A British author has written a play on Chekhov‘s behalf. The best part ofa century after the Russian master wrote The Three Sisters.
Helen Cooper has come up with a play that Chekhov could have only
halfimagined. ANDREW BURNET talks about 7:843 latest production to a writer used to seeing both sides of the prompt book.
‘l’eople who doubt are usually thought ofas weaker.‘ says llelen Cooper. writer of .Mrs Vershinin. which visits Glasgow this fortnight. ‘Mrs Thatcher. for example. is completely doubt-less. which is why people see her as strong.‘ Mrs Vershinin is in part ‘a plea for doubt‘ in the face ofdogmatic optimism. an attitude embodied by Lieutenant-Colonel Vershinin. a character in Chekhov‘s Three Sisters. from which Cooper derived her original inspiration. Mrs Vershinin never appears in Chekhov‘s masterpiece. but is often mentioned by her husband and by 'l‘uzenbach. who remarks that she ‘tries to commit suicide every so often. just to annoy her husband.”
Cooper found herself ‘totally enthralled and intrigued by this character’. and even visited Russia to research her background. ‘I-ike all my work it is to some extent autobiographical.‘ she adds. ‘lt was written at a time ofmy life when l was identifying with a woman who's been left behind. It’s also about the age-old paradox of the need for emotional dependancy but also for individual freedom. in fact all the questions that we ask ouselves are in it.‘
Although Mrs Vershinin is in one sense a feminist play. Cooper refutes the suggestion made in some quarters that it represents an attack on Chekhov‘s supposed misogyny. ‘His play is an inspiration: he hit the nail right on the head.‘ she says. ‘There are two male characters in
this play and hopefully they are treated with as many dimensions as the female ones.‘
The production is directed by Mike Bradwell. founder of l lull Truck Theatre Company and well known for his naturalistic style. It‘s designed by Geraldine Pilgrim. whose work in ‘visual' theatre led to a commission in last year‘s National Review Of Live Art at the Third Eye Centre. ‘lt‘s very rare'. says Cooper. who worked with the same partnership on her previous. debut play Mrs (iaugin. ‘to get three-dimensional characters and present them in a wonderful. beautiful environment — a sort of imaginary world.‘ The design is based on glass. an image which formed in Cooper's mind while she wrote the play. ‘l’eople can see each other. not see each other. hide. reflect. overhear. and so on.‘ says Cooper. with a dramatist‘s relish.
She talks about her current appearance in As You Like I! at the Old Vic with the relish ofan actress. but says she never wants to perform in her own shows ‘because I’d have to be all the characters. male and female: I feel they're all part of me.‘ She did. however. have to stand in forJennifer Landor. who fell ill during Mrs Vers/zlnin’s London run. It was. she says. ‘a very weird experience indeed — like being in my own nightmare.‘
Mrs Vershinin alt/1e Tramway Theatre. Glasgow. Thurs 15—7'ue20, 8pm.
Julie Legrand as Mrs Vershinin
This fortnight. no fewer than nine playwrights < most of them y irgin to the craft unveil new work. in a series of intriguing triple bills.
At the Tron. Annexe Theatre Company . which was established to stage exclusively new material. presents 'l‘riple Time. a brace of monologues and a two-hander with a common theme of ‘time runningout'. Helen ()_l Troy and .llargerv Anderson is described by director Lloyd ()uinan as 'a typically gritty Scottish version of Last ()f The Summer Wine in that vein but with a socio-political dimension.‘ The play concerns twoelderly men whose confrontation leads to an understandingol women. It was written by Robert l)‘( )use. a member of Annexe \Vriters' Ciroup (affiliated to. but independent from the Theatre Company ). who followingthe same path as Ann Marie l)i .‘ylambro < is now oneof the writers of lake The High Road.
The Small Time by (iordon I.yon (another Annexe writer) tells the story of Smiddy'. a Scottish footballer who once showed promise. but now finds himself at the bottom of the barrel in Iinglish football.
