Myth piggy

I l Arthurian legend is given a knob- : twiddling twist in Theatre sans I


Frontieres’s new show Pig Bay, as Z director John Cobb explains to Neil 5 Cooper.

Many a tale has been told of King Arthur and his court. in a variety of ways. from stiff-upper-lipped heroics to Camelot: The Musical. ln Pig Bay. the I latest visual feast from Theatre sans Frontieres. l Arthur is less the crusty knight in a cloak. and more ofa wheeler-dealing. gadget-wielding Nintendo freak. too caught up in his widgets to pay any attention to the boy of the title. who grew up among pink porkers and is now on a quest to find out a few things.

‘The whole Game Boy thing is so big with kids these days.‘ says director John Cobb. ‘lt makes 1 things recognisable straightaway. which is much I better than having Arthur as this ethereal figure in a i long cloak. We are trying to suggest. though. that l there's more to the whole thing than Game Boy. it's a classic adventure quest, and Pig Boy's innerjoumey

l I l

as well.‘

Cobb who is also a member of Edinburgh's Benchtours company —set up Theatre sans Frontieres four years ago to perform European classics in their original language. There's been a large French emphasis so far. with productions of Candide and Mitre-Dame de Paris. ‘My initial intention in setting


legendary performance: fim Licata and I Zannle Fraser in Pig Boy

up the company was actually quite a selfish one.‘ he explains. ‘l was working with Robert Lepage at the l time on 'I‘ectmzit.‘ Plates and thought I'd better get : some practice in working in French. We all trained with Phillipe Gaulier in Paris. He places an emphasis on the pleasure in play between actors. and their rapport with an audience. That’s where our core of understanding of how to play as an ensemble comes from.‘

But doesn't Cobb feel this multi-lingual approach I

might limit their audience somewhat? Au (‘nntrulre/ ‘There's the feeling that we‘re ruore a part of Europe these (lay/sf he says. ‘so there's this huge market of people opened up who want to see things ill the original language. Besides. we try to tell the narrative in a highly visual way. and a very funny way. in order to get the story across.’

As it happens. Pig Bay will be the company’s first piece in English. though of course liberal smatterings of Welsh are laced throughout. as is an original folk score by stalwart multi-instrumentalist Alan Tall. Rehearsals began with the company participating in a ten-day workshop led by Marcello Magni of Theatre de Complicite. the company which is an inspiration

‘We’re effectively doing what an oral storyteller would do, using lots of different devices and intonations to hold our audience.’

and a reference point for non-text based companies the world over.

Cobb says this was a very exciting time. drawing heavily from the Celtic legend of Culhwch and Olwen and other sagas from King Arthur‘s Court. ‘These tales were originally told orally by bards. and were only written down in medieval times.‘ he explains. ‘There's an incredible amount of incident there. and we do different parts of the story in different styles. This is part of what appealed about it. We're effectively doing what an oral storyteller would do. using lots of different devices and intonations to hold our audience and entertain them.‘ Trés ban. Knockout. in fact. (Neil Cooper)

Pig Bay. The’titre Sans F mntiéres. Netherhaw Arts Centre. Edinburgh. 17—18 May; Rams/ram Theatre. Glasgow 19—20 May.

sandman-lull Gender agenda

Very few people with even a passing interest In theatre can be unaware of David Manet’s Oleanna, surely the most talked-about play of the decade. Stories of couples arguing furiously outside theatres after seeing it, of Fatal Attraction-style cheers when the college professor ultimately turns and thumps the female student who’s accused him of sexual harassment, have only added to claims for it as the


gander“: am or the 19903, brief chat, we ended up in an involved Many have interpreted the play as an - and exhilarating two-hour attack on political correctness, but for “MWIM- WM about "'0 “"06"! Fiona Bell, playing Carol, the student, setting. the fact that Carol Is studyine in the lloyal lyceurn’s forthcoming “llama? '8 “all” HWM'II Scottish pramlaro at the my, a... whether education is a means of conflicts it contains are far more dwocl’aflc MPWOMIt or 3 MM subtle than that. “me mlmf’ Join, for maintaining the status quo? What is very much e product or e W .about the fact that the demon of H:

where the power-base is male, white and privileged,’ she says, ‘whereas Carol comes from a background where she’s had to struggle to get where she is. An awful lot of the power-struggle is enacted through the language of the play - his use of academic language she doesn’t understand, as well as her use of extreme terminology; it’s when words fail him, literally, at the end, that he resorts to violence. Because his is an abuse of power we’re all very familiar wlth, he comes over as far more reasonable than her, whereas in fact the play ls actually very precisely

It's certainly a testament to the heat of the issues Oleanna raises that where Bell and I might have met for a

grew from campaigns against sexism and racism, campaigns which profoundly threaten those institutions doing the demonislng? And by throwing out the baby of legitimate protest with the PO bathwater, do you marginailse the language of opposition so far that only dogmatic extremes remain?

The central conclusion I gleaned from Bell’s eager defence of the play is that most commentators - pro and anti - have reached far too readily for glib, simplistic analyses. Whereas, If you look closely at the exactitude of Oleanna’s language and construction, it asks umpteen more challenging and interesting questions than it’s been given credit for. I could be wrong. See you arguing outside the lyceum. (Sue Wilson)

Oleanna, ltoyal lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, 12-27 May. TheatreWerIrs’ production of David “net’s Edmond is at the Arches ‘lbeab'e, Glasgow, 9-13 May and tuning.

The List 5-i8 May 1995 35