et’s talk about sex. and no ‘maybe’
about it. The backstage gossip last year
when Edinburgh’s Traverse Theatre
presented the British premiere of the
cumbersomely titled Unidentiﬁed
Human Remains and the True Nature of Love was more about the audience than the couplings on stage. Snogging, groping, necking, all the things the signs used to warn against in public swimming baths — such scurrilous activity was going on in this chic but eminently serious home of new writing. What could have induced such behaviour? What theatrical artifice could have turned a sober Edinburgh audience into a randy horde of molesting sexpots‘.’ Whose were those remains and what is the true nature of love?
‘I like theatre to get low, I like it to be human. There’s a lot of talk of blood and shit and piss in Poor Super Man and for
me that’s important.’
The man with the answers is Brad Fraser, a 35-year-old playwright who is living proof that there’s more to his native Canada than niceness, moderation and maple syrup. His play made a stir — it transferred from Edinburgh to London where it won Evening Standard and Time Out awards in 1993, having already picked up similar plaudits in Canada and elsewhere — not because it was structurally innovative or even that it had a radical new message, but because it brought sex back into the theatre — a quality generally neglected since the good old gory days of Jacobean revenge tragedy. Sex and a titillating soupeon of violence thrown in for good measure.
Unidentiﬁed Human Remains, now reworked for the big screen, is a tale of youngsters hanging out and making out in Edmonton, the
People are paying attention to BRAD FRASER. With a new work about to open at the Traverse and a ﬁlm of his last play reaching our screens, the Canadian playwright spoke to Mark Fisher about how low theatre can go.
city with the world’s biggest shopping mall. while a serial killer plies his deathly trade in the background. Taking sexuality for granted — male, female, gay, straight — the play seemed to infect the audience with its anything-goes
‘Characters don’t iust think with their heads and communicate with
their mouths, they do it with their bodies as well.’
philosophy. Certainly. you couldn’t help but notice the unusually amorous atmosphere in the post-show bar.
‘Nudity and sexuality are a big part of what I put in there in order to draw people into the theatre.’ admits Fraser. ‘But if people come specifically to get their rocks off because they think it‘s going to be this pornographic event. i think the same people feel much differently by the time they leave. it‘s not like Unidentiﬁed Human Remains was nothing but an orgy for two-and-a-half hours. By the end of the show people would have had to be really insensitive or dead not to be clued into that.‘
Fraser. however. is still happiest when he‘s making a stir. Writing was initially a way for him to escape a semi—itinerant childhood of domestic violence. and even now he feels it is important to bring the normally repressed side of our lives into the open. If there is a reaction to this. it is often the theatre profession itself that is most uncomfortable. The fact that. even before the movie, he was making a handsome living from the world-wide royalties for Unidentiﬁed Human Remains suggests to him that there is a common need for theatre to talk about contemporary life in all its explicit detail. His personal mandate is to attract people to the theatre who would not normally go.
Brad Fraser - living proof that there‘s more to his native Canada than niconoss, moderation and maple syrup.
14 The List l5—28 July I994