David Kane. Photograph by Chris Blott
David Kane’s streetwise comic banter flowed through a major thriller series, via last year’s hit farce Drmzbstruck and into a- charming new film set in a Glasgow tenement. Whose lines are they anyway?
14 The List 22 Sept-5 ()ct l995 \
asks Eddie Gibb.
fDavid Kane was a grand, pretentious man he would have called it a theory. Instead he just observes. in a for-what-it’s-worth kind of way. that rather a lot of Scottish theatre and television writers have come out of art school. He mentions John Byrne. for example. but leaves it there. The theorising falls to the journalist. who suggests rather pretentioust that it’s because art school is the only creative outlet for working class Scots that comes with a grant attached.
Kane did go to art school in Dundee to study painting. but his real ambition was to make films. He spent most of his time taking photographs and writing screenplays which he sent religiously to the BBC's script unit. though whether they were read is another matter. For Kane. art school was a place to have fun and put together a film school portfolio. though he ended up staying in Dundee for three years longer than was strictly necessary to secure a degree.
In the early 80s. while all eyes were fixed on the second coming of the Glasgow boys. a generation of Dundee art students. including kitsch tableaux photo-artist Calum Colvin. were quietly getting on with the job in hand or, in Kane’s case. skiving off. ‘I probably had one of the worst attendance records.’ he remembers. ‘but there was a lively artistic community in Dundee. They didn’t all have a particular style like in Glasgow which had a certain unity. Everyone in Dundee seemed to be doing different things and I quite liked that.’
Kane’s first big writing commission came after a London television executive met someone on a train who convinced him that Dundec’s underworld now rivallcd Glasgow’s as gangster central. Thrilled by this vicarious glimpse of east coast |ow~life. the producer promptly pitched the idea of a thriller set in Dundee. Kane was already on the BBC books after his story of a small town childhood Shadow 0/: the lz’arrli won a TV Festival prize and. with the hunt on for someone who had actually been to Dundee. he got the job. The result was 199! ’s Jute City. a three-parter starring John Sessions as a bumbling detective. which though hardly an unqualified hit. did well enough to establish him as a scriptwriter with form.
A series of low-key l'l’V pilots and BBC single dramas followed. The next career staging-post was last year’s l'l’V series I’inm')‘. a witty six-part thriller set in Newcastle. but shot mainly in Glasgow by David Hayman who cast a suspiciously high number of Scottish actors for a Geordie gangland yarn.
l"i/i/zc_\' was the story of a young jazz-lover who tries to avoid following in his father’s crooked footsteps. It was based on the Sting character from Mike Figgis’s moody thriller Sim-my Monday. though Kane ditched most of the movie’s overblown menace in favour of his preferred style of verbally dextrous humour. Hayman said that he took out some of thejokes. but for Kane humour was a coping strategy. He reckons a little bit of irony helps the dramatic cliche go down.
‘When you’re writing fora mainstream series there are quite a lot of restrictions.‘ he says. ‘and I tend to get round them with humour. They want a hero who is flawed but not too flawed. a love interest. and cliches built in which producers don’t even realise are cliches. so I did tend to go fora black comic line through it.’ The real strength of Fin/rev was the lines that Kane