Mark Fisher talks to Elaine C. Smith as she takes on Willy Russell’s Shirley Valentine.
It’s the season for one—person shows. Already this year we’ve seen Tom Courtenay in Moscow Stations and Giles Havergal in Judgement: Dorothy Paul is soon to follow up her life-in-showbiz monologue See That 's Her with That 's Her Again. Gregor Fisher has just finished his behind-bars Rab C. Nesbitt showcase and now his TV wife. Elaine C. Smith. is taking to the road with a Glaswegian reworking of Shirley Valentine. ‘1 don't think I've ever been so exhausted in my life.‘ says a still chirpy Smith in a much-needed lunchtime break. ‘because normally when you do a play and there‘s four or ﬁve of you. you get time to go and have a cup of coffee while the director berates somebody else. You always moan about not having enough of the director‘s attention - now I‘ve got it i l() per cent. I find the scrutiny a bit disconcerting! I haven’t been as prepared as I thought 'I would be forjust how knackering it is.’
After a particularly heavy day. Smith is back on form thanks to a rejuvenating night out - ‘a couple of brandies. Thelma and Louise and that‘s me line' — and she’s starting to get submerged in the emotional world of Russell’s play. Much as the film version of Shirley Valentine was a reasonable success. the original play. first performed at the Liverpool Everyman in l986. is an altogether richer piece of work that benefits from the concentration of a single voice. Telling the story of a housewife who is so frustrated by the mundanity of her suburban life, the dull predictability of her slobbish husband and her casual exploitation at the hands of her wayward
Elaine c. Smith teenage daughter that she takes an unannounced trip to Greece. Shirley Valentine is a clever comedy of dreams. desire and escape.
‘It’s so well written. If people hate it then . it will be my fault!’
’lt‘s representative of what we all are.’ says Smith g who even in rehearsal has found herself in floods of ' tears at the play‘s more touching moments. ‘Where is l the Shirley Valentine in all of us? Have we turned out to be the people we thought we would be? All that stuff about leading such little lives. which the mass of people in this country do. The supposed contentment of their small lives when they have all this unused
life. That’s the same for men and the same through the middle and upper-classes as well. I think the language in it is great because she's so down-to- eanh. She's somebody that most audiences will have known or met or been at some point in their lives.‘ People have been suggesting to Smith that she should do the play for years. but it‘s only recently that her profile has become high enough to sustain a commercial tour and. more importantly. the Scottish
5 rights have become available. A fan of Rah C.
Nesbitt. Willy Russell gave his personal backing to Smith and has been perfectly happy about her transposing his Scouse banter into Glaswegian patter. ’The pattern of the speech is very similar to Glaswegian.’ says Smith. ‘You have to change round certain wee bits. The places have been changed. like the Adelphi Hotel becomes the Central Hotel. Kirkby
i become Castlemilk. Childwall becomes Bearsden.
things like that. Ifl really think a Glaswegian
? wouldn‘t say it like that then I’ll turn it round to get 2 the same sense of it. but there's remarkably little of
that. It‘s so well written. If people hate it then it will be my fault! All the levels it works on are quite remarkable.‘
Steering well clear of the kind of variety performing “which when it's done badly patronises people'. Smith is striking the balance between an evidently popular show (her opening performances at C umbernauld Theatre have been sold out for several weeks) and high production standards. Her tour. which takes in small theatres where she played in her early Wildcat and Borderline days and large-scale houses such as the Capitol in Aberdeen and Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum. features everything from real sand to the ‘Scent of Greece'. a perfume that will be emitted through the air conditioning system in the second half to give that special exotic aroma. In the meantime. however. it's the practicalities that are Smith‘s primary concern. ‘The worst thing at the moment is timing.‘ she laughs. ‘Timing the peeling of the potatoes and the cutting of the chips and putting the frier on. You‘ve got to put it on during one of the most moving parts, so it‘s trying to do that
, without the woooosh as the chips go in!‘
Shirley Valentine. opens at Cronhernauld Theatre. Thurs l—Sat 3 Apr and tours until June.
Love and Pocket Money, it
incorporated music, acting, text and dance. Drawing both tears and
being based on found information. The gravedigger is a sort of wild man, ‘someone who represents the dark
A father ﬁgures
‘lt’s about fathers - an exploration about what fathers are and what they do,’ says Frank McConnell, himself a father twice over, who hopes that the work ot his company, Plan B, will appeal as much to the heart as the mind. ‘An awful lot of sociological, psychological and academic stuff has been published recently and the show’s really an antidote to all that
McConnell’s 1986 rm, A was llorne
ion 8 from llonre, was successful enough to be televised and, like his new show,
laughter from its audience, ll Wee Home from llorne was an exciting collaboration between McConnell and Michael Marra, one of Scotland’s finest contemporary singer- songwrlters who also loins him and four others for this tour.
‘ln love and Pocket Money we are using the case of a son whose father has lost died,’ McConnell explains, ‘and the piece lasts the time it takes for him to lower the coffin into the grave. All sorts of terrible questions go through his head as to what his father was and in the process of the show he himself becomes a father.’
A vast amount of research has resulted in at least one character
ON FOLLOWING PAGES: MERLIN II 0 LOUISE RENNISON O POLITICS IN THE PARK
side of everybody.’ Apparently men can now go on courses in forests where they get in touch with their masculinity and learn to cry. This is the sort of thing that tickles McConnell’s sense of humour and is ideal source material tor his work.
In the end, though, McConnell is more down-to-earth. ‘Fathers cannot do the essential things that a mother can do, but they can otter love unconditionally and that is the most important thing which we try to get to at the end of the show.’ (Tamsin Grainger) love and Pocket Money, Arches Theatre, Glasgow, Tue 6-Sat to Apr and on tour.
The List 26 March—8 April I993 43