marr- Private life of a cross- dressing milk man

Fiona Shepherd talks to Rupert Everett about taking the female lead.

‘Victor Prin is a tiny part. not the romantic lead, more of a character spoof, and Flora Goforth is a large part. I'm not playing in drag exactly but l’rn playing as an invention, something outside reality, so they are really different. Victor Pn'n is going through divorce and Flora Goforth is going through death. I think they both reflect the size of me really.’

Rupert Everett pauses and chuckles at his final statement, as though embarrassed by his over-analytical precis. He’s back in Glasgow, at the Citizens’ Theatre again, to perform two plays Noel Coward‘s partner- swapping love rectangle Private Lives (see review) and sandwiched between its two runs, the play that has really precipitated his return to the Scottish stage, Tennessee Williams’ The Milk Train Doesn '1 Stop Here Anymore. It’s one of his lesser known works, about a rich, ageing woman living in seclusion with some chosen companions but whose world is infiltrated by gold- digging chancers, until a young poet appears and turns her situation on its


Everett stars in Noel Coward and Tennessee Williams


‘The play has never worked.‘ says Everett. ‘because it was written in the 60s when he [Williams] was getting into drugs. it's very meandering and isn‘t quite focused. The way we‘re going to do it is fantastic. because it deals with a very serious subject but it's incredibly ironic and caustic and funny.‘

At first, Everett and director Philip

Prowse encountered obstacles when they voiced intentions to stage the play

' to representatives of Tennessee

Williams’ estate. It was assumed the production would be a send-up when it

became known that Everett would play the central female role.

‘I suppose the character is an old queen with a dream basically.‘ says Everett. ‘I think Tennessee Williams must have thought a lot about playing all ofhis heroines really. i think he did write an alternative sex to women and men that started off rather subtly with characters like Blanche Dubois which is still a woman, but they got madder and madder. They're different animals. these dragons.‘

Private Lives is more familiar territory for Everett-watchers, who may recall his role in Coward‘s The timer several years ago. It's the sort of play he could sleepwalk through but nevertheless he retains an affection for its gentle social comedy. ‘lt‘s brilliantly written comedy.‘ he says. ‘This is a precursor ofall sitcoms and like all great sitcoms it has undercurrents of profundity. weird things that really ring true about the human condition. It‘s not a demanding evening at the theatre —— i can't stand the concept ofgoing to the theatre to work.‘

The Citizens' and Philip Prowse are favourite choices for Everett precisely because they don‘t enshrine the traditional theatre cliches. He is particularly hopeful that his performances will attract a young audience. though with student reading- list stalwart Williams on the menu. he needn't worry. ‘l'm not against that whole middle-class tradition ofgoing to the theatre brrt it's not particularly exciting. It doesn‘t really get you up in the morning and raring to go to the theatrejust to know that you‘re going out in front of people on business excursions.‘

The Milk Train Does/r 'I 510/) Here Any More. Citizens' Theatre. Glasgow; 28 ()(‘I—l2 Nov.

Have and prosper

‘l’m still not really sure what it’s all about, which is a good thing I think,’ says Irvine Welsh, speaking a week before Headstate, the subject of his conversation, is due to open at Tramway, before returning in reverse order to the three other venues where Boilerhouse Theatre Company has been devising the project for the past six weeks.

Speak to anyone involved in the process - the four performers, the writer (Welsh), the director, the musician, anyone - and you’ll receive a glowing report on the success of the approach they took, starting from scratch with only a title and the notion that they wanted to construct a piece of theatre about experiences of the last fifteen years and where this had brought society to. (And they really were starting from scratch -I saw one of their first rehearsals and it was bemuslng to say the least.)

‘lt’s the best devising process I’ve been Involved with,’ states Rachel Carbide emphatically. ‘It did go from very general to much more specific within a couple of weeks.’


After initially exploring themes and focusing down on ideas, the company created four Iarger—than-life characters to represent facets of contemporary society - a junkie mother-of-two, a love therapist, a consumer maniac and a confused individual who personifies the volatile notion of class. Following that, scenarios were invented for the characters to interact with each other.

Because the play was developed in four vastly different spaces - Tramway, Theatre Workshop, The Lemon Tree and Paisley Arts Centre - it will modulate slightly at each venue to accommodate ideas arising from that particular theatre. However, Welsh does point to its ‘post-rave burnout environment’ setting and

despite his opening remark, clearly has more than a tentative inkling about what he’s helped create. When pressed further he reveals: ‘lts theme is to what extent does the power of the consumer society alter human nature and what opportunity is there for other social, emotional and psychological forces to challenge and reshape that real power?’

Choosing a timespan of the last fifteen years must have been no accident. The fifteen-year-olds of this country have never experienced anything other than Tory rule. ’Thatcherism and the Tories are irrelevant to the equation. All they did was to push it for what it’s worth. These changes were happening anyway.’

Whatever the interpretation, this doesn’t sound like a man who’s not really sure what his play is about. ‘One thing I will say is that it’s going to alienate a lot of traditional theatregoers who expect to have an affirmation of their views about what theatre is. I think it will prove to be a tremendous experience for people from the rave culture and acid house generation that have been right through the 805 scene. That’s who it’s for - it’s not for the menopausal wreckages of the 605.’ (Fiona Shepherd)

Headstate, Tramway, Glasgow, until Sat 22; Theatre Workshop, Edinburgh, Wed 26—Sat 29.

l l i i l l

DEERE- Another toueh of the Dutch

The Nieuw Eccentrics

. season brings a host of

cutting—edge companies from the Netherlands and Flanders to Glasgow and other British cities throughout the autumn. Mark Fisher jets over to Amsterdam to find out what’s going on.

.>\msterdam: city of sex and drugs and experimental theatre. ()r so it seems if you hang out for long around the Netherlands Theatre Institute, a four- storey ‘documentation centre for professional theatre‘ which employs ()0 staff, receives more state subsidy than the largest rep company and yet doesn't actually produce any theatre itself. It's a sign of a country that takes its art seriously when even its support

52 The List 21 O. tuber—3 November 1994