Scottish theatrical milestones.
Playwright lain Reggie has suddenlyfound himself in the limelight. While he is currently atwork on commissions for Manchester's Royal Exchange. the Liverpool Playhouse and the Royal Court in London. his award-winning comedyA WROLLY HEALTHY GLASGOW is being presented as part ofthe Edinburgh Festival and. on the Fringe. a selection of his short plays appear underthe umbrella of WORDS BEYOND WORDS. atthe Lyceum Studio.
Reggie has only been a full-time writerforthe past four years. however. Born in Glasgow. he worked ina health club. took a Humanities degree at Wolverhampton and taught drama before taking the plunge as a scribe. Surprisingly. the Edinburgh Festival will mark the first production of any of his work in Scotland.
‘Well. I have lived in England forthe pastten years.‘ he explains. ‘And I think it‘s more to do with which theatre is willing to perform yourworkthan anything to do with Scotland or England. is set in a seedy health club and recountsthe hilarious consequences of the arrival of an idealistic young instructor on the smooth-running scams of the cynical senior instructor and a masseur. An autobiographical piece? ‘Well, it's not unautobiographical in that it employs some ofthe circumstances of a Glaswegian who worked in a health club and lived in London. In some way it does reflect the things I‘ve done. but only in very heightened. dramatised form.‘
The play won a special prize at the first Mobil Playwriting Competition and has been filmed by BBC Scotland for transmission as a ‘Play torToday' in 1988.
‘I had to cutthe swearing and make the opening more visual to catch the audience's attention.‘ says
Reggie. of the television version. “But it‘s still very verbal and still just a studio set of one room. ltwas videoed in two and a half days. lfind myself incredibly uninspired by British television; it‘s really one of my pet hates. TVis
one of the most misused and underused media. and if Britain has the best television in the world, as we always boast. then I hate to think whatthe rest is like.‘
Reggie also expresses a preference forAmerican and European films overthe mediocrity of British cinema. and forAmerican drama over British theatre. ‘lfyou're looking for models. then it's people like David Mamet. Sam Shepard. O'Neill. Williams. They show what a powerful use of language you can make, which doesn't seem to happen here.‘
Reggie's short plays. like ‘Politics in the Park' and ‘Waiting for Shuggie's Ma‘. stemmed from his period as a drama teacher: ‘I taught practical drama and improvisation and found a lot of my working week being taken up with 5 mm minute improvisation pieces. The Royal Court had a writers‘ group offering practical assistance. workshops and resources. If you had actors for an afternoon it was practical to have a 5 or 10 minute piece you could rehearse and perform. It was no great strain and I found them easy to write. I‘ve probably written ten of which lourare really fine. two orthree are OK and two or three are rubbish. They're not really of commercial value because there are few events when they are performed. but if you have eight short plays together then ifyou don‘t like one. something else will be along shortly.‘
Although gainfully employed. Reggie is still finding his feet as a writer and continues to learn from audience response to his work: ‘The dynamic thing is when you are exposed to a large audience. It is an education than reinvigorates you lorthe isolation of writing. They can teach you a lot and you can't ignore them. because in theatre you need to collect people together and calculate on a certain heterogeneity even if you go on to subvert that. It isa very communal expenencef o A Wholly Realthy Glasgow. Manchester Royal Exchange Theatre Company. Church Hill Theatre 10-22 Aug. 7.30pm; 13. 15. 20. 22 Aug 2.30pm. £7/£5. [EIF].
The Scottish touring company Borderline have acquired themselves a strong reputation over recentyears forpresenting comedy on the Fringe— Dario Fo's ‘Trumpets and Raspberries‘ being perhaps the most memorable. This year they have chosen a comedythattakes a rather dim view of television documentaries. TURNING OVER describes what happens when a film crew arrive in India to make their documentary about the country.
0 Turning Over. Borderline. Moray House Theatre. Canongate (venue 61). 6-29 Aug. 7.30pm;8. 12. 15.19. 22. 26. 29 Aug also 2.30pm. £3.50 (£3) [Fr].
MO RE ON M U l R Edwin Muir was born on a small farm in Orkney on 15 May1887. To markthe centenary of his birththree different independently organised events celebrate the life and work of one of Scotland's best known poets and critics.
EDWIN MUIR AND THE LABYRINTR was writtenfor the Muir centenary by fellow Orcadian and writer George Mackay Brown. The piece is essentially a dramatic monologue, interspersed with selections of Muir‘s poetry and prose. in which he reminisces about his life: his idyllic childhood on Orkney; the terrible years spent in Glasgow; his conversion to Christianity; his travels through Europe; his meeting with his wife. Willa; and his appointment as Newbattle Warden- which. it is revealed. is precarious. threatened by grey. faceless bureaucracy.
An impression emerges of a wholly impractical man with a deep distrust of the machine; a sad contempt lorthe effects. in human terms. of industrialisation; and a deep devotion to. and an enormous dependence on. his wife.
The play is briefand simple but the authorhas brought his shared beliefs and experiences of Orkney. Christianity. literature. and the predicament of 201h-century man to bearon Its writing.
