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Jaspistos IN COMPETITION NO. 1838 you were invited to write a review of a production of a well-known play which has been eccentri- cally set in a time and place far from the author's intentions.
Arsenic and Old Lace translated to 19th- century Montmartre, Death of a Salesman 'set with infinite cunning in the biblical wil- derness after the expulsion of the Israelites from Egypt', a North Korean version of Oedipus at Colonus, Austin Dundee's Toad of Toad Hall played out in idyllic pre- colonial Australia ('infectious new down- under staging') and Jonathan Miller's 'tri- umphantly innovative' Charley's Aunt trans- ported to Israel in the 1990s ... Your infi- nite variety spiced my life this week, the
hottest chilli of them all being John Cunningham's Waiting for Godot, presented by Fran Fletcher's Osiris Group at the Rink, Endington: 'The skating itself was never less than competent — Marvell and Deacon's pas de deux as Lucky and Pozzo well merited its triple encore.'
The winners, printed below, get a prize of £20 each, and the bonus bottle of Isle of Jura Single Malt Scotch whisky is on the way to Watson Weeks.
Transposing Macbeth from 11th-century Scot- land to the Surrey commuter belt was no doubt intended to stress the universality of evil, but the production lost something in the process. It was not so much the Armani suits, which suggested the ruthless ambition of the modern executive quite as effectively as tartan plaids. Nor could one cavil at Macduffs dispatching Macbeth with the poisoned tip of an elegantly folded umbrella. Even the necessary textual alterations were for- givable, though 'Is this an Uzi that I see before me?' lacked something of the resonance of the original. No, two things failed to suspend my dis- belief: a coven of well-bred, elocuting witches presiding over the cauldron like the finalists in Masterchef, and Lady Macbeth, a suburban social climber, who greeted her husband's decision to 'go no further in this business' in the injured tones of a woman denied her second Zanussi dishwasher.
Forget gas lamps, fogs and hansom cabs. The Today Theatre Company's 1990s production of William Gillette's Sherlock Holmes is very differ- ent from the version seen at the Aldwych in the Seventies. From our first glimpse of Holmes and Watson manning adjacent positions in the Baker Street branch of the Abbey National, it is obvious that the director has taken a fresh look at the old warhorse. One bright idea is to have Holmes's apparently miraculous deductions assisted by data he's furtively reading from his computer screen. There's an admirable lack of ethnic or gender bias in most of the casting, although I sensed that some members of the audience weren't quite ready for the great detective to be both black and female. Moreover, wasn't it a tiny bit provocative to cast the only white male actor with an impeccably English accent as the villain Moriarty? The deerstalker was an amusing anachronism. Recommended.
Setting a Chekhov play in a location relevant to a local audience instead of pre-revolutionary Russia is no novelty. However, present-day Salford as the object of the three sisters' yearning has not quite the same ring as Moscow. The name of the director of the recently formed Baggage Theatre Company is new to me; while I appreciate his desire to shed fresh light on a famous play, I do question his casting. Cross- dressing has been tried before, but the burly Masha of Reg Green — an actor we associate with the TV series The Chippies — is sadly unconvincing, and Baron Tuzenbach in the form of the petite Chantal Dubois is hindered both by her limited mastery of the English language and a dangerously insecure moustache. Staging the Baron's duel and death before our eyes to the accompaniment of the unmilitary strains of the Grateful Dead adds little to the final scene.
Liz Eldritch's thought-provoking production of The Tempest transfers the action from 16th- century desert island to 20th-century Glasgow. Here, sole residents of a condemned tower block, dwell illusionist Prospero, his daughter Miranda ('Randy') and his weirdo acolyte Ariel. British menial Caliban, dismissed for indecently assault-
ing Randy, skulks in outhouses. Following storm- flooding engineered by Prospero, gangland brothers 'King' Alonso and Sebastian, with Prospero's usurping gang-lieutenant brother 'Duke' Antonio, his son Ferdie and various henchmen, are stranded in the neighbourhood. Crudest farce amid dilapidated flats, broken staircases and derelict loos, plus explicit love- making by Randy and Ferdie, eventually bring universal reconciliation, including Prospero's reinstatement into Alonso's drugs empire from which 'Tony' had ousted him. My abiding impres- sion was of how inspirationally the powerfully brooding set — discoloured concrete, litter, bro- ken, boarded-up windows — reflects, as the sonorous Shakespearean cadences foreshadow, today's violence-ridden futility, imparting electri- fying insights into the play's significance.