Actor. director and Yorkshircman Barry Rutter storms across the border to deliver some Northern Broadsidcs this fortnight. Neil Cooper dives for cover.

Germans aren't widely known for their lcvity. Yorkshire folk too are more likely to call a spade a spade rather than crack a stream of one-liners. Strange. then. that anyone would want to translate what's acknowledged to he the only classieer German comedy there is into no-nonsense Yorkshire dialect. Yet that’s exactly what Barry Ruttcr’s Halifax-based Northern llroadsidcs company did last year with Heinrich von Kleist's Der Zerhrorhene Krug (literally 'I‘he [frolic/111m). .\'ot only that. btrt poet Blake Morrison‘s version. The (‘rat'r’ted l’nl. which comes to Edinburgh this fortnight. picked up a Best Director award for Rutter at last year's British Regional Theatre Awards. and has been playing to packed houses in the north of England ever since.

The play charts the farcical downfall of the corrupt Judge Adam. who comes a cropper when he pokes his ambitious and lusty finger into one too many municipal pics. prompting an investigation. 'Without wanting to get too politically correct abotrt it.‘ says Rutter. who also plays Judge Adam. ‘small town corruption's still quite a common thing. Adam‘s a crank. and the fact that he himself is responsible for his own investigation is ridiculous.’

Though this is Northern Broadsides‘ first Scottish visit. the play was performed in its original (icrman a

couple of lidinburgh Festivals back. ‘Tbey played it

Theatre wi’ nowt tekken out: Barry Rutter proposes a toast to verse drama rather staid.‘ says a typically blttnt Rtrttcr. ‘lt was a hit like bear-baiting.‘ A Scots version farnotrsly played Edinburgh‘s Royal Lyceum Theatre sotne years ago too. called The ('hippir ('harrlr'e. ‘All

' classics are tip for grabs.‘ says Rutter. ‘There are

many versions.’ Rutter started Northern Broadsides four-and-a-half

years ago as a direct response to the way he was

‘l’m not interested in modern psychology. It’s the verse that’s the attraction for me. When you heighten language for the stage you get smooth vowels and granite limestone consonants.’

being cast as an actor. ‘People said I couldn't play kings becatrse I'm from Yorkshire. so i thought I'd ptrt on classic plays where kings would speak as commoners. Now it's the only thing I do. I've no time for anything else.‘ he says.

Rutter also took inspiration from fellow- Yorkshireman Tony Harrison's translations of classical texts into a gritty Northern tongue. Rutter appeared in l-larrison‘s National Theatre versions of The Mysteries and ()resres. ‘lt's the cultural rootedness of his work. a raw energy that crackles

with life.‘ says Rtrtter. an obvious fan. Harrison is now the company‘s hard. and has been commissioned to write a version of Euripedes‘ Alees/is. Calling Harrison a hard rather than any common-or-garden writer-in-residence was a choice as deliberate as Northern Broadsides' repertoire of classic poetic drama.

‘All our earliest plays were in verse.‘ explains Rutter. ‘l’m not interested in modern psychology. It’s the verse that‘s the attraction for me. That‘s the crochet hook on which to hang the drama. When you heighten language for the stage you get smooth vowels and granite limestone consonants. Tapping into that percussive nature of the work has released new lines.‘

The lingtristie crackle of Morrison‘s text transcends the German original. though it was his contentious long poem about Peter Sutcliffe. The Ballad of The Yorkshire Ripper. which first made Rutter realise he was the right man for thejob. This has led to a further Northern Broadsides commission for him. making something of a double whammy for Harrison and Morrison. strrely Yorkshire‘s hardest-hitting verbal batsmen.

Rtttter is also planning parallel productions of xiii/(my and (.‘leopalra and Romeo and Juliet. counterpointing Shakespeare's plays of young and mature love. There'll also be a War ()j'T/te Roses. some Dryden and sortie Milton to look forward to. all presented with their poetry intact. but with all pretentiousness firme booted out. Suffice to say. the plurnrny vowels of received pronunciation (which hi-

jacked the stage comparatively recently) won‘t get a look in onstage. ‘I think the celebration of how we speak is a way we can cock at snook at the appropriations of culture and this homogenised view ofthings.‘ says Rutter. ‘Like with the internet and videos. which present things as all being the same. l’rn dead against this appropriation. because along with it comes an attitude that says only high art is ours. i say “bollocks” to that.‘ (Neil Cooper) The Cracked I ’o/. Norther/1 [Irma/sides. 'I'rar'erse Theatre. Edinburgh. Thurs 28—Smr 3/ March.

Sticks and stones

{or 3'1'.’ e


Bang bang! Pop pop! Disturbing behaviour from kids in Peripheral Violence

When news of Jamie Bulger’s murder by two ten-year-old boys hit the headlines in 1993, there was widespread horror that children could perpetrate such an appalling crime. The Bulger case brought to light the cold fact that pre-teen violence does exist and called attention to the numerous complex issues that surround this disturbing problem. Robin lindsay Wilson’s play Peripheral Violence tackles the subject of child crime head-on. Written before the Bulger murder, the play examines the problem of youth violence not from the comfortable distance of an adult’s perspective but through the eyes of the children

The idea for the play came to Wilson as he travelled to work between Glasgow and Edinburgh. As the train passed Springburn railway club Wilson noticed a group of children hanging around outside. ‘The kids were dangerously near the tracks,’ Wilson explains. ‘There was also the potential

private place.’


' for them to throw stones at passing trains and the area behind the building was a strange, foreboding, semi-

The sense of unease this image evoked provided Wilson with the foundation on which to build his play. Peripheral Violence focuses on three children, two brothers aged ten and eight, and their sexually-abused ten- year-old friend Natasha. The play opens with brothers Steve and Andy throwing stones at cars from a bridge above a motorway. When a car crashes, the boys take refuge in the grim shelter behind a railway club. From this point onwards the children become embroiled in a spiral of events -some real, some imagined - that inevitably lead to conspiracy and

Peripheral Violence was premiered in london in 1994, having been rejected by all the Scottish companies Wilson initially approached. For its first performance this side of the border, Wilson formed his own company,

Roughcut Theatre. ‘The only way I was going to get the play on and have control over it was to do it myself,’ he explains.

Although the roles are played by actors in their early twenties, Wilson drew on his work with youth drama projects to give authenticity to his young characters’ speech patterns. ‘Putting dialogue in the mouths of children meant creating a language that was new and fresh,’ he says. “Kids often merge together two or three images that don’t always fit, which gives a heightened sense of language.’

One critic described Wilson’s style of dialogue as ‘haunting and troubling’, which aptly reflects the play’s subject matter. Having commented that ‘the language is where it’s at’, Wilson would no doubt agree. (Cathryn O’Neill)

Peripheral Violence, Roughcut Theatre company, Arches Theatre, Glasgow, Tue 2-Saf 6 April.

The List 22 Mar-4 Apr 1996 59