Skye high

The problem with British road movies is that the average British road just

isn’t long enough to cut it against its

American counterpart. The current

movie release Solt Top Hard Shoulder

does its best with a journey from

London to Glasgow, butJohn McGrath ' goes one better in his Screen Two play,

The Long Roads, which travels in 90 minutes from picturesque Skye to

urbanesque London, taking in

Glasgow, Liverpool and Peterborough

on the way. This being McGrath, the

founder-member of the radical 7:84

Theatre Company, he uses the journey to present a far trom attractive view of the state of a nation, but refreshingly,

what gives the film its emotional bite is an unexpected love story at the core.

‘l was always aware that they were

going to be an interesting couple,’ says

' McGrath about his central characters, a

pair ot retired islanders, he an old

2 seadog, she a mother oi ioursuttering

from cancer, ‘but I saw them

structurally as a way of looking at the

landscape they were dying in. As I was

writing it, I got much more involved

with them.’

Setting oil to see their estranged children lorthe last time before the death of the mother (played with elegance and poise by Edith MacArthur), the couple gradually come to understand their own relationship against a background of a blighted nation. ‘I think i was only able to write it after going through the experience of my parents dying,’ says McGrath. ‘Somehow alter they’re dead you become much more aware of them as

m g s EX-S all areas

The Shamen

In the past BBC Scotland’s arts series

EX-S has had a tendency to be a bit

hit-and-miss,occasionallyseeming like a catch-all for any documentary

that didn’t tit into any other iormat.

Some shows (the profile of Edinburgh’s

Charlotte Square springs to mind) smacked oi indulgent experimentation, while others simply didn’t have an interesting enough choice oi subject.

The new series, beginning on - Monday February 1 looks more


Robert Urquhart and Edith MacArthur

. human beings. It’s not , autobiographical in any direct way, it’s just got a lot oi emotions that were liberated in my own liie.’ Drawing on his vast experience of

, Britain irom histheatrical touring days, ~ ' McGrath presents a picture at a country =

I order at the day, but in which hope and ; a sense oi value have yet to disappear completely. ‘In many parts oi the country you do become very aware of big divisions,’ he says. ‘l think when

people write about the UK, they tend to see the divisions almost journalistically, as schematic sociological divisions and I was trying to write something a little more complex about the kind of people as well as the kind oi circumstances; about the way that people interact with their circumstances. It is all about

conditions they live in, but not in a

The Long Roads, Sun 31 Jan, 10pm, BBCZ.

promising, returning in-house after last year’s crop at independent . productions, and covering a wide range l of topics with a satisiyingly accessible ( ; bias. Diversity seems to be the keyword, with lilms including a moving l investigation oi the Magdalene Institutions, charitable homes Ior

I homeless women. Personal reminiscences trom former Magdalene : residents are reportedly both fascinating and poignant.

By contrast, the series ieatures two lilms about Scotland’s most successtul pop groups, The Shamen and Deacon Blue. The Shamen address the controversy about their attitude to : drugs, while Deacon Blue leader Ricky Ross takes a video camera on a jaunt round Europe to record episodes in the group’s tourto promote their new album.

The series opens with an appreciation ot the theatre group 7:84. A smooth run through the company’s history Is enlivened by contrasting opinions, trom John McGrath and Jo i Beddoe, oi the Scottish Arts Council’s l decision to cut the company’s grant in 1988. It all the programmes can ; achieve a similar level at Iniormatlon and splkiness, the series looks a : Winn". (Tom Lappln)

EX-S: 7:84 Twenty Glorious Years? is on 8801 on Monday February1 at 10.40pm. .

in which alienation and division are the

l people being socialised by the j

l passive way.’ (Mark Fisher) j l


And so farewell Inspector Morse (Scottish). ‘Be quiet. Lewis‘. that was your catchphrase. Much tearing of teeth and gnashing of hair has surrounded the departure of the aesthete sleuth. but I for one won't miss the curmudgeonly old pseud. The last couple of series have been woefully indulgent slices of snobbish whimsy. feeding the pretensions of the ABCl aspirant audience and neglecting any attempt at a reasonably credible storyline.

The final episode. Twilight ()f'l'lze Gods. was a laughable travesty concerning a screeching Welsh operatic diva (whom the misguided Morse fancied something rotten) accidentally shot by a loony Lithuanian who was aiming at an old concentration camp enemy. Morse mooned around as usual. humming arias while Lewis did the leg-work. The supporting cast. Sir John (iielgud included. did their best to out-barn each other. with Robert Hardy narrowly taking the honours by dragging up his sinister Nazi accent to help us guess that he was.

‘Morse reached a nadir oi tackiness about halfway through when Lewis was interviewing a singing teacher who would have been thrown out oithe Village People for being too blatant.’

yup. a sinister Nazi.

This sort of nonsense costs so much

to make that. after only three episodes. Central Television can

3 barely scrape together enough cash

to buy Bungle a new costume for Rainbow. So there's really no excuse for the shoddy parade ofstereotypes and shaky Mittel European accents. lengthy plot cul-de-sacs masquerading as red herrings. and a hastily cobbled together storyline that was a transparent excuse for our

3 lugubrious hero to shuffle around - the leafy lawns of Oxford and look I moody. Meanwhile the director

flashed his production values at the screen in a lewd attempt to convince the network controller that this tosh

was worth the dosh. honest.

Morse reached a nadir of tackiness

about halfway through when Lewis

was interviewing a singing teacher who would have been thrown out of the Village People for being too blatant. ‘Ooh huffy. huffy.‘ simpered the less than butch voice

52 The February 1993

coach. ‘Whal are you doing tonight'." Lewis blushed. w hile we all know that any self-respecting member of the real Thames Valley Force would have punched the guy‘s lights out.

good and proper. Sometimes you

just yearn for Morse and his effete

' habits to be given a transfer to The

Bill don‘t you‘.’

(irim reality isn’t allowed to permeate the cartoonish 50s fantasy world of Head Over Heels (Scottish) either. London franchise upstart (.‘arlton have played safer-than-safe with their first [TV network contribution. They've taken a pinch of [Ii-De-Ili. a smidgeon of Happy

; Days a dab of (frame and a whole

f bowlful of Enid Blyton Girl's ()it'll comic-book cliches and cooked up

i an upbeat. feel-good show of


struggle between good and evil .

‘And so the never-ending

continues, punctuated by

regular dance routines, dayglo

milk-shakes and frightenineg pointy bras.’

Jackie Morrison (daughter of killed ceilidh crooner Peter Morrison ask your gran) plays


who arrives at a posh finishing school. She rapidly wins over the

debutante gels by taking them down

the local caff. teaching them to jive

, and. cr. that's about it. The only

cloud on the horizon is provided by the goody—goody Stella and her

pushy mother. but you can tell

they‘re baddies because they wear

i specs and don’t know who Elvis is.

And so the never-ending struggle between good and evil continues. punctuated by regular dance routines. dayglo milk-shakes and frighteningly pointy bras.

I remember Tracie Barlow wailing

in her pram down by the canal near the railway arch as Deirdre

contemplated suicide (her perm had 5 ' gone wrong one time too many I

think) some fifteen years ago. So it made me feel rather old and sad to witness our Trace‘s first screen snog in Coronation Street (Scottish). especially as she was pissed out of her mind. and it was with the appalling Dougie. It's difficult to believe that this greasy mechanic who resembles a kind of midget Peter Beardsley is Weatherfield's latest Izommefiilul. Give me Reg lloldsworth any day. (Tom Lappin)