IN the absence of portable back rests and inflatable cushions, there

is only one show at the Lyceum Studio which I can wholeheartedly

recommend. Andrew Dallmeyer's A Grand Scam is not only mercifully short,

it is also a clever and witty examination of what theatre is. Or is it?

Worrying enough for reviewers and those who think they know their avante

garde drama it is difficult to tell where the scam stops and the serious

comment begins. But then, what use is theatre if it doesn't unsettle the


Set in a church hall bearing a close resemblance to the interior of

the Lyceum Studio, the play bounces off an unlikely trio: Tristram, a

scarecrow with a fringe disaster on his hands; Art King, the keenly

perceptive theatrical entrepreneur who can make or break an act; and

Tommy, a disconsolate youth doing community service for his sins.

Written and performed with a firm grasp of language and character, it

is, like the story of The Emperor's New Clothes, on which it is based, a

cautionary and most enjoyable tale.

Flitting like a cheerful sparrow around the same stage some 11!/;1/

hours later, Tina Gray communicates all the vitality and charm of Ellen

Terry in her one-woman performance of the life of that celebrated

actress. Born to the stage, Terry spent her life in a whirlwind of

disastrous marriages and great theatrical successes. Gray paints her as

an ever-hopeful stargazer, always chasing after a perfect family life

yet able to thrive as the unmarried mother of two children even in the

moral chill of Victorian England. Tirelessly effervescent, unruffled by

extremes of emotion, Gray's performance will bring a warm glow to

anybody's afternoon.

''I think I can hear guitars going up and down the street and it's

always just the wind.'' The faint echo of Lorca's perfectly pitched

prose resonates through the production of Yerma by the young company,

Theatre in the Sand.

Sustained by expectation and by David Johnston's translation, which

runs hot and cold with metaphor the import and passion of the play

hovers tantalisingly within grasp throughout the opening scenes. As the

production progresses, however, the melody jangles discordantly, the

music fades and the ghost of a strong, simple tragedy is borne away on

the wind.

Even in the smothering atmosphere of the Lyceum orthopaedic unit, this

Yerma evokes no sense of the drying, debilitating heat or the almost

physical oppression which informs Lorca's drama. On a featureless stage

fenced by pallets, this ungainly troupe labour through the script,

swinging between two tones of voice, one bored, the other hysterical.

Julie Graham as Maria is a welcome pool of stillness in the midst of

this madness and there is a nicely choreographed interlude when

washerwomen vent their frustration on their sheets, but in the main

lovers of Lorca would be best advised to steer clear.

Dance-theatre is much vaunted as an important strand in the feature of

Scottish theatre, and, as dancers get down off their grand getes and

movement becomes more central to the actor's art, there is much to be

said for a melding of the two disciplines. The co-operation of TAG and

Dundee Rep Dance Company on a reworking of The Tempest is unlikely to

convince the doubters, however, there is, it seems to me, a lack of

common sense and simple stocktaking in Alan Lyddiard's production which

forces actors to dance and dancers to act, when their talents so clearly

lie elsewhere.

Much the same can be said of the dance. Tamara McLorg's pleasing

choreography, interspersed as it is with screeds of flatly intoned blank

verse, cannot get up enough revs for take-off and so never really gets

anywhere. For the rest: a Prospero who has wandered out of Thomas Mann,

soldiers in modern battledress, an assault on Romeo and Juliet during

The Masque, it is quite bewildering to wonder what it has to do with

Shakespeare or with anything else.