BRAD FRASER FEATURE
If the evidence from Cincinnati, Ohio, is anything to go by. Fraser’s new play Poor Super Man, a kind of spiritual sequel to Unidentified Human Remains, is set to create a similar frisson to its predecessor. Cincinnati, it must be remembered, is that hot-bed of liberalism that got the Robert Mapplethorpe photography exhibition shut down after morality charges were pressed against the gallery’s owner. The same forces of free-thinking tried a similar trick when Poor Super Man made its debut. ‘This time the good people of Cincinnati and the media said “What the hell are you doing? It didn’t work last time, get over it.” And it sold out through the roof. They couldn’t have given us better publicity!’
Fraser was, in fact, surprised by that adverse reaction, believing Poor Super Man to be a much less shocking play than Human Remains. But. like he says, theatregoers are still not used to being served homo-eroticism with their ice- creams and curtain calls. Like the earlier play, Poor Super Man is not only written in a jump- cut, fragmented style, but also its central
‘Ii sex Is an obsesslon it’s one that I share with most everyone else. I don’t write about sex, I write about people, I write about relationships. And sex is a
big part oi people and relationships.’
character is again called David McMillan: a slightly different David McMillan, who lives in some parallel universe. ‘I wanted to answer the critics who said that Human Remains was exploitative, sensational and melodramatic (although without those things it wouldn’t have been the success that it was). I wanted to prove to myself that I could write something without having to resort to that kind of melodrama. I wanted to deal with similar concerns on a more real level. It’s much more character-based.’
Lovers of the explicit needn’t worry that Fraser has sold out, however, even if his current employment by Walt Disney’s Touchstone Pictures is little short of bizarre. ‘People get upset at sex in the theatre mostly because they’ve created this sterile world where that kind of stuff doesn’t happen,’ he says. ‘It bothers them for theatre to get low. 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. That’s part of life, that’s part of the stuff we deal with all the time and why gloss over it?
‘If sex is an obsession it’s one that I share with most everyone else. I don’t write about sex, I write about people, I write about relationships. And sex is a big part of people and relationships. It seems to me to not write about sex, particularly in this day and age. is irresponsible. I’m fascinated with the way people interact with one another, but unlike most writers of the theatre, I don’t keep that on a strictly dialogue, cerebral level. Characters don’t just think with their heads and communicate with their mouths, they do it with their bodies as well - the way that they do in life. I like to keep it open to interpretation. but if they’re fucking, they’re fucking; if it’s a blow- job, it’s a blow-job.’ CI Poor Super Man, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, 15 Jul—7 Aug and in Edinburgh Fringe.
Love and death
BRAD FRASER’S previous play Unidentified Human Remains And The True Nature OfLove has been adapted for the big screen by Denys Arcand. Trevor Johnston meets the Canadian director.
Benita (Mia Kirsher)
ometimes. when the world looks to you for an answer. it’s not so easy. In
Montreal became a worldwide arthouse sensation. French—Canadian writer-director Denys Arcand found himself working on a script that was going, in his own words, ‘nowherc’. With a producer breathing down his neck and his own self- generated pressure to come up with something steadily mounting. salvation came in the unlikely form of a play about a serial killer (and a whole lot else). The Montreal opening night for Brad Fraser's Unidentiﬁed Human Remains And The True Nature Of Love proved to be an auspicious occasion: Arcand was so struck by the piece that by the end of the evening the aforementioned producer was on his mobile tracking down screen rights.
‘A couple of things made me go with it.’ reflects Arcand. an urbane and highly agreeable figure. ’For one thing. it‘s written like a film script: there are seven characters all moving
the intervening period when Jesus ()f
around a city over a period of a couple of weeks. so you don’t have to worry about the usual adaptation crisis of how to get the people out of the single setting. Secondly. it’s an ensemble piece with an extreme actuality to it. That’s the way I write, and it spoke to me in very immediate terms. The play seemed to get at exactly what we’re all going through in the 90s.’
The intermingling of amorous fortunes between a group of restless metropolitans spanning the broadest reaches of sexual orientation. the screen incarnation of lave And Human Remains actually looks quite at home in the recent Arcand canon. Having pricked the mercurial middle-class mores of the chattering academic sector in 1986’s Decline Of The American Empire. and dissected the multi- media hypocrisies of faithless modernity in Jesus ()fMontrea/ three years later — both films marking a breakthrough for a Canadian filmmaker who'd been ploughing a lonely native furrow since the early 705 — here he casts a cool eye over the sexual uncertainties, information overload and widespread sense of Generation X- er cultural suspension that is The Way We Live Now.
‘I think, after long discussions with Brad Fraser about this. what we wanted to say is that. at this moment in time, love is a dangerous activity.‘ elucidates Arcand. ‘It’s dangerous if you‘re gay and you sleep around. because of AIDS. It‘s dangerous if you’re a woman because of the prevailing atmosphere of violence that’s around all the time. I don’t think the movie's really about “who’s-the-killer?”. It’s more to do with that surrounding feeling of menace that’s part and parcel of life in our cities.’ Ll Love And Human Remains opens at the Cameo, Edinburgh on Friday 22 and at the Glasgow
Film Theatre on Friday 29.
Love is a dangerous activity as Benita and David (Thomas Gibson. above) discover l
The List l5—28 July 199415