r that is; d' translated into long hand means ‘dramatise that and die‘. When artistic director with the 'l'ron. Michael Boyd was mulling over the idea of adapting Janice (ialloway‘s novel The Trick Is '12) Keep Breathing. the margins of his well- thumbed copy became increasingly decorated with this foreboding abbreviation.
Indeed. Galloway‘s novel. described by The Listener as ‘an account. from the inside. of a mind cracking up‘ does not immediately strike the average dramaturg as possessing a surefire flesh and bones dramatic script. The novel relates the unsteady mental journey of the ironically named character Joy. as she strains to make sense of her life in a chaos precipitated we discover. by the death of her lover. Via snatches of horoscopes. invented dialogues. internal monologues. jumping through the hoops of the NHS. fragmented and fractious memories and lists. Joy wrestles with devilishly black humour and intelligence to impose a kind of order within her head.
In many ways. the most obvious person lo adapt the book for the stage would have been the author. Janice (iallowayfl‘hough confessing frustrated actorly aspirations and a lifelong interest in the theatre — ‘I used to write plays ad nauseum when l was wee. Whole episodes of The Man From (/ne/e‘ — Galloway felt her task was finished after writing the last page ofthe novel and has been ‘very happy‘ for Boyd to adapt the story.
Having been drawn by the novel‘s ‘very urbane. sophisticated and contemporary female
voice‘. which he felt was lacking in much of
Scottish theatre. Boyd first tackled The Trick in l‘)‘)3 when the production received rave
reviews for the accomplished performance of
three key scenes in the novel.
For this production — billed as ‘a conscious collision between literature and performance‘ -— Boyd has enlisted a stellar cast that includes Siobhan Between The Lines Redmond. Eileen High Road McCallum. Forbes The High Life
Masson and Craig strings arrangement for
Batman mum/track Armstrong. Though remaining tight-lipped about details. Boyd mentions the use of music. projections. playing with amplified sound and the self-conscious use of the image of ‘the word'. He sees this multi-layered approach as integral to his
In her powerful novel. The Trick Is '12) Keep Breathing.
Janice Galloway got inside the head of a woman struggling with her own sanity. Artistic Director of The Tron Theatre Company. Michael Boyd set himself the near impossible task of adapting it for the stage. Ann Donald talked to him about rising to the challange.
intention of dramatising what he defines as ‘the difficulty of expression. the difficulty in making sense of her bits of experience that don‘t add up and the difficulty of clear thought that Joy feels.‘
ln fashioning this vision. Boyd faced the unenviable task of paring and honing down what is. by all accounts. a very dense novel. ‘I think it William l’aulkner.‘ he paraphrases.‘who said “In making art you have to kill your dearest darlings.” 1 don‘t think he meant his family. but his favourite bits had to go because they didn't make sense in terms of the whole beast. The piece of work you're writing begins to take on its own life and sheds and rejects antibodies. elements that are just not going to fit. no matter how perfectly they fit in Janice‘s novel.’
One ofthe tnost natural decisions as Boyd saw it. was to divide the central :haracter into a
dramatic triumvirate played by three separate actors. Explaining the first Joy. whose outward persona is that of the capable teacher. Boyd says. ‘She is the film actress. The second Joy is the subconscious. the lyrical and sensual side and the third Joy.. . . ' for this he takes a dramatic pause. ‘She is the monkey on the back. the frontal lobes. the Jimminy Cricket. the Master of Ceremonies.‘
And so it is that a rather frail looking Siobhan Redmond/Master of Ceremonies is sitting upstairs in the Tron office after an enjoyable but intense day in rehearsals spent ‘rolling around in dirt’ — presumably exorcising the monkeys on her back. As Redmond and many critics have also observed ofJoy. she is only that ‘dangerous step or two nearer the edge‘ than the rest of us. ‘I might have a warped view of humanity.’ smiles Redmond. ‘but I think that most of the feelings inspired by the events in this will be absolutely familiar to everyone whether or not they‘ve had a breakdown. One of the things that Janice delineates very clearly is the terrible gulf between an individual and the people close to them. How you can want to hold somebody close to you and strangle the life out of them at the same time. Those completely contradictory feelings which co-exist I imagine in everybody. (‘ertainly in me.‘ she laughs gently.
However. Redmond is at pains to point out the inherent humour of the piece and the absence of any trace of sentimentality or self-indulgence on the main character's part. Boyd too was struck by Galloway‘s black humour as he explains. "I‘hat‘s all meat and drink to me.’ he smiles. ‘I love that ghastly laugh where the audience can‘t believe they‘re laughing. I like that in Janice that she never lets Joy off the hook. she‘s not afraid of humour at her central character's expense. which is crucial because otherwise the whole exercise could become incredibly po- faced and self-pitying.’
(liven the names and artistic minds at work on this production it would be safe to assume that the final result will be far from ‘po-faced and self-pitying‘ as well as being a welcome addition to the burgeoning catalogue of page to stage productions that are currently sweeping the Scottish theatre.
The Trick Is 7}) Keep Breathing by The Tron
Theatre ('(nnpany is at The Tran/ram Fri 8—Sat 30 Sept at 8pm.
The List 3-2] Sept 199517