Edinburgh Fringe 2013
Three actors are brought together for a reality TV show that will follow their attempts to use very little cash to put on Liz Lochhead’s Tartuffe. Noting goes particularly well apart from the joy that comes from watching these three great actors go through how they reveal much in their attempts to get the tour off the ground and things moving whilst dealing with a reality TV crew.
Twenty too many years ago I joined Borderline Theatre Company. It was the time of Kathy and Clare, City Lights and Chancer and seeing Juliet Cadzow is a Goddess. Some of that is now gone, but what remains is a story of three actors who find themselves “out” when they were once “in”; it is terrifyingly real here. Danny has brought his one time partner Portia in to work alongside his one time lover Emerald in a skint version of Liz Lochhead’s Tartuffe. They had all, many years ago, been in a disastrous tour of Tartuffe. We see their auditions before the beginning of rehearsals in front of the TV crew which is driven by Danny’s desire to be working again. It becomes clear that it will simply not work because it is simply not possible. Eventually Danny puts his back out trying to seduce Emerald – which she is partly the instigator for – and in his absence Portia calls in Liz Lochhead and the play is rescued – kinda. It ends in poetic fashion as the bittersweet feelings of the cast are explained to the audience.
This is so richly observed it was almost painful. I am sure there were many that didn’t quite get the jokes and all that was missing was an Anna Stapleton rejection letter to bring back painful memories for me but this hit the mark of the time and the agony of just now. There is so much in the writing to really enjoy that I just sat and giggled throughout.
Andy Gray is an under used actor. I have always felt that he could turn an audience round in a look, a line and a gormless expression. He employs all three here but there is something more. The persona that Gray has used onstage for years is undercut by what is a very telling comment when he says that he continues to do it because he wants to. There is something deeply personal here and the writing helps because it understands that pathos is often the key to comedy. Kate Donnelly is an underused actor. Her Emerald is all that you would wish an angry woman to be – if you were looking for an angry woman. When she attacks Gray for not doing the warm up it is pure comedy joy. Whilst her career has found some success as a writer it is her ability as an actor that underpins that. Here she has everything, her naiveté, her anger and her assured comic turn of phrase that is again bounced on the quality of the script. Juliet Cadzow is an underused actor. Leaving any actress called Redmond aside this is the flame haired actor you want. She has graced the stage and Scottish Television for more years than she would care to admit to but the experience she displays at her fingertips sizzles. She uses all that here as Portia is far more “stuck up” than I would imagine her to be but that plumby voice – does she do the pre show announcements I wonder – is just a joy. She has the ability to make sense and see sense in terms of her character’s role within this piece as well as give us some tremendous comedy routines.
The staging is entirely basic and I am sure could be improved upon. That having been said it is a rehearsal room and they hardly have cushioned seats. It is directed with warmth and understanding and it comes as no surprise that someone of Martin McCardle’s qualities assume both the director’s chair and writer’s pen. There is clearly an issue at the heart of it but also a warmth and love for the craft of theatre.
At times this could come across as quite indulgent but it struck me as things were being said about Scotland, like wanting to stay and work here and the problems we have constantly had with funding of the arts that this actually DOES have something fundamentally artistic to say about the independence debate. This is not mere fluff. It takes me back to a time when the Tories were controlling the purse strings. Things were not good then. Are they any better now? This does not have any serious answers to bring to the table but they at least have some questions and do have some great fun on the way there!