Preview for the week: 25 – 31 January, 2010

January 25, 2010 | By More

By Thom Dibdin

A generally quiet January begins to hot up on Thursday, with three short-running productions opening on the same night. The RSAMD come to town with a big scale opera, the Traverse opens its season with some small scale works and the Holyrood Amateurs let us in on a pair of new one-act plays. On the main stages the depth is still there with a pair of top-rated sparklers at the Lyceum and the Playhouse.

The largest scale new work is at the Festival Theatre with the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama’s production of Prokofiev’s War and Peace on Thursday and Saturday. Based on Tolstoi’s monumental novel, spanning decades and thousands of miles, Prokofiev’s initial version failed to find approval with Soviet authorities and was subject to more than a decade of revision. This is the world premiere production of the “de-Sovietised” version, as Prokofiev originally intended it, which concentrates on four dramatic years in the lives of its protagonists, rather than the epic conflict taking place on the world stage.

The Traverse is holding the annual schools playwriting project, Class Act, on Thursday and Friday. Now in its 20th year, this year’s production includes short plays by senior drama and English pupils from nine schools from Edinburgh, West Lothian and Glasgow. They have been helped by professional playwrights: Davey Anderson, Oliver Emanuel, Catherine Grosvenor, Jules Horne, Douglas Maxwell, Nicola McCartney, Alan Wilkins and Isabel Wright.

There’s also new writing from the Holyrood Amateur Theatrical Society with their Winter Show 2010 from Thursday to Saturday at the Pleasance Cabaret Bar. The Spy Who Came Down With a Cold is an affectionate pastiche of the John Le Carré/Len Deighton spy novels, written and directed by Rob Salvin. It is set in 1960s London and Berlin where a washed-up British agent is seemingly demoted to a menial desk job. In Feet, written and directed by Gregor Shanks, a doctor battling prescription-drug addiction and the heart-break of divorce wakes up to find that the entire population is spellbound by their own feet. Comic and bizarre, the two productions will be separated by a short set of Italian-accented jazz from local band Bicycle Thieves.

At the Royal Lyceum, Arthur Miller’s big hit The Price (until Saturday 13 February) provides a satisfying start to the year. It’s a piece which, in the right hands, has comedy and depth, as estranged brothers Victor and Walter pick over their dead father’s belongings with furniture dealer Solomon.

It must be said that director John Dove’s hands are the right ones. His previous form with Miller at the Lyceum is strong and this continues the trend. Those who have seen previous productions of the play in Edinburgh in recent years should be nicely surprised. Both Greg Powrie as Victor, the brother who sacrificed all to stay at home and look after their father, and Aden Gillett as Walter, the one who went off and made something of himself, are in great form. James Hayes doesn’t overdo the key comic role of Solomon, and Sally Edwards’ performance as Victor’s wife, Esther, expands and pulls out the production.

At the Playhouse, Connie Fisher stars in The Sound of Music until Saturday 20 February. Bright and impeccably cheery, but harbouring a darkly sinister note, this big touring revival gives the film version a run for its money – and even betters it on some levels. The big name stars all perform excellently. Fisher, who won BBC1’s talent show to fill the role, has the vocal drama for Maria; West End star Margaret Preece the power needed for the Abbess; and one-time Robin Hood Michael Praed oozes charm as Captain von Trapp.

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