Bible bashing

Playwright Lance Flynn tells Stephen Chester about the limits of his blasphemy.

Lance Flynn, the writer who put Boilerhouse (then known as Mandela) into the

theatre-which-should-be-taken-seriously bracket

with The Dorm, has spent the last two weeks watching rehearsals for his latest play, Barrabas, and wondering why he‘s been getting some odd looks. ‘The thing is,’ he explains, ‘when I get bored I start writing naff lines just to amuse myself, and then I forget to edit them out.’

Apparently, it was two weeks before he remembered to tell the cast that one particularly naff line had been cut from the old script. ‘Tackiness isn’t a problem,’ he says, ‘but right-on-ness makes for really bad drama. I mean, if you want to write good speeches just put in a Sun editorial. They’re emotive, although I might dispute everything in it.‘

Such playwriting precepts have helped earn Boilerhouse a reputation for the sort of stylish, violent and controversial theatre which usually includes a few dirty words and several disturbing acts of brutality as part of the evening’s entertainment. However, Flynn‘s unrepentent use of physical and emotional violence is clearly less gratuitous than the casual beating of a cast member might suggest.

‘Very basically, drama involves conflict, conflict

at the top level is violent and the only thing beginner writers get wrong - myself included is we jump to it too soon, we don’t get the appropriate measure. There’s a learning process

involved in trying to find what the true climax of a play is, rather than equating it with a fight. But

certainly I‘m going to keep the violence, it‘s just I . want to get it in the right proportion. I’d love to write a play with no violence, where everything‘s

unspoken like The Cherry Orchard. While that’s a brilliant play and all that, I don’t think I could

~ write it - you‘ve got to look at your own

limitations. If I did write it, then not only would the guy cut down the cherry orchard, he‘d have the heads off the rest of the family as well.‘

From such statements it can be surmised that Barrabas, subtitled Did it really matter who got

nailed? isn’t going to be a textually accurate

biography. Given that Flynn considers it a defeat to write anything non-contemporary and asks not to be quoted on some biblical exegesis because ‘I haven’t read the Bible since I was a kid,‘ you have the suspicion that Barrabas might have as nominal a connection to the New Testament as his previous work Inferno! had to Dante. Not so claims Flynn. ‘It starts with the idea that everything Christ said was in vain ifyou look at the world around you. So

“it you want to write good speeches lustput In a Sun edorlai' Flynn


we went back to the beginning and got rid of Christ and put in the natural precursor, Barrabas, as the

guy that everyone bases their morals on today.

‘It starts off in a drug centre where people are allowing themselves to be tested with drugs for

financial gain and they each tell a story, and the last one to tell his story is Barrabas, who‘s killed a priest, believe it or not.’

The priest dies from having the detritus of poverty invitations to Restart interviews, red gas bills et cetera forced down his throat. While the

, play might retain the trademark violence, much of Flynn’s usual iconoclasm has been toned down. 1 He offers an intriguing explanation as to why the

draft containing the reversed version of the Lord’s Prayer was scrapped: ‘Because, agnostic that I am, as Brendan Behan said. “We’re all fucking atheists

in the daytime, come the nightime . . and that‘s when I was writing it. Everytime I‘d get to a

section where I was going to get into Christianity a bit, weird things would happen, like my printer broke.‘ Barrabas, Tramway, Glasgow, Mon 23—Sat28 Nov.


iantastic rate.

comedies were churned out at a

My own knowledge of him came

post-war connections with the Malia proved to be more ditticuli, however, and the Hai Roach studio archives


Hal Roach, producer oi the most famous Laurel and Hardy illms, died irom a heart attack on Monday 2 November, at the age oi 100. Dubbed the Prince oi Comedy, Roach’s work was oi central importance in the development oi iilm comedy throughout the silent era and into sound. Laurel and Hardy’s The Music Box received an Oscar in 1932, and Hamid Lloyd and Our Gang were also part oi Roach’s creation.

The iilm lot he created ior making

Ollie and still in 1952

silent comedies in the early days is well-described in John McOabe’s book on Stan Laurel. It felt like a iamiiy with washing hanging on lines while the

through the play i wrote on Laurel and Hardy in which I portrayed the conflict between him and Stan Laurel about who controlled the lilms. Towards the end oi Act One, l slipped in a silly joke about Mussolini - an anachronism put in just ior tun. When, a law years later, I went to San Francisco to meet lrving Feld, who owned the European rights on the use oi Laurel and Hardy material, he greeted me with, ‘How the hell did you know about Hal Roach and Mussolini?’ Unwittingly, l'd stumbled on an embarrassing connection but it was one tanned beiore the Second World War. Hal Roach Junior’s


seem to be impossible to find. I only ever saw Hal Roach on screen


when, in 1984, he received an honorary I

Oscar ior his contribution to iilm-making. He was, by thattlme, a little, old man, irall but still full at the iolilty that sparkled in his films. lwas amazed that he was still alive. He is the last at that great line of early movie-makers to go and his grave will be in New York, close to that at an old school iriend - Mark Twain. (Tom McGrath)

Laurel and Hardy by Tom McGrath, Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh, Fri 20 Nov—Sat 5 Dec.

The List 20 November 3 December 19‘): 47