‘Be suspicious‘ reads a sntall. wily gold sticker on David llayman‘s bulging file of rtotes. lt seertts
I appropriate. llaytnan is ttothirtg if
not suspicious: the urge to provoke debate is certtral to rttuclt of ltis work.
‘ Two of his rttost recent projects
developed on particularly
controversial grourtd — itt London lte
directed The.\'ormallleart. Larry
Kramer's passiortate. artgry play about the Aids crisis. wltile on television I” played the (‘ht‘ist figure in Bill Bryden's rttodern. (ilaswcgian
i reworking of the Passion story.
which certairtly provoked lively pttblic debate. ('oming to Mayfest to direct a long neglected play by file miner. Joe Corrie. about Robert Bttrtts ntay sottrtd tartte by comparison. But this is precisely the sort of Scotclt myth I layman wants to dispel.
It‘s rtot the romantic side of the man‘s talent that we're showing. it's the popular side. .\'ot the part of ltis work that was accepted by the
Iidinburglt gentry. bttt the part that ; was loved by the ordinary people
frortt which lie cattte. ‘ldeally. I would love to ltave put
I on a new play written about Rabbie Burns. artd l thirtk there's a real rtecd forit. l‘d lovetosee sonteofour
contemporary Scottish writers going back attd researching the mart artd cutting through the kaleyard. ltaggis attd tartan image of him. Johtt (‘airttey did a lot of datttage with There Was a Man because lte turns him into sortte kind of matinee idol. Artd that's ttot what the man was at all — he was moody. he was unpredictable— but at the same time he had a wortderful genius for prickittg hypocrisy wherever he saw it.‘
llayman himself perhaps pays the
penaltyofltavittg given art unforgettable performance several years ago as the urtrefornted Jimmy
Boyle itt the IV filttt .-f Sense of freedom. 'l'lte image of a tough hard man etched itt the ntcmory could ttot be fttrtlte r lrortt llayman’s warm
‘ approachable nature. llis gentle.
candid rttartner however. is coupled with art understated energy artd articttlatc determination. ‘l‘ve always been by nature artd inclination a pacifist. l’ve rtever ltit anyone in my life. So that was
‘ something a million miles away frortt
me that I had to portray. and it manifested itself in strange ways. I
went through a period where I had 1 the most violertt dreams every single
night artd obviously that was rtty way
I of releasing 'he violettce I had to g portray every day for tert hours irt
front ofcamera.’ Violence was far rerttoved frottt his rttost recent controversial screen
image — yet it could be said that The
Holy (‘in visited the same landscape
. as Sense ofFreedom irt rttore than
just a geographical sense. As the
'. ('hrist figure in Bryden‘s play. 3 llayman moved atttortg the
neglected areas and people of
(ilasgow. the optimism of "I‘he Man~ presenting art equal. if ltugcly
ia'rhc ListZ— 15 May
As the Scottish Theatre Com
opens, director David Hayman talks to Sarah Hemming about his career
different. challenge to the authorities. The secular. political dimension of the programme provoked strong fcclirtg both for artd against it. From the sidelines. llaymart remains slightly bemused. ‘I didn’t see anything contentious irt it at all. I think it‘sa fairly tttild film. It didn‘t. for rtte. have enough political or social bite to it. lit a way I would love us to ltave takett just a tale of a charismatic ntan corttirtg frortt within the people. w ho was a natural leader and who ltad a genuinely popular following that gained rttortterttuttt. attd to ltave imagined ltow the authorities would react to him — but rtot irt any way following a Biblical lirtc. We were botlt itt agreerttertt that what Scotland needs is to ltave its idcrttity rekindled irt sortte way — if you take the idea of a charisrttatic leader contittg back — what would happen.”
Scotland's irttagc artd idctttity are ofgreat concern to l layman: his future projects include a radical sit-corn ~ ‘like a Scottish version of Till Death L's Do l’art only rttttclt harder hitting — as art antidote to Take the High Road. He was borrt artd brougltt up irt a Scottislt working-class farttily and ltis decision to go into theatre took everybody. not least himself. by surprise. ‘When I left school I was working iii the
steelworks. I left the works one l evening and I found rttyselfwalkittg
up the steps of the Royal Scottish Academy. walking irtto the office and saying “I want to be art actor".'
By a circuitous route. he arrived at the ('itizens’ 'l'heatre where he stayed for tett years. acting and eventually directing. Now based in London. he retains firm littks with the (‘itizens' artd 7:84 Scotland. but returning to the theatre for Mayfest (last year with 7:84. this year with the Scottish 'I‘heatre (‘orttparty). is rttore than evocative: ‘Mayfest is really important to me. It's the highlight of rttydirectirtg year. if you like. It gives rtte a chance to be epic. to be as overtly political attd socially conscious as l cart be. I don't have that freedom irt London very often.‘
llis rttost recertt London production may tltcrt be something ofart exception to the rule. The Normal Heart (transferring front the Royal (‘ourt to the West End this month) is a vital. moving play. written in fury by Kramer at the US (iovernment‘s determination to ignore the impending AIDS crisis. When llayman saw it irt New York. however. he'was disappointed by the production. llis owrt is a swift. controlled flare of feeling. that seems to be charged by genuine deep-felt outrage.
‘I feel worked up about arty kind of injustice — attd hopefully that will conte into the Robert Burns production as well. In Normal Heart
situation where a nation and a government were sticking their collective head iii the sand over one ofthe greatest health crises we‘ve had to face this century. And the same is happening itt this country. You have. somehow. with the work you do on stage to irnpassiort people so that you release their anger. their sense of injustice. so that they will actually go out and continue to debate.‘
The play caused controversy in New York where its targets were specific artd direct. When he was writing it. Kramer came to Britain to find out more about writirtg political theatre. Hayman is reluctant to agree. however. that there ts a stronger tradition of political theatre over here. ‘I don't think there is a tradition ofgenuine political theatre anywhere. because political theatre ultirttately will always be stifled and shut up artd starved of funds. I find it deeply depressing. There is always some fornt of certsorsltip going on to limit you creatively. imaginatively and politically. 'I'hey more or less say to you. inadvertently. behave yourselfor we'll take your money away. So people are actually encouraged to adhere to a doctrine ofself-censorship and it isn’t seen at all as coming front above. but from within.‘
Joe Corrie was certainly no stranger to the cold shoulder of indirect censorship. Writing in the l93lls. he had ntuch of his work rejected by contemporary theatrical establishments for unspecified reasons attd he waged a bitter battle with the Scottish National Players (whose panel at the time included James Bridie) over their rejection of In Time ofStrife. his radical tribute to the rninirtg communities during the 1926 strike (produced last year by 7:84 and llayman). Robert Burns then will be an attempt to redress the balance for both writers. With this in mind. Hayman has taken some artistic licence.
‘1 love Corrie‘s work. You do have to be very careful with him though because there are great romantic. self-indulgent. very florid passages. But what his writing does have is a great sense ofsocial injustice. And he shows Burns as a kind of political and social leader of his time. hitting at the hypocrisy of the Kirk and the landed gentry.
‘I've stylised it itt a sense to highlight different aspects of the play. I‘ve also incorporated quite a lot of Burns‘ very bawdy poetry. which is still very vivid and very lewd. into the production. So there will be a lot ofmovement attd a lot of dance and song. It‘s wonderful to have the opportunity to put life on stage — I think theatre should be bursting with life. It should be a celebration ofsomething. particularly for Mayfest.‘
Robert Burns opens at the Citizen '3, Glasgow on Friday 2 May. free preview Thursday I May. The Normal Heart reopens at the A lbery, London on Tuesday 13 May.