interested in doing other things now. My own favourite / think is I982 Janine. lt’s shorter and more concentrated and technically more innovative. but I don‘t mind people preferring LllIIUI'lx'. Generally speaking. no.’ Choreographer Andy Howitt’s first dabblings with Lanark were two
years ago. when TAG held an intensive series of training
workshops in which the novel was
used. as Tony Graham puts it. ‘as a non-theatrical text. something which threw away assumptions about wanting to make theatre ordinarily.’
llowitt has worked as movement director on a number of TAG’s shows — including adaptations of A Clockwork Orange and A Seats Qnair — and takes an interest in every physical detail of the company’s performances. ‘lt’s actually amazing how much of the material from the training project — those ideas and images and thoughts — has gone into this.’ he reveals. ‘()nc of the things that I remember — it‘s near the point of Thaw’s death — and the worlds literally go like that.’ (he makes a tilting gesture. slanting his hands in opposite directions). ‘lt’s the first time onstage that you just don’t know what’s happening. You don’t know if he’s alive or dead. I love it in this production. and I loved it in the training project. and I loved it when I first read the novel.’
Inspired as they were. it took the success of A Scots Qnair at the Edinburgh Festival in 1993 to convince llowitt and Graham to risk presenting Lanark for public consumption.
For composer Alasdair Nicolson. however. the idea was already well established. ‘For me.’ he confesses. ‘it’s an operatic project I’ve had on ice for a very long time. l was working with Andy and I was alerted to the fact that they were about to take on Lanark. so I sort of invited myself into the project.‘
And thus a musical collaboration began to put
flesh on the bones of Alastair Cording’s script.
‘I think the reason it works onstage — if it works — is to do with duality: what I’m calling double vision.’ says Tony Graham. ‘lt’s intrinsic to theatre. because audiences have two
worlds in their head at the same time: their own world and the world they’re watching. Double identity is such a common theme in world theatre that it can't just be coincidence. When you actually go to the heart of Lanark and look at its structure. it’s very familiar.’
After careful consideration. Graham cast two leading actors: Citizens’ Theatre stalwart Laurance Rudic as Lanark. and Edinburgh-born Tom Smith (who recently completed a world tour with the RSC) as Thaw. ‘l’d be interested to see what would happen if we got one actor to play both parts.’ Graham continues. ‘but I’d rather play with the idea of the two worlds and the two characters. The other thing is. it might be interpreting it too much to say that they are the same character. This way you keep the ambiguity open.’
Ambiguity might well be essential to accommodate Lanark’s quirks. but how do you focus such prodigious material into a
meaningful and concise dramatic performance‘.’ Gray’s own screen adaptation lasts four hours and may therefore remain on the shelf for as long as it took to create.
One solution — all concerned parties agree — has
been to leave the honing process to Cording’s script. Nonetheless, certain themes do dominate the novel. and Graham has centred his efforts on these.
‘One thing that drives me.’ he says. ‘is the anti- capitalist allegory. The reason I’m so attracted to working in Scotland is that it’s an oppositional culture. There’s a wonderful bit at the end where Ozenphant. the powerful lord. says. “You just have to live with it. Lanark. it’s just human nature.” and Lanark stands up and says. “It's not human nature, it’s bad habits”. I just feel — thank heavens to have a platform on which we can contest the prevailing ideology.
‘But the play also raises a fundamental question about creativity and how we take responsibility for it. In a very personal way. our relationships are created. they’re manufactured. What Lanark discovers is the delicacy. the beauty. the terror of the universe because we create it. And somehow politics and culture come together at that moment. By the end of it you realise all this alien stuff is not a fantasy. It’s very. very pertinent to us and the way we live our lives.’
Pertinent it may be to the rest of us, but Alasdair Gray is content to allow the hands-off policy he’s adopted on this occasion to continue awhile. ‘I may wait till it comes to Glasgow before I see it,’ he remarks cheerily. ‘l’m sure the cast will be happy with that arrangement.’
Lanark is at the Assembly Hall for the lz'dinburgh International Festival, Mon 14—5101 27 August, then tours Scotland throughout September be ore a revival at the Citizens" Theatre, Glasgow in November:
An audio recording of part of Lanark, read by the author; has just been re-released by Canongate, priced £7.99. Three further instalments are to follow.
A touring exhibition of Alasdair Grays illustrative artwork is planned for early I 996.
nlrector Tony Graham (lett) dlscosses a scene with actors Kern Falconer (minister) and Tom Smlth (Duncan thaw)
The List 11-17 Aug 199511