‘forget’. The timely reminders our bodies send us, as our senses increasingly diminish and our hangovers get longer, are ignored in favour of a society where as long as you can still buy things, you’re a long way from dead.

Thus it is that the eponymous autumnal geezer in Tom McGrath’s new play, Sam (Frank Kelly), comes as a memento more to us all. After a life at sea, he’s become a stroke victim, and his reappearance in the working- class, mend and make do home of his daughter Rhona (Anne Marie Timoney) after several decades of absence causes some disruption, not least to the drugs business run by herself and her teenage son (Alan Tripney). These two, the old boy and even his hospital nurse (David Ireland) inhabit a lumpenproletarian world, where mortality is an oft-deferred issue for all. Sam’s role in this four neds and a funeral narrative seems to add a mythic dimension to issues of quotidian survival.

Nicholas Bone’s production of this engaging, funny and thoughtful text takes a little time to warm up, but at its height makes for tremendous entertainment in front of Minty Donald’s lounge room and hospital design. Sam’s rambling segues into other levels of reality are repeatedly said to leave folks’ ‘heid muddled up', yet their purpose, opening a vista into the darker, mythic spiritual worlds normally repressed by our material lifestyles, is invaluable. The play represents a profound challenge, in subtle ways to our assumptions about class, as well as gender and race, astuter but subtly questioning attitudes to such issues as parenthood and refugee cultures. And there are some splendid performances from a strong cast, with hints of Wilfred Bramble’s cunning old Steptoe opening into something far more complete in Kelly’s haunted man, for whom one lost woman and a collection of experiences on the move have formed a life. So too, Timoney is splendid, with a farcical set piece involving a constantly interrupted amorous encounter with a briefly introduced suitor (Ireland) a highlight. Recommended. (Steve Cramer)


complex story.


GODOT COMPANY Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Tue 11-Sat 15 Oct, various times

“Life is pretty dreadful but there is a way to deal with it.’ says a gently gruff John Calder. ‘Beckett looks at life in a way that most peOple prefer not to. He is basically saying that life is horrible.‘ And. as Samuel Beckett's longstanding publisher and producer of Godot Company. Calder is better placed than most to decide what one of the 20th century's most influential playwrights was saying.

Now three years old. Godot Company is a collective of actors committed to touring Beckett‘s works and bringing his thought-provoking and dark realist world view to contemporary audiences. It‘s a venture whose success Calder measures by the fact that no one has walked out on them yet.

Returning after last year's critical applause. the company will revive a triptych of Beckett plays: Play. Piece of Monologue and Catastrophe. The first and better known of the three is an after-life interrogation of a man and the two women he was torn between. Piece of Monologue is one man‘s retrospective of his own life. while Catastrophe marks Beckett's only foray into the political arena with its simple yet powerful look at totalitarianism. Finally. an additional event. Beckett's Outbursts. introduces us to a dramatic montage of the writer's prose. Not for those blinkered by the bright side of life. Godot Company's latest triple bill promises to be a real eye opener. (Corrie Mills)

King’s Theatre, Edinburgh, 11—1 5 Oct

The versatility and intellectual cleverness of Tom Stoppard is a matter of record. But the charges made against him by his critics. that his plays. while boasting much crystalline brilliance. are also a little bloodless, more clever for their own sake than to any particular purpose. are also pretty well known. With The Real Thing, his 80s love stOry. Stoppard came closest to answering these charges. For in it, whether or not you buy into in his latently rather right wing philosophy. there's a real flesh and blood. tenderly passionate. but

The divisions. often blurred. between reality and fantasy are explored in this st0ry of a commercial dramatist who leaves his wife for an actress in one of his plays. He finds that passion and the everyday business of relationships. as well as the things your partner believes in. are inextricably linked. Conflict with his new partner. her radical politics. and her desire to go off to the Citz in Glasgow to perform at the height of a relationship crisis. all become a problem. Boasting that deft and always endearing favourite son of Scotland. Tom Conti, in the lead. this looks a good night out. (Steve Cramer)


Stage Whispers

I Theatre critics are, Whispers can assure you, a much- misunderstood bunch. Sad to say, we’re a collection of pretty ordinary men and women, doing a day-to-day job, mainly to keep you, the paying public, abreast of what to see (and sadly sometimes, what not to see). We’re an imperfect instrument of public taste, with as much subjectivity, bigotry and occasional insight as the next person. There are some folk in the theatre who might, after a rough ride with a review, want to inform you of our dysfunctionality, sadism and occasional sexual perversity. If only we were that interesting, life on the road between shows would be so much more colourful.

We need, though, to break down these ban'iers, which is how Whispers found himself sampling the theatre (and occasional sweet Guinness) of Dublin a weekend or so ago. The Federation of Scottish Theatre- organised Critical Exchanges programme is all about bringing critics into situations with folks in the professional theatre to facilitate discussion and mutual understanding of each other’s roles. Several shows from the Dublin Fringe were seen, and a succession of discussions took place which were about understanding a fringe other than Edinburgh’s, as well as looking at work where the specific perimeters of a Scottish theatre community, with the inevitable defensiveness that that might bring to both sides, needn’t apply.

Meantime, a lot of valuable discussion with artists on the Dublin fringe took place, with the Scottish side including folk as diverse as Eddie Jackson of Borderline, Julie Ellen of the Playwrights’ Studio, Jeremy Raison of the Citz, Laura Collier of the Traverse, Ed Robson of Theatre Objektive and Lizzie Nicoll of the FST. These represented a diverse range of skills director, producer, programmer and so forth. Whispers, and indeed, these professionals will all, one hopes, be wiser for the experience, and the benefits of that will accrue to you, the potential audience. Meantime, the Dublin Fringe looks as lively as ever. See if you can get there.


Jeremy Raison

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