Skip to main content

Travesties

Pitlochry Festival Theatre
Four stars

Who would be a bit-part player in some of history’s most seismic events? Stand up Henry Carr, a real-life British consulate official minding the shop in Zurich circa 1917 in Tom Stoppard’s audacious play, revived here by Richard Baron in a suitably wild production. With novelist James Joyce, Dadaist Tristan Tzara and Russian revolutionary VI Lenin in residence, everything goes cuckoo in what is effectively Henry’s unreliable memoir. As he gives himself a starring role, such myth-making liberates Stoppard to run riot with a dramatic cut-up of form, ideas and a series of routines that interrogate art and revolution as seeming polar opposites that turn out to be two sides of the same coin.

In a Zurich that is a diplomatic no man’s land which becomes a capital of culture caught in the crossfire of several intellectual uprisings, Mark Elstob’s Henry dreams himself as a dandyish hero of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. In actual fact, he is a crusty little Englander abroad, whose stance against both art and foreigners gives him the air of a latter-day Brexiteer. Either way, Elstob plays him with a delicious archness that infects all about him, making a song and dance of Stoppard’s still pertinent debate concerning the respective merits of socially aware constructions and art for art’s sake in a way that heightens things to the max.

There is fine support from Graham Mackay-Bruce as Tzara and Alex Scott Fairley, but it’s Carl Patrick’s insurgent butler Bennett you have to keep an eye on in a big play of ideas that wears the pop cultural trappings of a fringe show. In a mash-up of Tzara and Joyce, it leaves you saying yes, da, and indeed da once more.

The Herald, June 29th 2018

ends

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Clybourne Park

Adam Smith Theatre, Kirkcaldy Four Stars
It’s a case of whoops, there goes the neighbourhood twice over in Rapture Theatre’s revival of Bruce Norris’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play, which opens in 1959 in the same Chicago suburb where Lorraine Hansberry’s drama, A Raisin in the Sun, which appeared that year, is set. Here, Robin Kingsland’s Russ and his wife Bev, played by Jackie Morrison, are preparing to move out of their now almost empty des-res following a family tragedy.
Unknown to them, the bargain basement price tag has enabled a black family to move in, with Jack Lord’s uptight Karl a self-appointed spokesperson for the entire ‘hood. Russ and Bev’s black maid Francine (Adelaide Obeng) and her husband Albert (Vinta Morgan), meanwhile, bear witness to a barrage of everyday racism. Fast forward half a century, and a white family are trying to buy the same house, albeit with a heap of proposed changes which the black couple representing the block’s now much more diverse community aren’t…

Michael Rother - Sterntaler at 40

"There's so much to do," says an uncharacteristically flustered Michael Rother. The normally unflappably beatific German guitarist, composer and former member of Neu! and Harmonia, who also had a stint in a nascent Kraftwerk, is packing for live dates in Russia and the UK, including this weekend's show at the Queen Margaret Union in Glasgow.
"It has always been my choice to take care of these things myself and not have a manager," he says. "Somehow for me the independent aspect of doing things is really important, but it has its disadvantages."
As well as playing selections from Neu! and Harmonia, the trio he formed with Dieter Moebius and Hans Joachim Roedelius of Cluster, Rother's Glasgow date will see him play a fortieth anniversary rendering of his second solo album, Sterntaler, in full. Rother will be accompanied by guitarist Franz Bargmann and drummer Hans Lampe, the latter of whose musical involvement with Rother dates back to Neu! days, …

Kieran Hurley – Mouthpiece

Things have changed since Kieran Hurley first began writing the play that would become Mouthpiece, which opens at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh this weekend. At the time, Hurley was, in his own words, “quite new on the scene.” As a writer and performer, he had already scored hits with Beats and Chalk Farm, two pieces that put him on the map with a new generation of theatre-makers steeped in an equally new wave of grassroots opposition that drew from the iconography of revolutions past. Where Beats looked at the politicisation of 1990s club culture, Chalk Farm, co-written with AJ Taudevin, focused on a teenage boy caught up in the 2011 London riots.
More plays followed. Some, like Heads Up used the same solo story-telling aesthetic to look at an everyday apocalypse. More recently, Square Go, written with Gary McNair, dissected toxic masculinity through a school playground fight.
All the while as Hurley developed as a writer, from new kid on the block to established provocateur, this…