Readyfior the fray

Donald Campbell, poet, playwright and historian, introduces his three-part Sadie Aitken Lecture with a call to take a closer look at the Scottish theatre tradition.

In common with most Scots people. I rarely go to the theatre these days and, when I do. I am usually disappointed. It's not that the plays are bad (often they are classics). or that the acting is poor (although sometimes it is) or that the director doesn‘t know what he or she is doing (although. too often. they clearly don‘t) or even that the theatre itself hasn‘t invested enough resources in the production. Most of the time. it‘s a matter of bewilderment rather than dissatisfaction; inevitably, I find myselfwondcring why it has been decided to present this particular play in this particular manner at this particular time and place. My series of lectures at the Netherbow later this month given in memory of that great manager and woman of the theatre. Sadie Aitken - will attempt to deal with this question by approaching it from three distinctive points of view. The first lecture, The Audience, will trace the history of theatre in Scotland in terms of its popular appeal. covering a period of roughly 250 years. from the closure of Allan Ramsay‘s theatre in Carrubber‘s Close in 1738 to the successful tours ofTony Roper‘s The Steamie in the 19805. The second lecture, The Artists, will cover the same period from the point of view of actors and theatre practitioners. taking in such topics as the history of



i s:

the (‘anongate 'I'heatre -— including the riots that

= occurred within its precincts the style of

l i l i i i l

production that was developed by William Murray at the Theatre Royal. the career of the Scottish Stanislavsky' R.F. Pollock. and the establishment ofthe Scottish reps. Finally. the third lecture. The Authors. will be an illustrated discussion of the work of Scottish playwrights. from Archibald Pitcairne to George Reston Malloch. with the emphasis firmly placed on the achieyements of the tradition. At the same time. the many difficulties which have hindered the development of a

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Donald Campbell


RAI I’ll 1. lil AIR

Tony ROper's The Steamie proved so popular on stage that a TV version was produced byScottish

genuine Scottish Drama and which continue to do so will not be ignored. Playwrights especially Scottish playwrights

have a strong tendency to complain about the

theatrical context in which they have to work and I must say I enjoy a good gripe as much as anyone.

'l‘he purpose of these lectures. however. is neither

to complain about conditions nor to deliver a history lesson. I believe that the apathy that most Scots feel regarding the theatre that is presented in

our country can be removed with comparative case. by a simple change ofattitude on the part of

those who are responsible for running our

‘I believe that the apathy that most Scots

feel regarding the theatre can be removed '

with comparative ease.’

theatres. In these lectures. by taking a hard look at the Scottish theatrical experience. by drawing attention to characters and events that have been ignored by the conventional theatre histories and. most of all. by setting the story ofScottish Drama in its social and political context. I hope to make a small contribution towards bringing such a change


/ he Frayt'ng Rope: .S'euttt'sh Theatre Since I 746, Netherbmv Theatre. Edinburgh. [8, 20 (121(122 Nut“.

Eastern eyes

The nationwide Japan Festival continues until January, but the last to be seen of it in Scottish theatre is in the next fortnight when Glasgow's Theatre Royal and Edinburgh’s St Bride’s Centre play host to two very different productions. Kikunokai presents a spectacular display of dance and percussion for one night in Glasgow, while on the east coast, the Third Stage Company creates a dynamic reworking

of Wim Wender’s tilm Wings of Desire. For further evidence of the diversity of Japanese culture, you should also check out Dumb Type at Glasgow’s Tramway (see article on the right), which in Scotland is not part of the Festival.

Jointly promoted by the Min-0n Concert Association, which is devoted to cultural exchange and musical education, Kikunokai is an award-winning company specialising in traditional Japanese folk-drama. Away from performing, the company is involved in training and research, and has at its disposal a plethora of unusual instruments, including bamboo flutes,

Japanese drums, samisen (a kind of guitar) and koto (a long box with

accompany a variety of rare and moving folk dances, choreographed by Michiyo Hata, a sometime collaborator with film-director Akira Kurosawa.

The Angels With Closed Eyes uses speech, dance and rock music to explore ourtendency to hide behind a transparent ‘Berlin Wall‘ from the catastrophes oi the real world. Director Shoji Kokami is committed to creating a vibrant mix of the realistic and the stylised, drawing on the best European traditions in both areas. ‘We believe that if everyday realities are performed

on the stage,’ he says, ‘they have no i influence on the audience’s everyday thirteen silk strings). These are used to

life. Likewise itvigorous, accentuated and unusual movements are performed, as in some forms of comedy, this too is without lasting effect. In our new philosophy, we combine elements of reality and unreality in orderto reach deeper into

our audience's thinking.‘ (Mark Fisher)

Kikunokai, Theatre Royal, Glasgow, Sun 17 Nov.

The Angels With Closed Eyes, St Bride's Centre, Edinburgh, Wed 13—Sat 16 Nov.

The List 8— 21 November I991 51