Chorale - A Sam Shepard Roadshow
Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
IT looks like someone's been stranded at the drive-in at the start of the first night of this bite-size tour through some of American playwright Sam Shepard's little-seen works by Presence Theatre and Actors Touring Company in association with the Belgrade, Coventry.
There's bump n' grind bar-room blues playing, and, in front of a back-lit big-screen, some drifter in a sleeping bag remains comatose throughout the screening of Shirley Clarke's 1981 video of Savage/Love, Shepard's dramatic collaboration with actor/director Joseph Chaikin.
As the title suggests, Shepard and Chaikin's 25 minute masterpiece, performed to the camera by Chaikin himself with jazz duo accompaniment, is a relentless incantation on the highs and lows of obsessive amour. On video, it becomes both an impressionistic interpretation by Clarke and an essential document of Shepard and Chaikin's fertile collaboration, which also sired Tongues and The War in Heaven, both seen as part of the second day of Chorale alongside Shepard's 1970 play, The Holy Ghostly.
There's a distinct whiff of patchouli oil for The Animal (You), a compendium of Shepard's prose fragments knitted together by director Simon Usher and actor Jack Tarlton, who performs alongside John Chancer, Valerie Gogan and musician Ben Kritikos like some pan-generational art-rock poetry troupe. From behind microphones, the three men declaim Shepard's retrospective meditations on fathers, sons and barefoot girls on trains who look like Tuesday Weld. Inbetween, explosive litanies on the visceral power of rock music leap out with abandon. All this converges as a rolling interior monologue with the irresistible pull of the road at its heart in a piece of beguilingly poetic rock and roll theatre.