NEW STAGES: SCOTTISH ROUND-UP

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The Independent Culture
In a sober, grey-flannelled start to Glasgow's 1995 Mayfest, Scotland's 7:84 company offered Born Guilty, an adaptation of Peter Sichrovsky's books Born Guilty, Strangers in Their Own Land and Incurably German. Sichrovsky's work offers a complex, personal insight into the legacy of the Second World War. Taking full advantage of an unusually long rehearsal / development period, director Iain Reekie and Berlin dramaturg Rainer Lau have managed to edit the mass of Sichrovsky's texts into a tightly organised piece of theatre.

The cast of six double up as some dozen characters, whose revealing, often confessional interviews are spliced together like good televisual social history, TV monitors cueing each section with headings: "Happy", "Holocaust" or "What did you know about the war?".

Reekie and Lau dramatise Born Guilty in several ways. The characters confess and reminisce to each other, not to the audience, so that a sustained argument gradually emerges from their various points of view. Snatches of traditional German songs and dance punctuate the talk, providing movement. And the conceptual dressing is the retelling of the Oedipus legend, rhetorically asking whether Germany can escape from the chains of tragic destiny that threaten to bind it.

Born Guilty pegs out its dialectical groundsheet with stock characters like the reactionary banker's blonde wife (Alexa Kesselaar) who clings to traditional ideas of German womanhood, and the self-hating gay son (Michael Perceval-Maxwell) of a Nazi murderer, who spent his childhood in South America. In between, there emerge some fascinating, touching and acutely ironical revelations. Paul Blair is a disarmingly confident Jewish German policeman, Ann Kidd a delicate picture of tortured respectability as she wonders whether she's inherited her parents' icy hearts.

With only two hours at its disposal, Born Guilty cannot offer a comprehensive picture of modern Germany - the legacy of 1945 for the former East Germany is never explored, for example - but the insights it offers are timely, rare and very precious.

Mike Cullen's new play, The Collection, also features guilt very strongly, in this case the guilt triggered in a debt collector by the suicide of one of his clients. You can almost smell the sweat off the nylon shirts of the three collectors in Cullen's fictional office, spartanly designed by Nick Sargent. It's a predictably hard-ass world and Cullen writes sharp, snappy dialogue to match, which only occasionally crosses the line into clich.

Frank Gallagher is very convincing as the conscience- stricken Bob Lawson, finding more chilling menace in the shadows of his lost persona than in the more ostentatious threats of his manager, Joe (Michael Nardone). Although there's a surprising twist to the motivation of Pauline Knowles's debtor Elena, she's a less rounded character, given less room to manoeuvre in a plot that's ultimately too tight for its own good. The narrative threads ravelled up in the final scenes deny The Collection the resonance it craves.

On the Citizens' main stage, Wildcat launches its contribution to the campaign for the Perth and Kinross by-election with Bedfellows by David Anderson and David MacLennan, a political farce set in a Perthshire hotel owned by Essex incomer Rita Basildon (Lesley Robertson).

The Tories, New Labour and the SNP all get a good going over in the best Wildcat tradition. The plot involves an aspiring, cross-dressing Labour candidate, Tony Bland (Alan McHugh), a randy old dandy Tory, Sir Christopher Vainwean (Dave Anderson), a lost son and some Semtex in a briefcase. There's even a Swedish maid.

It takes a while for the farce to acquire momentum and the sauciness is overdone, but the combined talents of the cast win over in the end, with Michael MacKenzie stealing the show as the whisky-sodden Anglo-phobic Hector McEnvie. They'll love it in Perth (not).

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Richard Loup-Nolan

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