Anarchy in the UK

Craig Ferguson is the Maniac in a new production of Dario Fo’s satire, Accidental Death Of An Anarchist. Mark Fisher talks to the stand-up, TV star and actor about being a stand-up, TV star and actor.

Up-staging is a common complaint when star-names are given free rein in the theatre. Showing off can be entertaining. but it‘s also indulgent and tends to throw a show off kilter. But there is the very occasional play that actually requires the lead player to be larger than life. Gogol‘s The Government Inspector is one. Another is Dario Fo‘s Accidental Death OfAn Anarchist. lt‘s telling that over the past decade Rik Mayall has been cast in the former and Alan Cumming in the latter. Now it‘s the turn of Craig Ferguson. aka Bing Hitler. aka that bloke off Friday at the Dome. 2(XX) Not Out and that programme about archeology. to play the maniac at large in a corrupt police station in Dario Fo‘s very funny and ever-more relevant political satire.

‘For a vulgar lounge entertainer like myself it’s the ideal situation.’

lt‘s Ferguson’s first theatre work since his nine months in The Rocky Horror Show two years ago (‘lt‘s bizarre. it takes over your whole life. you live in this strange hinterland; some nights you can‘t remember doing it‘) and his first in Scotland. apart from stand-up and panto. since he was in Gamblers at the Tron and the Traverse in 1987. ‘lt was time to come back to theatre.‘ he says over a lunchtime lemonade in Chitnmy Chungas. ‘and Dario Fo‘s a nice way back in. because for a vulgar lounge entertainer like myself it‘s the ideal situation. Dario Fo wrote these parts for himself and it shows. He wrote it for his own clowning around. The particular clowning aspects are open to interpretation. I‘m not a great one for pointing-at-my-bottom type humour. although if] think it‘ll work. l‘ll do it! But it is a comfortable way back in. l‘rn glad it‘s not Shakespeare or something like that.‘

Directed by the Arches Theatre‘s Andy Arnold. who also put on a successful production of the same show exactly ten years ago, this Accidental Death also features Grant Smeaton and Ross Stenhouse. and kicks off at the Citizens‘ Theatre. Glasgow. before moving through to the Edinburgh Fringe. (Where incidently. Ferguson‘s big wee sister. Lynn. will be starring with fellow Alexander Sister. Carolyn Bonnyman. in Iain Heggie‘s Politics in the Park). ‘lt‘ll be quite hell for leather.‘ promises Ferguson. ‘There‘s no other way you can do the play as far as i can see.‘

Ferguson points out that although the scandals still

319:1?" fojf'r’,‘

rocking ltalian politics do make the play seem especially prophetic the plot concerns a police cover-up ofthe ‘accidental‘ murder ofa railway worker the important thing is. sadly. that Fo‘s thesis is universal. ‘Wc have updated a couple of references.‘ he explains. ‘I was worried about how relevant the play was in 1993. but by using things like lrangate and Rodney King. suddenly you think. it‘s still there! It‘s still happening. That made me feel a lot more comfortable. We‘ve tried to use what we know from political corruption from this country and the United States. I think most ofthe time secrecy in this country is to cover up incompetence. What Grant

and Ross are doing with the two policemen is very

interesting. because they're funny. they‘re quite loveable buffoons and they‘re also evil sons of

; bitches.‘

Since his short-lived spell as a drurumer with the

E Dreamboys. playing alongside Peter Capaldi. the 3 l - 5 year-old Ferguson has enjoyed a busy and varied

career. kicking off with a year playing New York‘s comedy clubs. returning to launch his alter ego Bing : Hitler onto an unsuspecting Scotland. From there. he picked up a long list of TV credits as well as mainstage stand-up tours. including a national tour supporting Harry Enfield. No doubt his live comedy work will stand him in particularly good stead for the energy required by Fo‘s farce. ‘lt‘s very useful.‘ he agrees. ‘I always considered stand-up to be an actor‘s i discipline; that‘s the way i approached it. I never ' approached it is as “Hello. good evening. ladies and gentlemen. I‘ve got some amusing things to say.“ because I don‘t function like that. It‘s not word-for- word. but I follow a script. it‘s open. because you‘re talking to the audience the whole time and you have to allow yourself to be open. but it‘s probably a lot more structured that a lot of other stand-ups.‘

His ambition to play bigger theatres and to work on


TV has inevitably pulled Ferguson away from Scotland and for the moment he‘s happy being based in London. ‘There are experiences that you can‘t get in Scottish theatre that I wanted to get.‘ he admits. ‘You still can‘t get them now. There‘s no shame in that; the population doesn‘t support it. it can‘t. it‘s not big enough. lfyou want work you‘ve got to go where it is. if you‘re in the oil business. you‘ve got to go where the oil is.‘

‘I heard someone say, “It’s a nice day today and it’s raining in England and that’s a bonus.”

He‘s proud enough of being Scottish. even if he doesn‘t particularly play on it ‘l‘m not a shuggly walking stick and kilt-type person‘ but he‘s very much against the limited field of vision that suggests that to leave the country is somehow traitorous. ‘l‘m happy living outside Scotland for the time being. I think eventually I will probably move back. But I think the idea that if you‘re a performer you must stay in Scotland is ludicrous. l heard something the

5 other day which really pointed it out to me. an

attitude that is strangely out ofshape. I heard

someone say. “It‘s a nice day today and it‘s raining in

England and that‘s a bonus.“ What is that about“? You watch the weather in England to make sure it‘s

. raining down there and that makes it even better! I

don‘t think the rest ofthe world is behaving like that. I‘m proud to be from Scotland and i like it. it‘s where I‘m from. but the world‘s a big place. and there‘s lots ofthings to see and do.‘

Accidental Death ()fAn Anarchist. (‘t‘ttfietts' Theatre. Glasgow. The 3—Sa! I 4 A My; Assent/fly Rooms. Edinburgh. Mon 16—.S'at 28 Aug.

The List 30 July—l2 August NW 43