m1- Main attraction

Michael Pennington explains to Fiona Shepherd how he can keep coming back to Hamlet.

Stick around for long enough in the theatrical profession and Hum/er will come knocking at your door. Michael Pennington is currently performing in his fifth Hamlet. playing Claudius and the ghost of Hamlet‘s father in a Peter Hall Company production destined for a West End residency later this year. ‘Now that I‘ve got to the age for Claudius, I assume it's the gravedigger and out from now on,‘ he says.

Even for someone who feels the play has ‘(logged‘ him, another production of Hamlet is easier to justify than most

other hardy perennials. ‘Normally I

would say you can't possibly get that much juice out of a single piece. but this seems to he an exception. The play

Michael Pennington as Claudius: ‘I assume it's the gravedigger and out from now on.‘

i is like a sort of magnet it attracts all . the iron filings of the time in the sense

I that whatever our preoccupations are in

i any particular decade or culture we‘ll

Doing what comes nationally

As the announcement draws closer of the first findings of the Scottish Arts Council’s investigation into the feasibility of a Scottish national theatre, so the activity of the National Theatre for Scotland Campaign hots up. The lobby group’s most public and

arguably most positive gesture to date is a series of readings that focuses on L

what it calls ‘The Unknown Story of 20th Century Scottish Theatre’. Taking place in the Edinburgh Festival Theatre between September and November, the readings aim to draw attention to the many neglected plays in the Scottish repertoire.

‘One of the jobs of the Campaign has been to look into what the Scottish repertoire is,’ says the organisation’s Donald Smith. ‘Is there a Scottish repertoire and if so what is it?’ To this end a not-yet-definitlve list has been compiled of more than 600 produced Scottish plays from the 20th century alone. ‘This is the first of a series of readings of interesting texts from that list with the aim of taking them onto a further stage,’ says Smith.

The question that inevitably arises is that if someone has to compile a list to remind us of these plays, can they have been any good in the first place? ‘You’re bound to get that difference of opinion,’ admits Smith, ‘and that’s why we’re going into the reading process 5 not in a spirit of “We say every one of these 600 plays is good” - we’re not doing this in a spirit of antagonism. We want a framework of open enquiry I - what is the Scottish repertoire and

Robert Mclellan’s The Hypocrite at the iioyal lyceuni ln1967

how can it be supported? This Is not an exercise to score political points. This Is an opportunity to really look at Scottish theatre - where have we got in the 20th century? It’s a very exciting opportunity to engage in a real debate.’ (Mark Fisher)

Stage Secrets: The Unknown Story of 20th Century Scottish Theatre, Edinburgh Festival Theatre, beginning with The Hypocrite, Mon 5 Sept, and

The Brus, Tue 6 Sept.

' find it in Hunrlel.‘

Pennington goes on to cite the first professional Hamlet he played in (as Foninbras) which was also the first time Peter Hall had directed the play. ‘It was a very politically-orientated producrion from the mid-60s not long before the Paris student riots. The whole consciousness of student unrest was very strong in the production. Now this production reflects some of our sexual preoccupations in the 90s rather than the politics of the Cold War.‘

By the time the play reaches Edinburgh the cast will be totally re- acclimatised to seeing the whites of their audience‘s eyes. but the experience earlier in the tour of performing in the vast 700()-capacity arena of the Herodias Attieus Theatre at the Acropolis in Athens was a unique coming-of—age for the production. ‘I found it thrilling,‘ says Pennington. ‘You do feel yourself to be in touch with the roots of theatre because you know that it‘s in spaces like that that theatre was born.‘

Hamlet, K ing is Theatre, Edinburgh. 5-10 Sept.














The List 26 August—8 September l99-1 85