One eruption after another

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 January, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 January, 1995, 12:00am

THINK of Ibsen and you imagine the repressed tensions and desires of headstrong characters strait-jacketed by the norms and conventions of society.

Now see How to Live, radical Ibsen (Ibsenities, they call it) supplied by the Volcano Theatre Company of Swansea, Wales: a woman (Fern Smith) in the throes of a sexual climax, moving to a centre-stage table where a baby (actually a doll in this case) lies naked on the table and another actress (Jane Arnfield) gives a running commentary.

As Smith approaches her imaginary climax she throws the baby on the floor; and so on with four more babies suffering the same fate.

Cast member Paul Davies points out, as the performance moves through extracts from the Norwegian dramatist and into an examination of the sexual tensions of the four performers, it hasn't got much to do with Ibsen.

Well, yes and no. The Volcano Theatre Company turns Ibsen on his head, the private passions and public pretences are on full display in a dazzling, athletic charge through the playwright. Actors leap or fall from tables and chairs with alacrity, a passionate tango leaves an actor (Richard Ryder) stripped and an actress moves hysterically through the audience before shooting another member of the cast. You never know when the next eruption is coming.

How to Live confronts the internal and external pressures of the human condition with a dynamism that leaves the audience breathless and speechless. This is high-octane drama. THE Not So Loud Theatre Company's The Maclehose Trail is a contemporary tale. Dave Anderson and Tom Hope have produced an entertaining if imperfect satire on Hong Kong's high society and the legacy of colonial values and abuse.

Su-Mei Chew as Marilyn Kipling is a stunning tai-tai dedicated to loose living until she is volunteered for a Trailwalker team led by Sir William Bywater (Noel Rands), a taipan with a dark secret.

Sir William is walking for political ends (he hopes to get elected to office), Marilyn is in it for the lust, PR man Robert Lingham (Paul Briggs) is there to mind Sir William and Peter Lee (Geoffrey Tsang), a young executive, is there to settle a score for his family's honour.

There were some amusing lines and the plot had some possibilities. However, on this first night, neither the script nor the players seemed to have reached the peak of dramatic fitness required for this particular outing.

How to Live, Volcano Theatre, Nestle Dairy Farm Theatre, 7pm. January 14-19. The Maclehose Trail, Not So Loud Theatre Company, Nestle Dairy Farm Theatre, 10.15pm. January 15-17