‘When I walk about in a G-string these days. it feels more like a cheese-cutter from Harrods.‘
( 'omeilienne Marti ( 'aine describes the perils that the aging process brings.
‘For people in their thirties and forties now. the shared culture is not Tennyson or Shakespeare or even Evelyn Waugh — but Bill and Ben and The I lerhs and Throttlerbirtls. '
I ’toich (’(lllUl' I )ai'iil Thomas explains why his magazine is becoming less literary in its outlook.
‘I think you go a bit brain dead on it. and I felt I had to do something a bit more challenging.‘
Former Page 3 HI()(l(’l l.lll(l(l [.usartli explains ltow working wit/t Tl,’ magician llr'ayne l)ohson is really a career move.
"I'he days when you could stand on stage and beat people over the head with the red mallet of ideology are over.‘
Actor director David IIayman outlines a 7:84 Theatre ( ‘(mipanyjor the 90s.
‘Ayrton waved me down and I thought of running him over. perhaps breaking his big toe. but. like a good RAC man. I stopped.‘
.N'igel .llansel/ shows how. even on his
victory lap at the British Grand Pris. he is the epitome ofthe sportsman.
‘Rocky is the manifestation of the internal us. the person we are inside r-the being we’d really like to be.’ Actor writer TV presenter Richard O'Brientinils hit/den depths in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
8 August l‘)‘)l
Big Mac censors play
The writers of a play satirising the fast food industry have been threatened with a court action by burger giants McDonalds. Alan Morrison reports on a serious infringement of artistic freedom.
hen Steve Brown and Jenny Fraser were commissioned to write a play for an autumn 1988 production at Edinburgh‘s Theatre Workshop. little did they know that it would start causing waves as far away as Illinois. Their play. MacBurger's — Real Neat Scotch Fare. used the setting of a fictitious fast food restaurant to highlight the exploitation ofScotland's heritage. The setting was chosen as one that would be immediately accessible for the young people who would make up the majority ofthe cast and audience.
The play met with favourable reviews in the Scottish press and. after a second production by Stirling District Youth Theatre at the MacRobert Arts Centre in 1989. three separate organisations approached Brown and Fraser with the result that the play was subsequently performed at the RSAMD Junior School. East Kilbride Village Theatre and Maryhill Arts Centre.
It was at the East Kilbride show that the writers had their first brush with the multi-national power-hold of McDonalds. The firm‘s London lawyers demanded four changes to the script. to which Brown and Fraser reluctantly agreed. By the time ofthe Maryhill show. however. McDonalds had decided that the entire play was ‘riddled with political and defamatory anti-McDonalds propaganda‘ and it was made clear at meetings between the writers and McDonalds‘ representatives that the company was prepared to raise a court action against Brown and Fraser.
‘The first thing that our lawyer said to me was that basically it wouldn't be a question ofwho‘s right. it‘s a question ofwho‘s got the most money.‘ says Jenny Fraser. ‘1 think that’s what we were aware ofthroughout the whole thing. We could only go so far and then not take it any further..
The problem that the writers faced was that. no matter how strong they believed their case to be. they could not afford the lawyers’ fees needed just to meet McDonalds in court. In the end. they were forced to sign an undertaking that contained areas they disagreed with in order to avoid the eleventh hour cancellation ofthe Maryhill show and a costly court appearance.
When they attempted to rewrite the play in the light of what had been said. they found that McDonalds built another obstacle. Steve Brown asked for a list ofthe 2] points to which the company had objected. but was told in a letter from London lawyers Burlow. Lyde and Gilbert that the play‘s ‘defamatory effect stems from the cumulative effect from many different
Having read the play myself. I find this hard to believe. Many of the statistics contained within it are uncontestable. and any subjective criticism of working conditions in fast food outlets — and here it should be stressed that the name McDonalds is not used anywhere in the text — was worked out in improvisation sessions with young casts across the country who had eaten and worked in these restaurants. It would appear that McDonalds believe that any reference to the fictitious ‘MacBurger‘ is the equivalent ofcriticism of the very real ‘McDonalds'. This is ironic. as two
specific areas covered — disabled access and abuse
of the environment — have been tackled successfully by McDonalds in recent years.
The treatment of staff. particularly as regards long hours and payment of under-18s. is. however. a much more sensitive subject. Earlier this year. the STUC‘s Youth Committee brought out a leaflet called ‘What‘s it like working for Big Mac?‘ (also threatened with court action) which attacks the company‘s non-union policy. The whole issue is due to be raised in the House of Commons by Glasgow MP George Galloway — Steve Brown and Jenny Fraser‘s local MP.
‘I am pursuing the matter on a parliamentary level. where ofcourse it is immune from the Big Brother tactics employed by this company and other fast food chains.‘ he told The List in a statement from his constituency office. ‘Due to parliamentary privilege. I will be able to tell the truth which others are legally intimidated from telling.‘
Meanwhile Brown and Fraser are considering their next move. They are currently trying to gauge what moral support there is in the Scottish Arts Community for their position. with a view to establishing a fund. provisionally called the Scottish Arts Legal Fund. Initial enquiries have yielded fruit in the shape ofcheques from playwright Caryl Churchill and TAG‘s Tony Graham and vocal support from a body ofpeople including 7284‘s David IIayman and Michael Boyd of the Tron Theatre. Com municado‘s Gerry Mulgrew called McDonalds move. ‘complete over-reaction‘ and added that ‘it seems to be an infringement of free speech in an artistic sense — it smacks of multi-national censorship.‘
The proposed fund will provide a financial basis for various benefit events that will in turn provide backing for any arts organisation threatened by
large multinational companies. Brown and Fraser ‘
also hope to use some ofthe fund to research claims of defamation against MacBarger's and to take the rewritten play to the Court of Session before approaching publishers. While the Edinburgh Festival is being targeted as an apt ground on which to raise awareness. the writers hope to arrange a co-ordinated week of action in autumn.
In the meantime. anyone who can offer encouragement or support — not necessarily financial — to the writers should contact Steve Brown at Two/Left. 64 White Street. Glasgow (3115EB(()41334949()).