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boxer, Ken Buchanan
Scotland loves its sporting heroes. lt loves the underdog more. And the sportsman who rises from the street to glory and then to self-destruction, is loved best of all. These heroes embody something that could be called ‘The Scottish Dream'; they represent those values that Scotland would like to think it shows to the world - hard but fair, a battling nature. a determination to succeed whatever the odds. But all too often they also embody the country’s weaknesses — gullibility, over-ambition and a misplaced worship of the bottle. Boxers seem to capture this two- headed character better than most. Benny Lynch — flyweight champion of the world at 22, dead of alcoholism at 33 — was a perfect example. Ken Buchanan — world lightweight champion at 25, ajoiner in Musselburgh at 48 - is a slightly different case. The life of Benny Lynch has inspired two plays to date: Bill Bryden‘s I974 Lyceum production and Peter Amott's The Boxer. Benny Lynch from 1985's Mayfest. Now it is Buchanan’s turn, with a Tom McGrath script that opens at Edinburgh‘s Traverse Theatre before moving through to this year's Mayfest. The sportsman, the worker and the hard man form a mythic folk triumvirate of the Scottish stage. The boxer places the violence of the hard man in a legitimate ringside context; and, more often than not, he is deeply rooted in a working-class community. In McGrath's Buchanan, the boxer is strongly supported by his family; but in a wider sense, the Ken Buchanan ﬁghting in tartan shons is crying out for recognition by his country. A world-beater in the ring, he is an ordinary Scot outside it, who fulﬁls his own dreams while acting as a surrogate for the dreams of his countrymen. Ken Buchanan's few years of glory were followed by divorce. ﬁnancial collapse and unfounded rumours about heavy drinking. but he is now successful in his trade as a joiner. McGrath makes his life a celebration of perseverence, and an antidote to the tragic decline of Benny Lynch. (Alan Morrison) Buchanan. Traverse Theatre. Edinburgh. Sat 8—Sun 16 May and Tue 25 May-Sun 6 Jun; Pavilion. Glasgow, Thurs 20—Sat 22 May. The script is published in the current edition of Theatre Scotland magazine.
The big issue
When I talked to Esther Welnstein six months ago about her new drama workshops involving Glasgow’s young homeless, neither of us would have guessed that she and her group would be ready to perform in this year’s Mayfest. That she has enthused a dozen individuals enough to get them to attend rehearsals regularly is an achievement, but Weinstein has high hopes that the show itself will be something to be proud of. ‘There’s a linking character who leads the audience through a series of cameo sketches based on our workshop improvisations,’ she explains. ‘There won’t be any long pieces of narrative because those are difficult to sustain, but instead, lots of masks, colourful costumes, percussion - opportunities for all the cast members to do what they are good at. The kids can be hilariously funny, many of them have natural comic timing. It should be very lively, gutsy - in fact, it’s got the potential to be bloody brilliant.’
lot that Weinstein has no worries. ‘Appearing on stage is a nerve- wracking business for anyone, and I would hate to undo the confidence-
bullding which is my main purpose here. A flop could be devastating.’ The truth is, she is caught in a Catch-22 situation - the show could be premature and harmful, but it is necessary if sponsorship is going to be attracted to keep the whole project afloat.
And Weinstein believes fervently in the value of the project. ‘llomelessness is about so much more than a roof over your head. It’s about a lack of community, purpwe, enough money to lead a conventional life. Groups like ours can be a life-line to some of these young people. We have had the best results with kids who do have a measure of stability in their lives, rudimentary hostel accommodation, for example, but with more resources we could address the different needs of those literally sleeping on the street. What keeps me going is the response of the kids: despite my reservations about this show, they said let’s give it a go, and they are already planning to put on an even better one when this is over.’ (Catherine Fellows)
The llisplaced Issue is performing as follows: 11 May, Mercat Theatre, llrumchapel; 12 May, Corbals Playbarn; 13 May, Castlemilk Community Education Centre; 14 May, Springbum llorth College Arts Centre.
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The cast of Phoenix looks to Germany
Seven per cent of the population owns 84 per cent of the wealth — or at least it did in the early 70s when John McGrath founded Scotland’s most overtly political theatre company. As 7:84’5 current artistic director laln lleekie is quick to point out to anyone tempted to accuse him of going soft, times have changed. ‘The language of agltprop is no longer enough,’ he says. ‘The situation we are facing at the moment in Europe is far too complex. We as a company don’t want to be guilty of the failure of most of the Left to keep pace with events. It’s not that political theatre is redundant, far from it; in fact there has never been a greater need, but it’s something different that is required.’
7:84’s two Mayfest shows could be seen as representing the opposite extremes of its new vision, and yet there is a strong thematic link between them. Phoenix, a political
thriller by Roy MacCregor, is set in Berlin on the night of the destruction of the Wall, and looks at the dangers threatening to erupt from the ashes as old structures disintegrate and long suppressed societies in both the East and West enter a new state of volatility. As Reekle sees it, Berlin is something of a microcosm, a heightened example of what is happening throughout Europe, not least in Scotland, with its disenfranchised youth and lack of direction from above.
If Phoenix is the thesis, then the second show, llew Frontiers, is the actuality. It is a community-based project directed by 7:84’s recently appointed outreach worker John lleraghty, and involves a group of young people from Castlemilk and a similar group from what was East Berlin. Since February, both groups have been engaged in workshops in which they have explored non-verbal communication and language, but they will not meet up until eight days before the performance. In one knows exactly what this performance will consist of - it will literally be about the interaction of the groups, their shared experiences, and their differences. ‘We want to be a medium for them, the actors,’ says lleraghty, ‘to empower them with some dramatic skills and give them a platform.’
As lain Beekie says, what could be more politically engaged than that? (Catherine Fellows)
Phoenix, Arches Theatre, Glasgow, Tues 11-Sun 16 May and on tour. llew Frontiers: Mon 10, Brigidale Centre, Castlemilk; Thurs 13, Corbals llWC; Sun 16, Arches Theatre; Tue 18, flew Argo Centre, llrumchapel; Wed 19, llorth Glasgow Arts Centre, Springburn; and Thurs 20, Brigidale Centre, Castlemilk.
Six months on from Glasgow’s last Irish season, Mayfest boasts another contingent of companies from over the water. Olaf Tyaransen outlines what’s in store.
When Dublin's Co-motion Theatre Company opened its production of Patrick McCabe's play Frank Pig Says Hello (based on his award-winning novel The Butcher Boy) in London last month. it totally bewildered the critics. Their bewilderment was not unusual in itself. What was unusual, however, was the fact that they admitted it. ‘lnitially l was repelled (and a bit confused).' wrote John Cross in the Sunday Telegraph, ‘but the longer it goes on, the more fascinating it gets. in its sinister way.‘
‘I occasionally got lost.‘ admitted The Guardian’s Michael Billington. before surrendering to ‘this hurtling, vivid, kaleidoscopic piece of theatre‘. The Times said it best though: ‘I began by mistrusting and disliking the play and ended up feeling it was yet another
16 The List 7-20 May 1993
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