REVIEW REVIVAL THE GOAT, OR WHO IS SYLVIA? Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, until Sat 8 May ●●●●●
Award-winning architect Martin (John Ramm) has been married to Stevie (Sian Thomas) for over 20 years. Unlike the majority of their well-heeled friends the couple have remained passionately in love, sexually exclusive, and even appear to be adjusting magnanimously to their son’s homosexuality. Suddenly their comfortable world and liberal attitudes are thrown into flux when it emerges that Martin has fallen in love with a goat named Sylvia. Typically, Albee does not portray this infatuation as some absurd, cartoonish crush. The shock of Martin’s revelation is that, while extreme and grotesque, it is dealt with naturalistically, his discovery of Sylvia and their ensuing full-blown sexual relationship described in graphic detail.
While Dominic Hill’s production is
laugh-out-loud funny throughout, the play asks some taxing questions about the nature of personal morality, societal boundaries, and even goes so far as to cast doubt on the reciprocal nature of love. While the premise is not without its problems (is Albee, a gay man, really asking us to equivocate between homosexuality and bestiality?) the furious dispute between the leads as their marriage (and well-appointed front room) is ripped apart, charges along with an exhilarating urgency thanks to the playwright’s sparkling loaded dialogue and the fiery performances. The two leads are terrific, with Thomas giving a real tour-de-force as the wronged wife and lifting Stevie’s terror and grief well beyond the merely comic. (Allan Radcliffe)
PREVIEW NEW PLAY BLUE HEN Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, Wed 5–Sat 8 May; Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh, Thu 13–Sat 15 May, then touring
‘The name of the company is No Limit People and the idea is don’t take no for an answer. Make things happen as opposed to waiting.’ Nobody could accuse Scott Kyle of waiting around for things to happen: using his own savings he bought a few props and put on a production of Des Dillon’s sectarian prison cell comedy Singin’ I’m No a Billy He’s a Tim at Glasgow College of Nautical Studies for 60 people. Then it went to the Citizens Theatre and an audience of a hundred, then out on tour, then 600 at the SECC. Next year it’ll be playing to up to a thousand people a night in the Clyde Auditorium and the company Kyle founded, NLP Theatre, is currently being welcomed back to the Citizens and theatres around Scotland with a new Dillon play, Blue Hen. The Play, starring Coronation Street actor Charles
Lawson and Kyle himself, is about two unemployed men on ‘Coatbridge’s roughest scheme’ who decide that the
way to ride out the recession is by breeding chickens and selling the eggs. What they don’t bargain for is the fact that they’ve bought 20 male chicks, who proceed to grow up and eliminate one another until they’re left with one ‘mad mass murderer of a red rooster’, whose domination of the chicken run is matched only by the stranglehold of the local dealer on the scheme. For Kyle, it’s all about entertaining an audience who
might not normally go to the theatre, giving them something they can relate to, something that makes them laugh – a good night out, essentially. Moreover, it’s about showing something authentic, and not demanding of working class characters that they change or ‘go to drama school or university to become a better person’, a narrative trend Kyle and Dillon are both tired of. But the big issues lurking on the edge of NLP’s work – from sectarianism to chronic unemployment and drugs – won’t be allowed to encroach on the fun in Blue Hen: ‘We’ve got Cadbury’s cream eggs in it, we’ve got Buckfast, we’ve got cleavers and chickens. There’s so much hilarity and we’re finding more every day.’ (Laura Ennor)
L L E B P M A C D R A H C R
REVIEW ADAPTATION THE CHERRY ORCHARD Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh, until Sat 8 May ●●●●●
What’s immediately striking about John Byrne’s bold new adaptation of Chekhov’s swansong is how sympathetically it translates to its new setting – the north-east of Scotland on the eve of Mrs Thatcher’s first election victory in 1979 – with very little need for radical revisions beyond language and period references. While there are references to the macro situation through radio clips of the demise of the Callaghan government and Thatcher’s subsequent sweep to power, overall the political backdrop is not allowed to overpower the exploration of shifting social class on individual characters, crystallised in the loss of the Ramsay family’s ancestral pile and cherry orchard to Thatcherite entrepreneur Malcolm McCracken.
While Tony Cownie’s production largely succeeds in maintaining the balance between humour and pathos, the endless antics of Grant O’Rourke’s clumsy Sorley Shanks quickly becomes wearing, while some of the characters seem out of place with the setting and tone of the adaptation. Matthew Pidgeon’s Trotter (aka ‘Trotsky’) at times comes across as a mere mouthpiece, for instance. Among the peripheral characters Ralph Riach gives an eye-catching performance as the stalwart servant Fintry, while Philip Bird is perfectly cast as hopeless stuffed shirt brother, Guy. And the leads are excellent – Maureen Beattie capturing the inconsistency and grief of Mrs Ramsay-Mackay, with Andy Clark suitably self- conscious, vulgar and pathetic as the family nemesis McCracken. (Allan Radcliffe)
E D E R C C M N A L A
29 Apr–13 May 2010 THE LIST 83