The second play to deal with Edwin Muir. ONE FOOT
IN EDEN is written and performed by Donald Smith. Artistic Director of the Netherbow Arts Centre. This is a solo performance. but Donald Smith stresses that he is not attemptingto re-createthe persona of Muir. The play takesthe form of an address by Muir and is essentially a celebration of Muirand his poetry based on thefirst version of his autobiography, The Story And The Fable. Smith attempts to relate the themes of Muir‘s autobiography to his poetry. believing that close attention to the former will significantly illuminate the lahen
The official Festival programme offers two differentshows performed by Tom Fleming. Thefirst. EDWIN MUIR AND WILLA was devised by Henry Donald and is based on the letters of Muirand his wife; the second. TRE POETRY OF EDWIN MUIR. is a recital introduced by George Bruce. (Giles Sutherland).
o Edwin Muirandthe Labyrinth. Peedie Productions. Greyfriars Kirk Rouse (venue 28), 225 3626. 10-15Aug1pm. £2.50 (£1.95). [Fr] 0 One Foot in Eden. Netherbow Arts Centre (venue 30) 556 9579. 1—28 Aug 4pm. £1.25 [Fr] 0 Edwin Muirand Willa. St Cecilia’s Hall. 13 Aug 3pm [EIF] o The Poetry of Edwin Muir. St Cecilia’s Hall. 14 Aug 3pm [EIF]
Theatre Alba are a brave little Scottish theatre company who by dint of perseverance and consistently high standards have gradually acquired some degree otfinancial security (hard to come byfor small touring companies) in the forrn of Arts Council funding. At their helm is director Charles Nowosielski. whose distinctive. mystical style and love forthe boththe Scots tongue and the legendary has brought some beautiful pieces of old Scots drama to the stage. TAMLANE is one such. telling the traditional Borders ballad of the knight Tamlinn, who can only be rescued from the powers of the Iaery queen by thetrue love of an honest lass. Theatre Alba‘s production. laced with Richard Chems‘ atmospheric music. won praise when ltwas performed earlierthis year. 0 Tamlane. Theatre Alba. Assembly Rooms. 54 George Street (venue 3). 226 2427/8. 17-29 Aug. 8pm. £4.25 (£3.25) [Fr]
The future starts here. The Scottish Student Theatre Company makes its debut at
I the Fringe this year— in fact
its debut overall. Developed earlierthis year atthe Scottish Student Drama Festival. the company now presents its first production and the fruits of its philosophy: to combine students from all over Scotland working on a production. and to enable student writers and directors to develop by working in conjunction with professional writers and directors.
PRIVATE VIEW is a play by studentwriter Mhairi Grealis about a young artist searching for integrity in the art world. The actors will rub shoulders with new talent from anotherfield— sculptures by young Scottish artists.
0 Private View. S.S.T.C.. Bedlam Theatre. 2 Forrest Road (venue 49). 225 9893. 10-22 Aug. 12noon. £2.50 (£1.50). [Fr].
MERRY MAC FUN CO
Edinburgh. as Edinburghers know. has many faces. Two of them, the New Town and Leith. collide in the Merry Mac Fun Co‘s latest show. I LOVE YOU BABY. BUTI GOTTA RUN.
A garage mechanic and his girlfriend get mixed up in a money laundering chain and accidentallytake Charles. a rich young English man living inthe New Town. hostage by mistake. A carchase ensuesthe whole thing accompanied by sweet soul music-this latest production from the Merry Macs marks a development in several directions. being the first play by Mac member John McKay and a developmentlrom pure comedy to comedy thriller forthe group (twice named Covent Garden Street Entertainers ofthe Year).
0 I Love You etc.. Merry Mac Fun Co, Crown Theatre (venue 53) 8-29 Aug. 9.15pm. £2.50 (1).
‘Only Scotland could celebrate 400 years after someone gets their head chopped off.‘ says playwright Liz Lochhead. Her own play is one of several productions
sparked off by the quatercentenarythis yearof the execution of Mary Queen of Scots.
On the Official Festival. Festival Director Frank Dunlop directs MARIA STUART. Friedrich Schiller‘s romantic play aboutthe two queens (played by Hannah Gordon and Jill Bennett) while on the Fringe Maureen Beattie is MARIE OF SCOTLAND in W. Gordon Smith‘s play (see solo page). Liz Lochhead has written her play MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS GOT RER READ CHOPPED OFF specially for Communicado Theatre Company. and has started perhaps closerto home than most: ‘We're tryingto look at howthat legend affects Scotland of today. I think it's partly because these things are still not resolved that the death lives on.’
To begin with. shefound the character of Elizabeth more exciting to write about than that of Mary, who initially appeared rather bland. once all the legends that have grown up around herwere stripped away.
But. gradually she has discovered a different sort of force about Mary. partly through working with the company— Communicado create very visual. tightly-choreographed theatre. usually using music and working closely withtheir actors. Drawing on European folk-music. this show should be vigorous and sometimes funny. but primarily it is a tragedy. and a serious attempt to get close tothe real core of the story. ‘It's a veryfemalething. lt’slike peace camps resistance. She'sthat kind of strong woman- it's a very powerful physical thing.’ 0 Mary Stuart. Assembly Half. 10-29 Aug. 7.30pm (not Suns); also 12. 15, 19. 22. 26. 29 Aug at2.30pm. Tickets 226 4001. 3-7. [ElF] 0 Marie ofScotland, Maureen Beattie. Scottish National Portrait Gallery (venue 87). 556 8921 x297. 19-22. 25, 26 Aug. 7.30pm. 3.50 (2.50) [Fr] 0 Mary Stuart. Communicado. Lyceum Studio (venue 35). 229 9699.10-22 Aug. 9pm. 4 (2.50). [Fr]
The List 7 — 20 August 9