couldn‘t afford a set.“ She laughed and said. “Will you write me a BluFfer’s Guide to THeatre?“ I hadn‘t realised she owned the brand names. She commissioned me there andthen?
More serious, however, are her books about women in theatre of the past. Her first book, The Female Wits looked at women playwrights of the Restoration period, and she is just nearing completion of her most important book to date: a mammoth
history of the English actress. Given our assumptions about the times in which we live, her conclusions about how prospects have changed for women actors may make for startling reading: ‘It‘s worse. much worse. I don‘t want to say too much. because this book. I hope. will be a bombshell. I don‘t think it‘s particularly women‘s fault or men‘s fault. I think it‘s partly to do with the general way theatre‘s going.‘
She speaks with emphatic directness. evidently the outcome of her own experience. ‘I must say writing this book has just made me feel absolute despair that I‘m an actress now, wanting mainly to be a theatre actress— because I think as far as acting goes everything has gone a bit haywire. You‘re more likely to be offered Hedda Gabler if you‘ve just been on Crossroads . . . I think British theatre is very timorous. I think they do sit here and think — what‘s everyone else doing, we must do that too — which just leads to instant death really.‘
The current trends in theatre. she feels. are heavily inﬂuenced by television — in terms of acting, directing and writing — producing a scale of social and poltical drama, and a style. frequently fundamentally alien to the sort of parts she would like to play and see played. ‘I think there‘s a great difference between television and theatre. and the kind of plays that should be going on in theatre — you want to be affected by what you see, you want to be moved in a way that you‘re not moved by watching television. It‘s what I think Sybil Thorndyke called “the animal smell“.‘
For her, the great and challenging roles for women are to be found in classical drama— ‘there are thousands and thousands ofgood plays that are never, ever done‘ — far more frequently than in modern writing. And the mysterious Anna of Tolstoy‘s novel, whose prospective stage incarnation is tinged with added intrigue? Fidelis finds Tolstoy‘s Anna a fascinating, ambivalent character — powerful yet incomplete. ‘She seems to me to be such a diverse person - and a bit of a male fantasy of a woman. People have said to me, you know, “Anna
Karenina. the total womanl“. And I look at her and think — Anna
Karenina. the total woman? There is this idiot. this woman who goes to bits because she falls in love with someone. then chucks herselfunder a train. That doesn‘t seem to me to be the total woman. But I think it's a very male idea of a total woman. being a nervous wreck. Marylin Monroe. I suppose was another “total woman“ and she was far from perfect because she was incomplete. But that is seen as a great feminine quality. I think. the very incompleteness of a woman‘s character is meant to mean that they‘re very fragile and very feminine — as opposed to someone who fills that gap with brains or independent spirit.‘
Quite how her own sense of humour and adventure will be harnessed next, she is not sure. She is hoping to resist the urge to write any further books— though I‘m not convinced she will manage to- and could possibly develop on directing or writing her own material. ‘I would like to do more directing. but I can‘t stand the set-up. It would have to be something I completely want to do — and I don‘t think the world is adapted for that!‘
Fidelis Morgan appears in Anna Karenina. adapted by Robert David MacDonald and directed and designed by Philip Prowse from 14—28 Feb at Citizens" Theatre. Glasgow.
