THE SLAB BOYS FEATURE
Drawings by John Byrne
Opposite. 1982: From left, Gerard Kelly, lain Andrew and David Hayman in The Slab Boys. .
formative events of a decade ago. Andjust like their characters. their conversation is a ﬁrework display of badinage and banter. rarely letting a
sentence go by without some undermining quip or sellldeprecating wisecrack.
‘I can remember the first day with you.‘ says Gray.
‘I asked him who he played.‘ picks up Kelly immediately. ‘He said "Plooky Jack", I said "Perfect casting” and I‘d never met him and he was really insulted. Didn‘t talk to me for about ten days.'
‘l‘d seen him on telly a lot before,‘ says Gray, ‘and i thought the guy‘s never off the telly, l was not an admirer of his work at all. it must be said.‘
‘Seemingly he used to turn me off!‘ howls Kelly in feigned outrage.
And st) it goes. in a meandering flow that takes us from sitcom anecdotes to the whereabouts of Rolf Harris's stylophone (‘Rolf Harris doesn‘t know me.‘ says Kelly. ‘he wouldn‘t talk to me about his stylophone!‘). But it would be wrong to think of Kelly and Gray as the kind of repressed West Coast male egos who hide their emotions behind the barbed one—liners of Byrne's plays. They may not appear to take themselves seriously. but they are intelligent and responsive performers with a finely-tuned sense of theatre — right down to the last comma.
‘You have to adhere to the rhythm of Byrne‘s
1993: David Hayrnan rehearsing tor the new production of Still Life.
writing,’ says Kelly. ‘lt‘s like Iain Heggie, you can't veer from that and if you do. you’re making your life very hard.‘
‘With the dots at the end of a sentence,‘ adds Gray. ‘an actor's going to try and complete the sentence somehow. but John always said try and not complete my writing. That‘s all the rhythm.‘
‘A lot of actors quickly turn lines to themselves which you can‘t really do with Byrne,‘ says Kelly. ‘I remember the day with John, I had a speech which goes [deep breath]: “Well it certainly wasn’t yours truly that dipped his noggin into the drum of Mahogany 5 Lake. glued up his eyeball with gum arabic and sent him out into the Design Room to ask Miss Walkinshaw if she fancied going down the canteen for some black-eyed bagels with r Sammy Davis Junior. . And the first day I did it i obviously paused. I said “Well it , certainly wasn‘t yours truly. that dipped his noggin. et cetera.“ And from the back of the stalls this voice went “Kelly!” There was this wee puff of smoke and it was John Byrne. I went “Y—yes. John.” i used to shite myself i was so frightened. “Yes?” He went. “Where's the comma?" “Comma . . . er. . . there isnae wan John." “Well. don't put wan in." And he was absolutely right. The nights that i put a comma in. I didn‘t get a round. whereas the nights I did it through instantly. I got a round of applause. l’m quite frightened of doing that
irTh—e-L-ist 29Jan~uary— ! 1 February 1993 9