V NEW PLAY
jMark Fisher talks to emerging new playwright Davrd Greig about Europe, nationalism and physrcal ' theatre. I i 1993 is shaping up as David Greig‘s year. The young , playwright first made his mark on the Edinburgh i Fringe with his company Suspect Culture, for two 2 years running a serious contender for the Guardian | Student Award and. in 1992, a Scotsman Fringe First ; winner. Since that time. Greig has returned to his native Scotland, settled in Glasgow and brought the company with him (it was originally a spin-off from his time at Bristol University). So far this year, he's been involved in low-key workshop and script- devclopment work at the Traverse, but the real action starts now. as EurOpe, a new self-directed double-bill opens at the Arches, hotly followed by The Time i Before the Time After produced by Rough Edge on i the Edinburgh Fringe. then in the autumn a new ' production of last year's Stalinland directed by Malcolm Sutherland at the Citizen’s. ()ne of the distinguishing features ofGreig‘s approach is that although his writing can be dense 5 and demanding, he has a strong sense of the physical i power of theatre. He admits that while he will always ’ see himself as a writer, the theatre that most inspires him is often of a multi-media nature. indeed, one of the long-term aims of Suspect Culture is for it to evolve as a meeting place for artists of different disciplines where theatrical experiments can take place between musicians, photographers, performers
and so on. ‘lt’s quite strange,‘ says Greig. ‘we were all trained in theatre, but the companies we admire with awe are all dance companies. What we have borrowed from them is the way they use bodies. costumes or straight-forward images rather than lavishly-funded spectacle. You start to become aware that you can create images with bodies.’
Unusually for a playwright, Greig has taken this awareness to heart and more than one of his plays has
been written only after the physical language has
:been developed with the cast. ‘1 work with the company on ﬁnding a location and just ﬁnding
, characters and ideas as if we were creating a dance
5 show or a movement show.‘ he explains. ‘Once we have got some really interesting images and gestural ideas, then i have material that i can write text with. I don’t have a vocabulary just with words like I would ’ normally have as a writer; I can say to the company, 1"Put this in here".'
it's a technique he used for last year‘s The Garden, and again for Stations on the Border, the second of the two shows at the Arches. Greig’s big concern is the nature of nationalism, something that grew out of ‘his interest in Scottish identity and developed via his experiences in England to his travels across Europe. His feelings are ambivalent, aware of our need to deﬁne our own culture, yet equally aware ofthe destructive capabilities of the aggressive nationalism that is tearing Europe apart at the moment. it is the ‘tension between these faces of nationalism that his plays explore. The ﬁrst piece, Petra's Explanation, which originates from one of the Traverse's Windows on the World sessions, is set in a ﬁctionalised contemporary Yugoslavia. where a mother has to explain to the ghost of her dead son how it was he icame to die in some nationalist conﬂict. Stations on the Border develops a similar theme in more abstract style, as a group of characters travel through Europe on an international train.
‘1 think Petra‘s Explanation is immediately [accessible because it's very current,‘ says Greig. "Stations on the Border is probably a lot more enigmatic, but hopefully it does again hit home on an emotional level. I think people will think Petra is good and directly funny and makes a lot of sense, whereas Stations on the Border they'll ﬁnd taps deeper sources. Petra introduces a theme of nationalism and identity in Europe and Stations takes them, runs with them for a little bit and makes them a little bit more weird.‘
Europe, Arches Theatre, Glasgow, Tue 6—521! 10 Jul.
ama- ‘ Ground work
choreographers have always had
trouble persuading venue directors to
show their work. Despite high-quality
performance and innovative ideas,
tours which take in the Highlands and
islands as well as the Central Belt are
rarely cost-effective. This is where the
Stamping Ground has sought to help. ‘The original idea was to provide a
sounding-board for younger
. choreographers who had shorter dances,’ explains administrator Susan
‘ iiay who set up the Stamping Ground in 1991 . ‘Generally only experienced
and funded choreographers can
produce whole evenings’ worth of
work, so this was a way of bridging the gap. We wanted to allow for new choreography that might be more
was able to secure venues for mixed evenings of new dance and hoped that potential promoters and funders from across the country would use them as ' about ideas than the finished product.’ an opportunity in ‘samph heron may
bought’. The events were relatively successful with some choreographers showing work for the first time ever in decent spaces. But audiences couldn’t rely on consistent quality and it was hard to programme effectively. Then last year, the Stamping Ground advisory panel, made up of independent choreographers Kirsten White and iiosina Gonsu, with Paisley Arts Centre director, Steve Slater, decided that the best way to spend their grant was to commission new work. They hoped this would provide some desperately needed cash for choreographers and gain an umbrella for promotion.
Two of the winners were Jane Jewel of Sides Dance, and Steven Hooper who recently showed his work-in- progress at the Edinburgh Assembly Rooms. Presented as a double-bill set to Mozart’s music, Jewel’s work is inspired by American Elle ifademan’s sculpture of twn female nudes, and iiooper is collaborating with Jenny
Goodman from the Voice Box.
With a Scottish Ballet background, Jewel’s recent work has been classicain influenced and lyrical. The costumes she has selected for this new dance, described by iiay as ‘silky and floaty’, suggest a similar approach. iiooper is still looking for an identifiable style, but the magnificent voices and improvised dance which contributed to the beginnings of his work looked promising.
As an innovative organisation itself, the Stamping Ground is currently being reviewed and may well come up with yet another way of helping new choreographers to survive. Even before the works are performed, both choreographers have attracted considerable further funding, which can’t be bad. (Tamsin Grainger) Stamping Ground, Tron Theatre, Glasgow, Wed 'H-‘ri 9 Jul; Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Sat 10-Sun 11 Jul.
45 The List 2—15 July 1993