Ball ()n The Slates political thriller. Scotland The Grave. and Keith Waterhouse inArena.


Problem 0f Principle

5 According to a new television drama , by Scottish playwright Bryan Elsley, ; home rule in Scotland may always

g be a unfulfilled fantasy. He told Andrew Burnet why.

Devolution - home rule a Scottish Assembly: call it what you like. but two facts about it are plain. A great many Scots have wanted it fora long time; and we don‘t have it. In Ball ()n The Slates. a television play produced by Paddy lligson for Channel-1's 4-l’luy season. Scottish writer Bryan Elsley explores this unhappy state of affairs. ‘Every time it goes on the agenda.’ says Elsley. ‘something goes wrong. and I think that the something that goes wrong is usually arranged by somebody. When you speak to people in the Scottish Labour Party (with whom there's an i implicit assumption that Scotland will have its own government after the next general election) you can't help but feel that there are forces beyond Scotland that will ensure that it’s the talk of dreamers. it’s almost as ifthe devolution movement can come to whatever conclusions they like. but at the end of the day. someone in London can just say. “well. that's not going to happen.” Set at a party conference in 1993 (Labour having won a general election). Bull ()n 'l'lieSlalesdepicts V a scenario in which the pressing topic of l lome f Rule is once again wrangled off the agenda. There . follows an attempt by a breakaway group of i frustrated Scottish Ml’s to enlist sufficient support 1 for a devolution coup. It‘s not giving too much { away to say that their efforts are severely " jeopardised by certain shady dealings undertaken

by the participants in the past. and by sexual power games taking place at the conference.

: "I‘he play is an attempt to link ideas ofpersonal

and political betrayal.‘ explains Elsley. ‘thc point

being that everyone betrays people and principles

to a certain degree it's almost inevitable - but

there are lines which shouldn't be stepped over.

It's that problem that the play approaches. It‘s

saying. “well. where do you draw the line?” and of

course it‘s a very difficult thing to know.‘

But Ball ()n The Slates occupies a very different milieu from Yes. Prime Minister or Andrew Davies‘ House ()f( link. where corruption is seen as a routine part of any self-respecting politician‘s life. ‘Programmes like that make a very simple assumption.‘ argues Elsley. ‘which is that all politicians have no principles whatsoever and are purely Machiavellian. Now that’s patently not true. Every politician I've met was in some way or other highly principled. It’s just a case of what was

l l

Ken llutc

hlson and Ellie Haddington in B

:mfis,‘ iii-i s all On The Slates

or wasn't acceptable to them.‘ But however trustworthy its representatives may be. perhaps the thorniest problem faced by the devolution lobby is diversity ofopinion. ‘Everyone I spoke to in the Labour movement in Scotland had a different. passionately held opinion.‘ says Elsley. ‘and they also had a passionate belief that they represented the concensus. I fully expect a lot of people to tell me I that I don't know what I'm talking about. but I'm ' sort ofprepared for that one. because I feel that the play has been very. very carefully researched. ‘I do expect a certain degree ofscorn. but what I'm kind ofhoping is that there might be a bit of discussion about some of the things that are said in the play. It‘s about time that people in Scotland woke up to the situation and thought about what to do about it.’ Bull UN The Slates will he broadens! (m ( 'ltamtel 4 on Saturday I () Mare/i. See listings.

' , ‘_ Runs, romance; and raunch

March is literature month. Firstly, Alan Sillitoe‘s The Loneliness Of The Long , Distance Runner', has been adapted l tor Radio 5 by actors Stephen Jameson and Paul Brennen —who also star in it— during their 18-month world tourwith the English Shakespeare Company. Sillitoe's short story was written in

1959 and along with other ‘kitchen

l sink’ dramas, like ‘Look Back In

ll Anger' ,became characteristic of

Maureen O'Brien, Tom Stoppard (centre) i and Ronald Pickup

post-war British literature. Its hero,

Colin, is in Borstal alter robbing a bakery. At the suggestion ol the Governor, Colin enters the Borstal’s

long distance race, and sets about taking his revenge. . . (Thurs 14 and 21, Sum)

Then there‘s Radio 4' new Classic Serial, Fair Stood The Wind For France, based on HF. Bates‘ experiences in the RAF, which tells the story at what happens to a group at airmen shot down over occupied France and sheltered by French Resistance workers. Tragedy, sullering and love lollow gloriously on (starts Sat 9, 7.45pm)

A whole lot less genteel are Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, written in the 1380s. The iirst one to be broadcast is The Pardoner's Tale, a fairly raunchy chronicle ol drunkenness and avarice. Some ol the stories- notably ‘The

Miller's Tale’ - are more than a little

lascivious, but the language and accents are archaic and you may have problems spotting the dirty bits. It just goes to show what you can get away with it you put on a lunny voice.(Radio 4, starts Wed 13, 3.02pm)

Tom Stoppard is trendier than Chaucer, and still alive, as he shows with a new adaptation oi Undiscovered Country by Arthur Schnitzler. Maureen 0' Brien and Ronald Pickup star in the play which is, in the words of one of the characters, about ‘this bogus civility between people made wretched by jealousy, cowardice and lust’(Radio 3 Sun 10 7.30pm). That's quite enough lust on the radio to be going on with. (Miranda France)

62‘ hit list a :2 livlarch 1991