Alan Bennett is reluctant to comment on the revival of The Old ( ‘ounlry. which visits lidinburgh this fortnight. not because he dislikes the production. but because he finds it ‘rather mystifying‘ to see a play he wrote fourteen years ago. ‘I always want to re-write .' he says.
The ()/d ( 'ouniry was first performed in 1977. btit it has sortie themes in common with Bennett‘s current West [End show Single Spies. in which he appears with Sitnon (‘allow and Prunella Scales. ‘Both plays are about exile; both are in a sense about Iingland: they aren't either ofthem plays about spying.‘ The identity of The ()ch ( 'oun:r_v's central character I lilary has tended to be misinterpreted. ‘I didn't intend it to be l’hilby at all.‘ Bennett explains. ‘l le's much more like Auden ~ self-exiled. with a tendency to repeat himself and be boring and say he could have been a bishop.‘
For followers of Bennett‘s television work — in particular the 'l‘u/king Heads series— The Old ('oioiiry may be something of a culture shock. Bennett concedes that there are two streams to his work: the domestic portraits ofordinary lives. with their acute observation of English patois and sad. gentle ironies. and the sophisticated. almost metaphysical explorations of art. language and disaffection. ‘( )n one hand. I write more about the North and my childhood; on the other. it‘s more about the world I moved into— the literary world and soon. ’l'here‘s a scene in The Old (’ounlry where a boy hurls the contents of a bookcase across the stage. and it occurs in lots of my work. It's in .‘lll Englishman Abroad [one half of Single Spies]. l’ric/s' (.'p Your liars [the Joe ()rton film biography] and in (ieliing ()n. It‘s obviously to do with baffletnent about literature and culture.‘
(‘ulturc is certainly an important element of/t Question ()_r'.‘tiIri/>ulion. the second half of Single Spies. in which Bennett plays Anthony Blunt. the Keeper of the ()ucen's Paintings who. it transpired. was involved in a spy ring. A 'l‘itian painting. whose concealed figures are gradually revealed by cleaning and x-rays. becomes ‘a metaphor for the whole business ofspying‘. in which the whole picture can only be revealed by patient. delicate probing.
Does Bennett. the archetypal English writer. feel his work has the same resonance in Scotland? ‘Well. I don't know. The Scots have probably got more sense than the linglish. The education is more sensible. the law is more sensible. and there are no 'l‘ory Ml’s. which is certainly sensible. I‘m in two minds about lingland — liking it and hating it — and my work is very local. if not parochial. It doesn't translate. though I gather the plays go down well in Ireland and I'm very big in Hungary for some reason.‘
Bennett is not writing at the moment. since acting ‘draws on the same energies'. llis preference. however. is quite clear. ‘Acting is sheer terror to begin with. and when that wears off its sheer boredom. And if I don‘t write. l‘m miserable.‘ (Andrew Burnet)
W Clanjamfrie Theatre Company
A WAY WITH THE FAIRIES
'I don‘t think the Scots hay c got rid of their fairies yet .' says limma Davie. directorof‘Jun 1. lion ()K. the debut show by (‘lanjamfrie 'l‘heatrc (‘ompanyz ‘l'm trying to deal with lots of Scottish things and the investigation lcd back to fairies a lot of the time. believe it or not. They're
not your airy -fairy fairies.‘
she adds. “they 're raunchy Scottish fairies.' Dav ie's interest in old Scots myth goes back sortie way : she w rote a sixth-year dissertation on ballads. Btit although the ballad of 'I'uni Lin was its
initial spai'k.JuIi 1. lion ()K is largely adeytsed piece. ‘I started by writing small scenes about four monthsago.' she explains. ‘but when the actors worked on it. what I’d written completely changed. and l decided not to Use it anyway because that ‘s t'estt'ictiy e, The actors' ideas are tnore important than mine. It's how to bring out their ideas that 's been the most important process in this work l’maskingthemto play a creative role. to use their experiences as the content of the show.
