lI‘lEAl RE LID 1
A Touch of the Dutch at the Tramway, The Ferry Play, plus John McGrath’s new book The Bone Won’t Play.
LISTINGS: THEATRE 52 CABARET 58 DANCE 59
Taking the Mickery
Mark Fisher plucks up Dutch courage and talks to Neil Wallace about the season billed as Tramway‘s most exciting of 1990.
After the canals. cannabis and call-girls of Amsterdam. one of the city‘s surprises is a theatre bookshop whose stock of English language volumes is broader than any I can think of in this country. Over here you‘re lucky to find a Dutch phrase book. let alone a selection of specialist texts for the theatrically-minded Netherlander. The man who set up and still runs the shop is Jan Ritscma. a young director whose Het Heengaan is on course to be a poignant and beautiful highlight ofTramway‘s Touch oft/1c Dutch season.
‘It‘s a fantastic shop.‘ says Neil Wallace. programmer and devotee ofall things Dutch. ‘1 go every time I‘m there. And ifyou go to the Netherlands Theatre Institute. there‘s an entire building devoted to the interests of Dutch theatre. There‘s an international department of three people whose sole job is to act as ambassadors for Dutch theatre abroad!‘
These are symptoms of a healthy theatrical scene nurtured since the war by an enlightened Ministry of Culture and backed up by city councils that don‘t need to be told about the importance ofpopular culture. ‘The investment in culture is of a much higher order.‘ explains Neil Wallace who as Dupute Director of Glasgow 1990 is nonetheless proud of the financial input of his own city. ‘The Mickery‘s theatre in Amsterdam is about the size ofThe Tron and up i
until recently its production subsidy wasn‘t far short of Leicester Haymarket. That‘s significant. One of the opportunities 1990 has created for Glasgow is that it can create direct links and parallels with mainland European practice which leaves the rest of Great Britain out in the cold.‘
Tramway has proved repeatedly in its short and exciting history that it is a world class performance space unlike any other in Britain. And although Wallace sees this season in the context of a whole year of Dutch events — from the Hogmanay fireworks. Theatre Royal dance and van Gogh. to performance art at the Third Eye Centre — one of the great advantages of Tramway is that it is a versatile home for inventive ideas. ‘I wanted to bring together a handful of productions which would do two things.’ Wallace explains. ‘One was to represent the work of an organisation like The Mickery which has been in business for 25 years and is still bringing in artists to do really interesting and innovative work. And also at the other end of the scale. a production like Het Hcengaan which frankly is going to outrage people. Ofthe entire 1990 programme it‘s one of the top three most radical and daring pieces. The second thing was to remind people of the number ofways the Tramway space could be used.‘
And the joint Mickery/Ping (‘hong performance of Deshima. the last of the five shows in the series. will certainly make one of the most unusual uses of space so far seen at the old transport museum. An exploration ofthe tensions between Japan and Western Europe. the piece is the most recent in a ten year project based on the idea of fairgrounds. The (ill-strong audience is loaded into a box suspended on hover cushions and moved pneumatically around the theatre. ‘Before they know what‘s happening. they‘re being placed in front ofa performance area‘ says Wallace. ‘Rather like a fairground. you're doing one thing. but aware that another thing is happening at the same time. it‘s a very interesting way of manipulating an audience‘s auenuonf
This is only one show in an eclectic season that includes children‘s puppetry. witty music theatre and a dance group who perform on a bed of peat. According to Wallace there are two key reasons for the development ofa theatre that is both radical and popular in the Netherlands. ‘Duteh theatre has never been restricted by its own history.‘ he explains. "l‘here‘s never been a great literary tradition in the theatre. When you add this to the extraordinary post-war facility of Dutch artists. writers. thinkers. critics and journalists to have English almost as a second language. it has meant that they have been in the vanguard ofthe experimental wave in theatre
Happily absorbing experimental work from
5 Britain. USA and the rest of Europe. the Dutch ‘ have been able to forge ahead with a theatre that
is distinctive. progressive and internationalist. When John McGrath joins Ritaert ten (.‘ate in discussion on 16June. it will be interesting to
: contrast the development over 25 years of the cultural life ofour respective nations. In the
meantime. Wallace is happy to celebrate and pay tribute to decades ofchallenging theatre. ‘The very title is trying to get across that there‘s a bit of
j magic about all this.‘ he says. ‘You may not know what all this is about. but you sure are going to
find it interesting.‘ Touch of the Dutch. Tram way. Glasgow, 9—26
‘It's the first time I’ve written a play where I can’t get out of town,’ says South Gueensierry resident Hector MacMillan whose Bridging The Gap is the last instalment oi The Ferry Play
‘It they don
stay in a wee
and which follows an evening of High Street promenade periormances written by local writers to celebrate the centenary oi the Forth Ball Bridge.
’t like it they'll tell me the next morning and every morning for the next 365 days!’ he laughs. ‘I used to
Dumtries-Lanarkshlre border. It had a population of only 200. I had a telly play on which was hugely successiul, it got rave reviews down in England, but i went for a walk the next morning and an old miner watched me coming up the
village on the ever had.’
railway line. He stood and watched for about ten minutes as I approached. I stopped and said, ‘Hi Tam, how'ya doing?‘ He said, ‘Aye, I saw your play last night'. Isaid, ‘Did ye Tam?‘ He said, ‘Aye’, and turned and walked away! That was the hardest criticism I
Based on two irreverant early 17th century French plays, Bridging The Gap is a play-within-a-play in which a group oi outsiders make tun oi the locals with a theatrical parody that backtires on them. Following a series of Scenes and
l Events which take a light-hearted look atthe town's history, Bridging The Gap is given a professional performance in the Manchester Royal Exchange’s Mobile Theatre. ‘The notion was that it had to be enjoyable,‘ says MacMillan, ‘because it's a celebration at 100 years oithe bridge. You’re not going to go into a terribly deep bit of history, but it will be an enjoyable night with a learning experience built-in.‘ (Mark Fisher).
The Ferry Play, 13 Jun—1Jul,Binks Car Park, S. Queensierry.
The List l—14June 199049