A sausage is sizzling, but not for breakfast. It is the afternoon after the night before and National Theatre director Peter Gill is putting the finishing touches to a performance which played to its first audience less than twenty-four hours ago.
The ‘Sassage‘ as it is known in Sean ()‘(‘asey‘s Juno and the Paycock requires as much rehearsal as some ofthe characters. it must sizzle on its hotplate. meaning the hotplate must work. and it must be revealed to the audience during a running gag in which Captain Jack Boyle tries to sneak a breakfast without his wife Juno catching him. The first requirement is relatively simple. but the second defeats everyone. The Captain is supposed to take the sausage out of a cupboard where he has hidden it. but actor Tony Haygarth. insists he can‘t both hold the cupboard door open and show us his sassage. ‘Hang on I‘m being pathetic’, he admits at last. Wonderful. By holding the door open with his right hand he can wave the frying pan around with his left.
Such conundrums are very much part ofthe nitty-gritty work that is carried out at rehearsals. There are delicate nuances ofspeech to rehearse too. but it is the inanimate props which. like children and
Llnda Bassett and Rosalind Bonnet
animals, can ruin a scene and have the audience in stitches where they should be in tears. Snatching a break in the privacy of the NT‘s VIP room. Peter Gill expresses reliefthat the first preview performance went as successfully as it did. ‘I think they did very well indeed. particularly as they were very tired after a long technical rehearsal.‘ And he commended the audience. ‘I was glad that this London preview audience wasn‘t . . . deliberately beguiled. that the actors wouldn't let them turn it into some celtic prank.‘
The balance of humour and
tragedy in the play is a difficult one to
ANN MARIE DI MAMBRO
One can imagine Ann Marie Di Mambro being a good teacher. She is calm and thoughtful but firm. and her face has an owlish quality — exaggerated by large. roundish glasses— which could. one feels. become stern if one were naughty.
She gave up teaching some years ago. however. to have children of her own and. aware of 'looking for something
else to do‘. began to write.
On returning to live in her native Hamilton .she became a founder member of Glasgow‘s Annexe Writers‘ Group. which works in conjunction with Annexe Theatre Company to nurture new writers.
Her first play. Hocus Poeus, was presented by Annexe in July 1986. and began something ofa snowball. It was seen by
Robert Love of Scottish Television. who then commissioned a play for the Dramarama series for young viewers. This play. Brainwaves in turn won a
Pharic Maclaren Award. which included the commission for BBC television that is part of her work-in-progress. The director of Hocus l’oeus
get right with the ebullient Captain and his drunken friend. Jozer (a marvellous cameo from the Irishman Tom Hickey) forming a comic duo every time they are together. Failure in love. financial ruin and the poverty of everyday family existence are all present as a foil to the Captain‘s irrepressible spirit. but it is the brooding. one-armed son. Johnny Boyle (Linus Roache). who gives the play its sense of menace and brings home its considerable political dimension. Wounded in Easter Week and later by a bomb in O‘Connell Street. Johnny feels he has done enough for Ireland but as Peter Gill points out. the play defies attempts to categorise it as an anti-terrorist work. ‘The politics are bound to interest one because it is very difficult to know what they are. ..Just when you think O‘Casey‘s
quite deliberate by Gill. ‘1 come from Wales and I‘ve done plays set in places all over the British Isles and I began as one often does looking towards an accuracy native to a particular town . . . So I of course started with meeting Dublin actors many ofwhom are in the play. but in the end it is a poetic medium and the life of the play is more important that the documentary element. Also I think the mixture is a very positive thing because I think the Dublin actors felt that they hadn‘t been cast only because they are Dubliners and the English actors feel they have been cast because they are good actors. . . The play is well written in accent and ifyou pay particular attention to how the play is spoken according to how the lines are written. then that always helps. It‘s like a mixing desk in the audience‘s
point is to be anti the extreme ear.
Republicans. he gives the most appalling ‘anti‘ line to the only person in the play who is actually a crook — when Bentham (fiance ofthe Boyles‘ daughter) says ‘the only way to deal with a mad dog is to destroy him . ' So it would do no-one any good to come to Juno and Paycock seeking comfort from any entrenched position, particularly from an anti-Republican position. The play‘s
not that easy.‘
Gill was also anxious not to simplify the characters. ‘With Juno. I think I really wanted to tell the story and not be mythological about it . . . What Linda‘s done is to try and tell the story ofwhat she does and not to make her into some kind ofabstract image ofall motherhood or anything — to make her a particular person.‘ As Juno. Linda Bassett is ordinary rather than passionate — I couldn‘t help wondering whether an Irish actress could have injected her with more fire. In fact the Anglo-Irish casting — with all four Boyles played by non-Irish actors but many of the supporting cast from Dublin — was
was Maggie Kinloch. who at that time was working with TAG Theatre Company. She showed Di Mambro‘s work to Ian Brown — then Artistic Director at TAG — who commissioned the schools play Visible Differences. Then she was asked to write for Take The High Road. to which she now contributes one episode per month.
And so it continued.
Besides her current work on High Road and the BBC play. she wrote two of the three parts of Winners and Losers. the new Scottish drama series (see Media panel). Sheila. as good an example as any of her humorous and compassionate understanding ofordinary people. has just been revived at the Traverse. where it was first presented last May. It will then tour with John MacKay‘s Dead Dad Dog. And it was broadcast on Radio Scotland earlier
Most importantly Gill tried to get the balance ofactors right. The curtain call is a particularly pleasant moment for this director. and not just because it is a time to say ‘Thank God‘ and a prayer for the next night. ‘They look very good together. . . Often when you see television casting for example you see lots of very good actors but nobody has cast them. It is who you put next to whom that gives the person their particular currency. And I think that group looks wonderful when you see them at the end. They are all different but not for the sake ofit.‘
Glasgow audiences will be able to judge for themselves when the play opens at The Theatre Royal. Glasgow on March 6. And after that Peter Gill is hoping to begin a new balancing act, completing the Dublin trilogy at the National. starting with The Shadow of a Gunman. As the Cardiff man with a love ofO‘Casey reasons. ‘They‘re a unique record. they are great European works and they haven‘t been seen in London for a long time.‘ (Stephanie Billen)
this month. Since last month. too. she has been writer-in-residence at the Traverse. on a Thames Television bursary arranged by Ian Brown after he became the theatrc‘s Artistic Director. Together. she says. they are ‘looking at ways to bring aspiring writers into the Traverse.‘ She will also write a play for production there early next year. and there is a commission in hand for Cumbernauld Theatre. Oh yes. and she nearly forgot to tell me about her contribution to 7:84‘5 current Long Story Short. an intriguing programme ofnine 10-minute plays commissioned by new Artistic Director David Hayman from a wide variety of Scottish writers. Her piece. The Letter Box. is a monologue spoken by a battered wife. ‘It’s such a cliché.‘ she says. ‘but I‘ve had a lot of luck'. Others put her remarkable escalation of
success down to the accuracy and humanity of her characters who. she says. ‘come to bed with me'.
And despite the dual pressures of workload and family. she is happy with her situation. ‘I have a really nice feeling these days.‘ she says. ‘ofhaving found the thing that I was supposed to be doing.‘ (Andrew Burnet)
For all those who feel they could do better than Ben Elton. etal. this one is a must. London Weekend Television are looking for new young talent for their next series ofcomedy and music acts. First lixposure. to be recorded in London throughout May. If you fancy havinga go. get in touch withJuliet Blake. First Exposure. LWT. South Bank TV Centre. London SEl 9LT.
20 The List 24 February — 9 March