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Chorale – A Sam Shepard Roadshow

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
Four stars
It looks like someone's been stranded at the drive-in at the start of
the first night of this weekend's bite-size tour through some of
American playwright Sam Shepard's little-seen works by Presence Theatre
and Actors Touring Company in association with the Belgrade, Coventry.
There's some bump n' grind bar-room blues playing, and, in front of a
back-lit big-screen, some drifter in a sleeping bag remains comatose
throughout the screening of Shirley Clarke's 1981 video of Savage/Love,
Shepard's dramatic collaboration with actor/director Joseph Chaikin.

As the title suggests, Shepard and Chaikin's twenty-five minute
masterpiece, performed to the camera by Chaikin himself with jazz duo
accompaniment, is a relentless incantation on the highs and lows of
obsessive amour. On video, it becomes both an impressionistic
interpretation by Clarke and an essential document of Shepard and
Chaikin's fertile collaboration, which also sired Tongues and The War
in Heaven, both seen as part of the second day of Chorale alongside
Shepard's 1970 play, The Holy Ghostly.

There's a distinct whiff of patchouli oil for The Animal (You), a
compendium of Shepard's prose fragments knitted together by director
Simon Usher and actor Jack Tarlton, who performs alongside John
Chancer, Valerie Gogan and musician Ben Kritikos like some
pan-generational art-rock poetry troupe. From behind microphones, the
three men declaim Shepard's retrospective meditations on fathers, sons
and barefoot girls on trains who look like Tuesday Weld. Inbetween,
explosive litanies on the visceral power of rock music leap out with
abandon. All this converges as a rolling interior monologue with the
irresistible pull of the road at its heart in a piece of beguilingly
poetic rock and roll theatre.

The Herald, June 3rd 2014


ends

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