Daily Archives: August 27, 2010

The Meeting

THEATRE
The Meeting
Quaker Meeting House (Venue 40)
3 stars ***

THE NEW SALISBURY UNIVERSITY PLAYERS have come all the way from Maryland to present this thoughtful one-hour drama on the Fringe; and although it’s not a new work, its theme remains both significant and timely.   First written 20 years ago, Jeff Stetson’s play is set the mid-1960’s, and imagines a meeting which never actually took place, between the famously non-violent civil rights leader Martin Luther King, and the more militant black Muslim campaigner, Malcolm X.

In an anonymous hotel room, the two circle and spar with one another, under the scowling gaze of Malcolm X’s sceptical minder.  Sometimes, their verbal dispute reaches a climax in a sudden bout of physical arm-wrestling, as they strive for dominance in the leadership of black America; yet at other times, they seem bound together by a profound sense of brotherhood, despite their differences, and their simmering mutual accusations of treachery.

The pace of Tom Anderson’s production in stately, and the whole experience tends to lack dramatic tension; there is nothing specific at stake in the conversation, despite its fascinating subject.  It’s impressive, though, to see two young black actors – Terron T. Quailes and Cedric X Hardnett – bringing such a careful and meticulous intensity to their portrayal of these two great figures in recent US history.  And for those with an interest in the politics of the American century through which we have just lived, this show offers a worthwhile and thought-provoking experience.

Joyce McMillan
Until 28 August
p. 271

ENDS ENDS

Jack The Knife

THEATRE
Jack The Knife
Assembly@George Street (Venue 3)
3 stars ***

WHAT IS THE BRILLIANT Fringe veteran Jack Klaff up to, in his latest solo show?  At one level, he seems to be telling us a story about his life in showbusiness, and the bullying and abuse of power he has sometimes encountered in his own profession.  Yet at another, he seems to be giving us a 60-minute monologue about energy itself – about the dark energy of those who abuse and hate, and the positive energy of those who seek to walk to a different rhythm, perhaps including storytellers like himself, the people who, in order to tell a good tale, have to be both “selfless” and “disobedient.”

At any rate, this range of thematic concerns allows the remarkable Jack – still a powerhouse of charisma and good looks  at 60, with a shock of white hair – to explore not only his experience of theatre, but elements of his South African family history, of contemporary micro-politics, and of cutting-edge scientific theory.  The style is sometimes free-form to the point of being difficult to follow; the text could perhaps use a slightly stronger thematic or narrative backbone.  Yet as an account of the ways in which our control-freak culture tries – and fails – to crush free spirits, this is a show well worth seeing; and may become more so, as Klaff processes his voluminous audience feedback, and moves on.

Joyce McMillan
Unilt 30 August
p. 262