But ‘by far the toughest' piece is Jimmy Han/on by art teacher. folk singer and sometime ice-cream man l’eter Nardini. in which the eponymous character is a mentally handicapped seventy - year-old engaged in a dialogue with hisalter ego. who is ‘contemptuous but understanding. and fully aware of what‘s going on.‘ The part w ill be played by Robert Paterson. who wrote the Annexe show Moving Bodies.
Over at the Washington Street ArtsCentre (which. coincidentally . is Annexe's current base). two triple bills are being presented under the banner New Writers (so. written entirely by members of the adult drama class led by writer director Robin Wilson. 'A lot of people were writing in corners the way writers do and shoving their stulfon a
shelf because they didn't know how to get it performed.‘ says Johanna
Hall. who. with [)ebra Clark. co—w rote two ofthc plays ( l’rom (ilory Road to (lie 'I'erminus and Waiting For ( ‘liangel and initiated the project. ‘Vy'e want to see what happens.‘ she continues. ‘and if its successful maybe have some kind of
Annexe illustration by AlasdairGray.
play -writing competition in l‘)‘)(l.“l‘he other plays to be presented are About
A Fortnight Ago by Mike
(iilmour. lleig/itof'l‘lie Season by Pete r .‘ylacktc Burns. Desolullon And l'he Angel by Richard Davies and Soggy Sue/ts and Smelly ( ~abhage by Anne Marie .lohnston. Although buses. trains and hitchhiking all feature. there is no common theme to the plays; but. after all. the attraction of shows by new writers has always been the. possibility of a surprise discoy ery rather than the expectation of consistency. (Andrew Burncl)
'I‘rl/rle 'l‘imealllie I'ron 'l‘heatre. (iluxg’on'. [Tue .37 Sat 1. 7.30pm.
.Vr’it‘ Writers 89“! Glasgow .4 fly Centre In (Mr) separateprogrammes. ll'erlll- 5111.34 and Tue
1990 AND ALL THAT
Perhaps it's a sign ofthe times. but teenagers seem a good deal more switched on than they were when l was one. If the five thoughtful. intelligent and motivated people I tnct at the Tron the other day are anything to go by. perhaps the future isn't so bleak after all. They are a quarter of the cast of ( ‘ul! City. a show with music written. performed and stage-managed by fifty (ilaswegian teenagers under the banner Tron Theatre liast lind Project. Though they have been ably assisted by director Andi Ross and by other theatre professionals. the bulk of creative activity has been theirown.
l'nlike some oftheir
elders. these people have
i American Connexion in Solo Flight
a healthy cynicism about the ‘new-look (ilasgow‘. and about the City of Culture affair. which they can see has improved the lot of (ilasgow 's less fortunate citizens not a whit. The subject which recurs is the dreadful state of council housing schemes where. according to Sean Mearns( lb‘) ‘nobody gives a shit who's in government. they‘re just trying to survive‘. Other issues like the l’oll Tax. sectarian divisions. industrial decline and ecology are also raised. but the general feelingis. as Susan Butler ( 1o) says. ‘I don’t think we've got enough of this in the show.‘
There is. however. a unanimous opinion that working together has taught them how to express their concerns through performance. This show may let the city fathers off lightly. and no doubt it will be funny. entertainingand lively. But next time around. as ‘left-wing eco-individualist' Derek Craig( 15) puts it. ‘we‘d know how to say whatwe want to say.‘ (Andrew Burnet)
( ‘ulr ( 'in alt/1e 'I‘ron lltr’alre. Glasgow, Wed 3/ 510135. 7.30pm.
It's not every weekan oil-Broadway hit transfers to Stockbridge. but when (iregg Ward and Donna ()rlando relocated from their native New York toa more peaceful life in ltdinburgh. they thought it quite reasonable to
with them. .lohn Reaves'
play Solo I’liglu w as originallyoneofseven new plays in a season at the 13th Street Repertory
Company in New York
The List 16— 2‘) June 198‘) 29