I The recent production of Mary Stewart left Whispers quietly pondering the subject of religious intolerance, particularly after a subsequent conversation about old queen Bess with a young English person. True enough, the Wrgin queen extended a certain toleration to the Catholic community of England after the death of Mary, yet this is not all it was cracked up to be. There was still plenty of imprisonment and execution of Catholics the government deemed “radical”, as well as some strict limitations of movement imposed on Catholics, as well as Jews. It kind of puts one in mind of more recent events, where particularly zealous followers of one particular religion have been given spells of chokey on no particular evidence, while, for the first time since the banning of the kilt, there appears to be movement afoot on imposing a dress code to being British.
All a bit sad really, for it seems a shame that intolerance should be institutionalised. This isn’t just a random social reﬂection either, for a conference on the subject of censorship in the theatre, sponsored by The Stage will shortly be held at the English National Theatre, which, one hopes, might attract some media attention. In it, the by now well trodden path of debates about the way in which certain religious groups have used political influence to interfere with artistic freedom in the theatre, particularly in the cases of Behzti, which offended certain elements of Birmingham’s Sikh community, causing damage to the theatre and the abandonment of the production and Jerry Springer: The Opera which was subject to much harassment from fundamentalist Christians.
Of course, we should no more interfere with the artist's freedom to create than prevent folk from freely practicing their religion, with whatever degree of ideological commitment they wish, provided it doesn’t injure life and limb. But with a government keen on legally sanctioning bigotry, isn’t the freedom to manoeuvre against censorship also compromised? Perhaps we need to address both issues at once.
84 THE LIST 16430 N()‘.' 2006
THE WINTER ROOM
North Edinburgh Arts Centre, Tue 21 Nov; Tramway, Glasgow, Thu 23 & Fri 24 Nov
Wood. ash. coal dust — the loveliness of an open fire comes at a price. as Claire Pencak well knows. The dancer Choreographer has had more than her fair share of dealings With a dirty grate since relocating from Edinburgh to the remote (:0untryside of Ross-shire. Winter has taken on a whole new meaning for Pencak since the move. prompting her to create a dance piece which captures the often stark beauty of her new surroundings.
‘l was inspired by the landscape and winter — both as a natural season and an emotional season.’ says Pencak. Everyone who has seen the work sees winter in it. but they read it in quite a personal way which was my intention — it's got layers.‘
Pencak formed her con'ipany. Tabula Rasa several years ago and has collaborated with a number of dancers and musicians since then. The Winter Room. however. was originally planned as a solo. with Pencak‘s only stage companions the aforementioned wood. ash and coal dust. But as rehearsals progressed. it became clear that a smattering of raw materials Just wasn't enough. And set deSigner. Brian Hartley began to take on a more pivotal role.
‘lt started off as a solo but I felt that I needed somebody else on stage.‘ explains Pencak. ‘Brian brought his Visual art background as well as his training in Japanese Butoh. So we're quite contrasting and have our own movement style. which suits the piece very well.‘ iKelly Apterl
NEW WORK THE WORLD IN PICTURES
Tramway, Glasgow, Fri 24 & Sat 25 Nov
What does pop cultural history take out of the stories of our past. and what's left in? It's an intriguing matter to contemplate. given the moVies tell most folk more about history than historians these days. And the Bravehear! version of history can play as fast and loose as it chooses.
Given that this is what inOVies do With history. it's no surprise to find that the past is often retold as a thinly disguised version of current ideological preoccupations. So it is that everyone from William Wallace to Alexander the Great have been transmogrified into the contemporary neo conseiyatiyes that they precisely weren't. This. though. happens when ruling elites re-tell history But what of people lower down the economic scale? We can see an example of this alternative history. complete with pop Cultural references. in the shape of this new piece by those frantic English theatrical buccaneers. Forced Entertainment. The Sheffield company. long noted for experimental work full of physical and Visual trickery. as well as plenty of audience interaction. is presenting a kind of mock— heroic history of the world. starting Wliil a travesty of the old Hammer inowe One Mil/ion Years BC and moving on to the present day. Expect touching and tender moments. boisterous humour. and a little more to chew on about history than
you'd expect. (Steve Cramerl
NEW \"JRITINC DISTRACTED Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, until Sat 25 Nov 0000
Morna Pearson’s piece forms part of the trilogy of new work presented in this new departure for the Traverse, each show performed in repertory by the same small company of actors, all directed by Lorne Campbell and designed by Lisa Sangster, all reviewed, for your convenience, on this page. On the whole, this amounts to a pleasing little program, the odd rough edge of which gives texture to the whole shebang. Each, in one way or another focuses on states of extreme subjectivity, as well as issues of transition, loneliness and alienation.
In the case of Distracted this loneliness is mainly manifested in the character of a young boy, Jamie (Gary Collins), living in a Scottish rural trailer park with a witch-like grandmother (Anne Lacey) who subjects him to all manner of psychological abuse. He’s plainly a little wanting, perhaps autistic, and he occupies himself with a succession of displacement activities, each an escapism from a cruel and incomprehensible world. As he collects insects and bits of detritus discarded around the campsite, he’s joined by another boy, George Michael (David Ireland), who retains a hope of escaping the park through a wealthy suitor for his single mum (Abigail Davies). This latter, a sexually generous young woman, utterly abandoned by the world, is capable of kindnesses which sometimes shade into forms of alarming sexual misconduct. As time passes we hear more of the circumstances that brought each character there, and the gentle humour of the piece gives way to increasing pathos and intimations of tragedy. Jamie moves into a world of fantasy, imposing, through his imagination a new reality on the situation.
The young writer displays a craft beyond her years in the piece’s sly humour and gradually unfolding narrative, all nicely realised in Campbell’s sensitive production. At the centre of it is a splendid performance by Collins, who seems to improve as he ages, but all of the acting is strong in this piece. There is, throughout, a sense of quiet and beautiful elegy, tinged with disturbing revelations about folk who have nowhere to go but into themselves when presented with an unforgiving social structure. It marks Pearson as a voice to listen out for in the future. (Steve Cramer)