Jonathon Porritt, Director of Friends of the Earth,
When Jonathon Porritt. Director of Friends ofthe Earth. the environmental pressure group, comes to Glasgow this month (see Open Page). not far from his mind will be that this will probably be election year. It‘s a premise on which most of the political parties are now basing their thinking— thinking that he feels is far more aware of the importance ofenvironmental issues politically. “Green‘ issues will be a strong feature — running obviously underneath the issues of disarmament. unemployment and so on— but I would think they‘re probably in the top five issues now in most parties‘ priorities.‘
Porritt also believes one of the most important issues next election will be that of land-use. ‘It‘s the
whole question of alternative land-use patterns and changes in agricultural systems - the way in which farmers are just simply going to have to look at a completely different future from the one they‘ve got now and what‘s going to happen to the planning system as a consequence. The whole question of whether land should be taken out of production, the question of are we going to start building new houses on farmland, the obscenity ofsurpluses sitting around in warehouses - these things have already got through quite strongly to people.‘
Public concern over land-use and conservation is on the increase, he feels. but ofcourse, the most important issue in most people‘s minds is that of nuclear power. With increased awareness of the problems at stake and increased resistance to nuclear power among the public, given recent events, the emphasis of issue has changed. however: ‘It‘s not
just pro-nuclear or anti-nuclear now,
it is the whole point ofwhat kind of energy strategy does this country need. And it boils down to the fact that. as we do have problems also with coal and acid rain and so forth. why have we not got an energy strategy in this country? — how can industry survive without it? What you have at the moment is a very high level of anxiety -— so that somewhere between 54 and 68% of people in this country — according to which poll you read — have committed themselves to no further esxtension of the nuclear industry. There is no doubt at all - and I say it as a sort ofchallenge to myself— that the major job at the moment is actually to deomnstrate the viability of non—nuclear strategies. And that is why we have shifted the attack of our campaign away from simply “anti-nuclear“ and towards a safe-energy campaign, proving that we can remain a thriving prosperous nation, without nuclear power.‘
It is a task made slightly easier in one respect in that politicians. rather than needing constant lobbying. tend to frequently ask for advice of their own volition — and this makes Porritt hopeful that whoever does get in in the next election, will have a high level ofcommittment towards addressing ‘Green‘ issues: ‘Obviously what we want to see is a government that is committed to giving a priority to environmental issues. I think that‘s going to happen — I think we‘ve already done enough work to ensure that whoever gets elected will have made enough committment of a sufficiently binding nature to guarantee that there is real adavancement on several environmental issues. I suppose the most important thing to sort out is our energy policy for the future — because we are heading into very troubled waters ifwe don‘t.‘
YOUNG, SINGLE, HOMELESS
Ness Raison continues our series of articles on housing with a visit to two hostels for the young homeless.
‘I was at my mate’s and I came back and my bags were packed and they‘d put them on the path. I walked in and asked, “What‘s the matter?" “You‘re leaving. Get away." That was my father.‘
That was the only explanation eighteen year-old Phil got as to why he was being made homeless. He was referred by a social worker to Stopover, Edinburgh‘s short-stary emergency hostel with room for twelve 16 to 21 year-olds. After three weeks he found a bedsit, but his landlady‘s son, drunk, beat him up, accused him ofstealing, and reported him to the police. Phil returned to Stopover but tomorrow he has to leave because his maximum stay of eight weeks is over. He has a place through the Housing Association, Link, in three weeks time, but his Dad won‘t let him stay at home for that period. When I left him he was going to see another bedsit.
Janice studies at Telford College and works at Savacentre. She was thrown out of her home because she wanted more independence and privacy than her parents gave her and it caused rows. For the first couple of nights she stayed with friends and then she was accepted by Stopover.
These are just two cases which show the vulnerability of the young and homeless. Colin Chalmers, a Project Worker at Stopover. describes how kids arrive angry and confused, and often cold and hungry from sleeping rough. Two thirds of the girls leave home because of vioence or incest. Some kids have become involved with drugs and prostitution to get accommodation. Others have shared with up to eight others in a room of mattresses while the landlord receives £45 from the DHSS. Two girls affected by the four-week rule, which forces young people living in bed and breakfasts to move on every month, had given up hope ofsettling and planned to travel from Edinburgh to Liverpool to London and up to Dundee. No one knows where they are now.
21 January saw the opening of a new Stopover in Glasgow to redress some of these needs. It has attracted a lot ofgoodwill and support. The rehabilitation of a disused building was paid for by the Housing Corporation, and the capital expenditure and staff salaries for the
next four years are paid for by the
2 The List 6— 19 February