'l'm attracted to tley isetl work because it's like a terrifying. scarey monster and you don't know where it‘s going. It brings out the
best in the actors because they feel they We got a stake in it. l‘mcontrolltng it quite tightly . btit the actors can express themselves freely .‘
So the show won't . in
the end. bear great similarity to lion I.in. ‘Wc're not tisitig it even as a narr'aliy c strticturc.' says l)a\ie. 'Wc‘rc trying to move away front the kind of theatre that thittksil should hay e a \ cry definite narrative structure; though aspects of it w ill be recognisable arid accessible. l'm really aiming for a kind of pop tlteati‘e.'
to this end.(‘lantanifric will be using live action iii combination with botlt video recordings and liy c \ ideo. ‘I don't think you can really express yourself w ttliotit a multi-media appt'oaeh.’ say s l)a\ ie. ‘because they 're the things that you're dealing with in cycryday lilc.'
Jun 1. lion ()l\’ w ill receive its first public performances this weekend. at both l'niversilies in(ilasgow. It is not being presented as finished work. ltow cy er. btit as work in progress ‘Wc need time to be able to say . look. this litt'sgood and that bit's not sogood; so we're trying to linda meeting ground with the audience by letting them itt for nothing andasking their opinions.‘
the plan is to present a finished. more lay tsli \ei’siott of the show during 19‘)”. with music by l’atcrson's Volunteers. who. like the show itself. combine Scots folk traditions with modern technology. 'As a race obsessed with otir national identity .‘ eoneltltics Davies. ‘I think we've always got to find a grounding in the past to mm c forward.‘ (Andrew Burnett
fun I. lion ()K I\ a! Drama Slur/Io. (i/usgou ('mi'ersilv. Ihurs /. I'l'i.’ (1! 8pm. Sat} u! ‘l. ill/mt; I)I'(IIN(1( 'enlre. .S'Irullii‘lvi/e ( 'nit ersrlv. Sill .t’ i113..t’ll/trii. .‘l(fl)ll\\l()lt Io ill/perfornitou'es tree.
I The Comic Club If you fancy your chances as a stand-up comic now that the heat of Mayfest isoff. The (‘omic (‘lub has a great opportunity for you. Following the popularity of the So You 'I'hink You're Funny contest last month. the Merchant (‘ity club is featuring a New ('omies spot every second Friday from leunc. Anvone interested in having a go should write to Sally Broughton. (‘ontic (‘lub. Blackfriars. 45 Albion Street. (ilasgow
(i 1 . See Cabaret Listings
for more (‘omic ( ‘lub details. I TAG City 'l'A( } continue
their search for the five (ilaswcgians still not involved with the first stage of their ( ‘iiy project which is being mounted at the 'l'ramway in July. it’s getting a bit late to take part on the acting side. btit there's no shortage of opportunities for other people. Would-be musicians and singers should ring (iordon on (041 ) 42‘) 2877. There's also scope for people who would like to help with costumes or publicity. and the props department has art insatiable need for most of the contents of your borne. Ring 'l'A(i on (fl-ll ) 42‘) 2377 if you think you cart help.
I Summer School t'pper Springland is a residential home in Perth which specialises in working with people with disabilities. This summer they are running a ten-day school from It) .luly 4 August designed for artists of all disciplines of the performing and expressive arts who would like to work with disabled people. The fee is £350 which includes ftill board and single accomodation as well as instruction front 'I'hcatrecraft. the Scottish (‘ouncil for Disability and the Scottish (bunch for Spastics. (’all (iraham Noble on (05775 l 337 for further details.
l Conference the last time the Royal Lyceum 'l‘hcatre ('lub organised a public conference was November 1987. It took as its theme Theatre In The ('oimnuniiy' and made use ofa wide range of articulate and inspiring speakers. The discussion was defiantly optimistic in the face ofeconomic cut-backs and pointed to the energy and buoyancy of Scottish 'l'heatre. On Saturday 3 June the RI .'I'(‘ is organising a follow-up conference to debate if there is life Beyond The Fringe. Once again aii impressive line-up of key figures in Scottish theatre has been ptit together and once again we can expect
24 The List j"— 15 itafitist)