Theatre: I'll take Berlin

Scottish round-up Citizens' / Traverse / Tron
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The Independent Culture
With its twin-track plot of a young nobleman indulg-ing his incestuous infatuation with his niece as she is forced into an arranged marriage, and a duke bullying his way into the affections of a young beauty who has just married beneath herself, Thomas Middleton's 1621 tragedy Women Beware Women receives a suitably suave modern makeover in Philip Prowse's production at the Citizens', Glasgow.

Prowse divides the play into two halves, and in the first all seems well. The action is updated to a Florence where the aristos drift about in dinner-jackets and cocktail dresses and the proles go barefoot. Middleton is careful to let the acid into his story drip by drip. Prowse's company relish the process, dextrously producing moments of fresh, sharp comedy. Leantio (Colin Wells) and Bianca (Victoria Scarborough) are very plausibly stupid with newly monied bliss while, higher up the social scale, the widow Livia (Anne Lambton) takes a dry, laconic delight in pimping for her younger brother Hippolito (Henry Ian Cusick), for the Duke (Gerrard McArthur) and finally for herself.

Unfortunately (and uncharacteristically) Prowse's production falls out of sorts in the second half. The plot moves into a higher, more melodramatic gear and many of the performances lose their ironic poise, in some cases going wildly over the top: the inferno of the final wedding scene comes as more of a relief than surely is intended.

David Greig's new play One Way Street, on the other hand, which played at the Traverse, Edinburgh, last week, rarely stumbles on its progress through the confused life of its central character. John Flannery is a spiky but sympathetic young Lancastrian eking out his existence in Berlin by writing a pocket tourist guide - Ten Short Walks in the Former East. Greig and his long-standing collaborator Graham Eatough present One Way Street as a work-in-progress. This seems unnecessary modesty, for the play shows very few rough edges. Its 10 scenes each take as their cue one of Flannery's "walks", from which he strays with increasing frequency into the perplexities of his personal life.

This proves a very rich dramatic conceit, enabling Greig to juxtapose the cultural confusion of modern Berlin with more individual problems. The resulting connections are never predictable and always plausible.

Greig and Eatough never allow One Way Street to stand still, agilely mixing moods and performance styles. Eatough makes the most of Greig's acutely observed verbal and visual humour. Flannery's brother, the "black hole" Tony, is a particularly memorable creation. After its short first airing last week, it would be astonishing if Greig's poignant, comic modern odyssey did not soon find itself another stage.

The touring Compass Theatre Company have opened their new production of Buchner's Woyzek at Glasgow's Tron, pairing it up with their 1994 Midsummer Night's Dream. The director, Neil Sissons, and his cast fashion Buchner's fragmentary masterpiece into a marvellous coherence. The real key to the success of this perfectly balanced and focused production is Michael Glenn Murphy's intense but beautifully unaffected portrayal of Woyzeck, rendering him as a kind of Holy Fool, tragically short of an outer skin to protect him from life's thorns.

n `Women Beware Women' is at the Citizens', Glasgow, to 25 Feb. (Booking: 0141-429-0022)

n `Woyzeck' / `Midsummer Night's Dream': the Tron, Glasgow to 18 Feb (Booking: 0141-552-4267)

Richard Loup-Nolan

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