is a genuine. deeply-rooted part of folk history in the way that Walter Scott‘s and Queen Victoria‘s fabricated Scotland isn‘t.
The Second Coming is their most ambitious production to date. four years in the making. and the first chance they‘ve had to work on a large scale in Britain since The Unacceptable Face of Freedom. a farewell commission from the GLC. as funding is practically non-existent here compared to the rest of Europe.
The essential ingredient in Test Dept productions are the sites. and the building they‘ve laid their hands on in Glasgow is one that would deter all but the most stout-hearted. Before its closure. the St Rollox Locomotive Works was the main source ofemployment in Springburn. Trains that were made here in the early part ofthis century are still ploughing through India and South America. The performance area. a cavernous Victorian railway shed. covers five-and-a-half acres. and will be peopled with 70 performers— including a choir. a brass ensemble and sixteen local drummers — and. ofcourse. trains. Like the building. the array ofequipment there — the rolling stock. the giant traverser. the fork-lift trucks. the mobile cranes — has dictated the shape of the show. One of the major pieces of work that has been carried out over the two months they have occupied the venue is the task of re-laying early 19th century track so that a locomotive can be driven directly into the venue.
It has been an expensive job — helped by the District Councils of Glasgow and Strathclyde. the Arts Council. the Musicians‘ Union. Equity and local sponsorship and the award of£15 .000 in the last annual Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation award for large-scale events in unusual places. The support has helped keep prices low. so that. unlike most of the major 1990 events, people who
live in Glasgow North can afford to go and see it.
Possibly Farquhar‘s biggest fear. other than falling completely on his face. is being seen as a bunch ofthespians traipsing in to use the simply divine location and then traipsing out again with a wad of money in their pockets. Local involvement has been important since the early stages. ‘The idea is that people get involved in something that will still go up to a really high professional level. It‘s not like typical community work in that you take people through a strong process that they get a lot out of. And I think once you‘ve established that. and people have seen for themselves that it‘s good work. it‘s exciting work. you forget the tags of “avant-garde“ or “innovative”. it‘s just bloody good work.‘
That the works is the setting for a production that deals with the romanticising of Britain‘s I industrial past is not only appropriate. it is uncomfortably ironic. :
‘There‘s so many ways you can take it.‘ ' Farquhar parries. ‘It would be pointless these days to come in here to do a show which is just glorifying work. or nostalgic for the good old f days. I think these days. particularly in Glasgow. . there‘s a great danger of romanticising the past. 5 What needs to be said now is quite different.‘
But romanticising the sweat of honest toil over mammoth machines is something Test Dept have been accused of since their earliest days.
‘That‘s right. And I think during the Miners‘
Strike it had its point. it had its relevance. But I think now what we do will be seen in a very
different light. As British Rail say. We‘re Getting There.‘
The Second Coming takes place at St Roi/ox Locomotive Works, Springbum. Glasgow. Fri . 7—Stm 9and Wed lZ—Sun 16 at 9pm. Tickets cost , £6.60 (£3.60). I
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