Barry the beast
Provocative young novelist Barry Graham is turning his venom on the world of theatre. Ann Donald talks to the creator of the Psychopathic Christ.
Barry Graham is a wiry man who could talk the hind legs offa centipede never mind a donkey. it is no surprise then that the lOOmph avalanche of words and ideas that spew forth from this ex-boxer's mouth have found vent through two novels. one collection of short stories and now a play.
Described by the playwright as the ‘most unpleasant and the funniest thing‘ he has written. Bow To The Beast was commissioned by Boilerhouse theatre company and is performed by Jan Knightly. With a rather poor track record. human beings have killed anyone who has offered us a message of compassion. What this work explores is what happens ifwe received the Saviour we deserved. Enter the Psychopathic Christ.
‘I don’t go to the theatre and I’ve no interest in seeing plays.’
For Graham. a practising Buddhist, his first impression of his creation was that of a chainsaw- wielding Christ shouting. ‘Right! Try nailing me to a fuckin' cross.‘ The idea of this alternative Messiah was Graham‘s personal reaction to our increasingly
I consumerist and greedy society. ‘People want to
believe in all the stupid effort they put into earning money so desperately that they‘ll cling to that whatever.‘ he says. ‘Even when Christ or Krishna or
; Buddha came along and tried to enlighten them. they
rejected them and killed them. it's as if we're evolving into the state of the psychopath.‘
Such challenging and controversial ideas are familiar territory for Paul Pinson. As director ofone ofthe most individual companies in Scotland. Pinson is keen to nurture a policy of collaborating with contemporary Scottish writers such as Duncan McLean and Irvine Welsh in a quest to ‘find a fresh approach to theatre'. For Graham. Boilerhouse is the outstanding exception to his inherent dislike ofall things theatrical. ‘l don't go to the theatre and I‘ve no interest in seeing plays.‘ he says dogmatically. Given Graham‘s unfamiliarity with the process of transforming words into performance. the work was
very much a collaborative process. with Jan Knightly
a vital addition to the theatrical Holy Trinity. The sparsely written script was then perfected through much experimentation, rehearsals and temper tantrums.
()ne of the main attractions for Graham in working with Boilerhouse was. he explains. 'their ability to blend very physical theatre with ideas of real intellectual depth.‘ In keeping with this weighty tone, Graham has tapped into Nieztche's theory of the Superman. taking his lead from the idea ofthe homosapien evolving into the homosuperior. According to the playwright, a man with a very dim view of humanity. ifthis homosuperior were to evolve into a being very much our intellectual. moral and physical superior, then we may see it as a monster rather than a Superman. Cue the Psychopathic Christ. ‘ln a lot of ways we get to choose our own evolution.’ says Graham. ‘What the Psychopathic Christ is trying to do is show audiences/humanity that if they're so hon'ified by him, then he's exactly the way that they are heading. in a way he's trying to save them, but of course, they end up worshipping him instead.’
What this work explores is what happens it we received the Saviour we deserved. Enter the Psychopathic Christ.
Director Paul Pinson recognises that the very physical play is shocking in its stark portrayal of human cruelty and greed, but adds that it also contains a very Christian message. ‘lt reminds me of an Everyman morality play.‘ he says.
For Graham. who is obviously fond ofthe vitriolic soundbite. he has reserved the brunt of his venom for the Traverse's theatre-goers. ‘1 really want to put the audience through it.’ he grins. ‘Even though they'll know they’re being put down all the way through it, I do think they'll still be exhilarated.’
Bow To The Beast, Paisley Arts Centre, Fri 1 July. Also at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh during the Festival.
amat- Fan clubs
When you’re sat in a converted church hall at the Fringe watching a Retired Colonels’ Wives Amateur Dramatic Society production of The importance of Being Earnest, lt’s ditilcult to associate the great Wildean genius with the monster oi drab which shores on betore you. For Wilde is, in his afterlife, a victim of his own success: that and the copyright laws have spawned a plague oi tedlum trom the corruption of his tecund artistic corpus. While Wilde’s plays remain outrageoust comic and narrativer gripping, they are also, due to their tight, precise constructions, very easy to destroy with a law a lashes of ham and a ‘thls Is what my granny had in the house’ type sets.
Philip Prowse, who is directing Lady
Windennere’s Fan, analyses the problem. ‘The characters are quite recognisable types but they don’t
human problems, which are expressed in lolres. So it's quite a diitchIt style to bring oil. The actors have to be literate and be able to think very last.’ At this point i aslr a vague question attempting to clarity the style and how 'a director would go about solving this problem. llnlortunately it is delivered in such a rambling, mumbling and generally un-Wildean iashion that Prowse can’t understand a word at it. And yet, paradoxically, Manater and against all odds, his response gives me the answer lam looking tor. 1 mean it’s only dittlcult because people now tallr the way you talk, which is frankly quite lncohereatiy. And young actors have to deal with the tact that they’re perlorraleg entirely articulate people, yet they
Lady Wlndermere's Fan
speak in a realistic way,’ he says. ‘And the plays appear to be comedies, but in tact they’re dramas about serious
also have to deal with rage, pale, grin! and love.’ Am Creme, tire note. (Stephen Chester)
Lady Wlndennere's Fan, King's Theatre, Edinburgh, 4-9 Jul.
The List 1—14 July 1994 so