‘l was taken to have a good look around the Old Transport Museum space.‘ retnembers playwright 'l‘om McGrath. the genial mastermind behind 'l‘AG’s massive ('in project. ‘We were outside in the waste ground. I picked tip a piece ofold wood and dust came up. It made me think this would have been a great place to play when l was a kid I got these memories of playing in places like that. I looked around to talk to somebody else about it. but nobody there was a (ilaswegian and I felt very alone. Just the other day I was back in the same space and there were a few volunteers who were all (ilaswegian working with a wheelbarrow. I thought. I'm not alone here any more. The aloneness has gone which is part of what a playwright is trying to do to go fron solitude to community.‘

Back inside on the balcony above the vast foyer space of the newly natned 'l'ramway 'l‘heatre John Laurie. one of a handful of (‘ommunity Service Volunteers snapped tip by TAU in their endless quest to recruit every available Glaswegian. is looking back over his last. unexpected four weeks. ‘If someone had told inc a couple of months ago that I'd be helping to build a set for a major Scottish production I'd have laughed at him.’ he says. ‘All our crowd have never worked in theatre at all. it just sounded interesting and people wanted to do it.’

lt's a rare apprenticeship that the (‘SVs and many like them are being given. In less than two weeks' time they will be coping with 300 performers. 7()() spectators. three massive sets in the 'l‘ramway itself and another one in the waste ground round the back. ‘We feel really lucky that we’re getting to do this every day as a job.’ says Laurie. ‘lt‘s really exciting seeing it all happening.‘ The emphasis is firmly on involvement. It doesn‘t matter who you are or how you can help just as long as you can do something and learn from the experience in the process. From driving to publicity. from costumes to props. the (‘t‘ty machine is always hungry. ‘lt ranges from 7()() chairs to a fish supper.’ says Laurie. ‘We were collecting things from people last week and they were saying we'll come and see you now our fridge is in it!'

'l‘he truly staggering thing is that none of the TAG staff is in any way perturbed by the enormity of the event. Perhaps it's the thought that this is only Stage One of an even larger creation which will explode across (ilasgow in 1990. Or perhaps like Fiona Miller. one ofthe five directors. the experience of organising previous large-scale community events such as Dundee's Witches” Blond. has taught them that it all falls into place in the end. ‘It doesn‘t matter what happens.‘ says Miller with characteristic optimism. ‘people are so enthusiastic they're going to do it anyway. 14()() people have sent in (Jet him/red cards. I think it's great. it doesn't frighten me at all.‘

The performers and backstage crew are not the only ones learning

A show that makes Peter Brook‘s use of the Tramway Theatre look unambitious is about to take Glasgow by storm. Mark Fisher wonders what anyone could want with 739 gold bentwood chairs as he talks to a set-builder. a director and the writer ofTAG‘s mammoth community play City.

from their involvement. ‘lt‘s been the most expanding play I‘ve ever written in terms of personal growth.‘ says 'l‘om .\1c( irath. the man who brought us The llun/ .lluzt. ’l'rt'i‘t'u/ Pursuits and the lidinburgh l-cstival Fringe ll'urtls lievmu/ Him/s seasons. "l‘hc first expansion was the research about (ilasgow. Discovering things in detail and realising their significance. ’l'hat's been an enormously enriching thing. And when people see that cast they are going to be absolutely hypnotised.‘

Ambitious to the end. the plot attempts to cover the entire history of(ilas‘gow from primitive times through to the present and even the future. having a look en mute at St Ninian. St Mungo. an lb’th century

Wylie w edding and a leth century car crash all in the space of two and a half hours. "l'he area it covers least.’ says .'\1c( irath ‘is the area that's been covered most. It's not a .S‘teumteor a (inr/w/s Story or a No .lletm (tilt It doesn't dwell on that time very tnuch at all.‘ At the centre ofthe play is Malachie ( Neil l lcriot ). a modern-day [{veryman who is knocked unconscious and who takes us through history in his comatose dream. ‘.\lalachie expresses a (ilasgow identity.‘ says .‘ylcUrath. ‘he's the hero. but he‘s not all that heroic. ’l‘here's something recognisable you don't have to explain him.‘

(iiy en the popular nature of ( try it is ironic that .\Ic( irath's ideas cante out of his contact with American

Photograph: Alan

avant-garde theatre back in 1981. ‘I decided that the most radical thing I could do at a theoretical level.‘ he says. ‘was remove the play altogether. In my imagination I saw this stage and I took the play away and the audience walked onto the stage!‘ It‘s taken the best part of a decade for McUrath's idea to see fruition. but the production remains true to his original concept. "l‘he city itself is the people.’ he says. "l’he people are very much the essence of its character.‘

To be a proper expression of that character the organisers have had to maintain their flexibility throughout. Fiona Miller and the other directors operating alongside Artistic Director Alan l._vddiard. have become experts in the art of thinking on their feet. ‘l’eople can‘t come all the time.‘ explains Miller. ‘so we have to give them something they only have to come to one rehearsal a week for. For example. there‘s a group who are all in wheelchairs and they are limited to the amount of time they can come'. And the play itself. although not strictly a devised work. has had to be adaptable enough to suit the needs of those performing it. ‘lt's not about hammering square pegs into round holes.‘ says Miller. ‘lt's about what people can bring to it and what they can do and at the same time to stretch thcm.‘ 'I'om Mc( irath sums up the rehearsal process with a neat simile: ‘lt's something that‘s been written. but it’s like a chord sequence in jazz that can be played around with in different ways'.

But any city. like any individual. has its contradictions. Izven though the future of the ( 't't'v project depends on the availability of 1990 money. the reality of that same city goes much deeper than any marketingpcrson‘s cosy dream. ‘At the same time as(’ulture ('ity is going ahead.’ says .\1c( irath. ‘you'ye got teenage prostitutes round about Anderston bus station who are serving the clientele of the very posh hotels which are fed by the airports. There are those terrible extremes in (ilasgow. The fact that contradictory elements can exist within a city is part of its essence. ‘l‘he city is an unresolved thing.‘

In the languages ofdancc. music. movement and speech. ('t'ty seeks to embrace these ambiguities while underlining a sense of(ilaswegian pride and identity. .'\lc( irath and TAG have tapped a genuine stream ofcnergy. expression and commitment from those already involved and are convinced that this year‘s audience will be next year‘s performers. ‘ln this play.’ says Mc(irath. ‘you see the people being

manipulated. being attacked. being doped. coming to an awareness. . . but when we finally come into the present at the very end of the play . I would like everybody there to feel that they were the future. that they were the hero.‘ ('t'ty'spilotper/in'nuuu'e1's at The 'I‘runm‘uy Theatre. (i/usgmv. from ‘l‘uesduy II to Saturday 15 July. If you are interested in helping out III (my way give 7}”; a ring ml 114/ 43‘) .3877.

The List 3f).lune 7 13 .luly 19899