Stephen Chestertalks to Pane/i . Drank star and imminent Royal Lyceum chief. Kenny Ireland. about 1 the grotesque and complex plays of




Howard Barker.

You can tell a I Ioward Barker play by the stage : directions. .-\n example from his recent play Seven 3 Lean reads: ‘Kcnt is washed out to sea on the bloated body ofthe dead bishop. I Ie is then washed up on a rock and makes his speeches from this rock.‘ It‘s a particular favourite of Kenny Ireland.sitcomstar.directordesignateofthe I Royal I.yceum and director of Barker‘s latest piece. The Iziimpeam. ‘It‘sa wonderful challenge I i' to make this happen visually] he enthuses.

If it can mix Barker’s grotesque, cartoon-style humour with music and ' extremely theatrical performances, then a

the audience can havea‘goodtime.’ 9 ‘5’

Being but a minor example of Barker’s epic vision -- his play The ( ‘as'rle actually features a collapsing castle it's easy to see why his work hasn‘t been performed as frequently as it might. ‘l Ie's one ofthe few contemporary playwrights who writes for big spacesf says Ireland. It‘s an

unusual phenomenon in an age when playwrights

are encouraged to write for studio spaces by

managements who don't want to take financial

risks with new plays. not least because Barker frequently includes parts for 22 characters. i

It's hardly surprising Barker's work has never been that popular with Rep. but the suggestion I that he hasn’t gained the rcCognition he deserves because of this. meets with a defensive response i

Playwright Howard Barker(left)with director Kenny Ireland

from Ireland. ‘I think anyone who hasn't heard of Howard Barker isn‘t that involved in the theatre] he insists. Such traditional British ignorance is made up for in any case by the enthusiasm for his work in IIurope. where the Wrestling School and I loward Barker have represented Britain in the


world festival of contemporary drama in Italy.

Formed in 1988 by a group of actors including Ireland. the Wrestling School is dedicated to developing a style of theatre that will broaden the cult following for Barker's work. 'I Ie doesn‘t deliberately write obscure things." says Ireland. explaining the challenges faced by his popularising crusade. ‘but he does write densely. like a poet. And if it‘s a theatrical experience. you‘re only hearing it once. so the audience have to give themselves up to this and trust you. Which is why the style of production is so important. since that’s what holds you while you‘re saying “‘I'here's so much in this I‘m not gettingit all.” '

For all of his poetical studies of capitalism's psychopathology. Barker isn‘t averse to sticking a lot of dirty words in his plays. and it's the Wrestling School‘s philosophy that if it can mix Barker‘s grotesque. cartoon-style humour with music and extremely theatrical performances. then the audience can have a ‘good time' without denying the complexity of the text-based drama.

Since Barker's radicalism springs from his belief that ‘if you have an audience offillll people there should be 500 different interpretations about what‘s happening’. it‘s difficult to get a direct answer as to what The Tiara/waits is about. What the press release can tell us is that the play is set in 1683. just after the Poles had lifted the ’l'urkish siege of Vienna. and concerns the love between a (ieneral who has emerged as hero of the siege and a raped. pregnant victim of the siege. ‘ll’you create a play that says it's terrible to be poor or black or a woman. then all you can do is sit there and agree or disagree.‘ says Ireland. ‘but what Barker offers is something that is complex enough to relate to in infinitely different ways.‘

The co-production of The Europeans" with 'l’ramway has vindicated and recognised the work ofthe Wrestling School. according to Ireland. granting it the same status as Peter Brook. Robert Lepage and The Wooster ( iroup. Who knows. maybe one day even us Brits will appreciate one of our greatest playwrights.

. The lizaopeam‘. Tramway. Glasgow. 'liia'l-Salo

mm:- Devil’s advocate

Gleeful blasphemy. mischief and anti-clericalism—that‘s The Tragic History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus, according to Pen Name Theatre Company. lts new production of Christopher Marlowe's Elizabethan drama about a scholar who sells his soul to the devil in exchange for two dozen years of a life of seductively sounding ‘all Voluptuousness‘ should be enthralling. ‘I‘m intersted in the

anarchy which runs through Marlowe‘s

r)? '

Tom McGovern plays Dr Faustus

writing.‘ winks David McVicar. director and founder ofthe company. ‘Thatwas

my starting point.‘

McVicar. self-confessed ‘crap‘ actor turned director has been atthe helm of Pen Name forthree years. Inthattime it has gained a reputation for exciting and interesting productions. So why Faustus? ‘Looking back over my work I can say that mythology interests me because it expresses the big anxieties and concerns in life like morality, sex, and how human beings live with one another. The grand themes. We've done Don Juan, the great myth. Frankenstein. the modern myth, and now Faustus, probably the great Christian morality tale.‘

The cast at six includes Tom McGovern as Faustus and John Kazek, better known for his star billing on BBC‘s Punch Drunk, as Mephistopheles. Although the cast is


‘all singing, all dancing'. and dressed in ‘occasional’ period costume. it‘s the two central characters who in McVicar‘s eyes are at the very heart of

the show. ‘Although there isn’t a gay

theme, Faustus does fall in love with Mephistopheles and I needed two actors who were sensitive enough to get that across. It‘s weird because they‘re surrounded by characters who are one dimensional: figures from farces, from morality plays and from history and in the middle of it all you have these two well-developed. rounded people. probably the most well-developed before Shakespeare got into his stride.‘ (Beatrice Colin)

Doctor Faustus. Tron Theatre. Glasgow, Tue 9—Sun 14 Feb and on tour.

The List 29January -— ll l-‘ebruaiy 1W3 43