Radieal Welsh perl‘ormanee group Brith (301‘ are returning to Glasgow t to kick ol‘l' Mavl‘est with a show ' guaranteed to strike a ehord among Scotland‘s separatists. Brian Donaldson makes a (‘eltie ' connection.
5&‘i‘i~ (E ‘4 M s;- r Hanging on to their Welshness: A theatrieal \ isit like no other. it \\t)llltl appear. Indeed. lil‘llll ("not have eoiitinuall} sought to bi'eaeh eultural eonveittioiis. Foritied in NS] under the
umbrella ol' the ('ardil'l' Laboratot'} 'l‘heatr'e. tlte
\Villi a general eleeltoii gentls peeking its soundbitten head ox er the llt‘ll/HEI. tlilt'\ll'tlls \\ ill again be posed as to the role til. lit it.iiri ill .in espaiidiiig liurope. Allied to this '.\rl| irre\ itabl} be a debate on the timed ls'ttigtltynr llsx‘ll. and the inter- relations ol' the tour nations Sitelt tprestrons ol
identity are eentral to the nets slltt‘e. l‘} \\elsh theatre :
eompair)’ lirith (lot,
In Pitt/(It'll. subtitled Hit /tt.'/t.t~s//=.-.v'tf' (I; liI'I/lAil/lt’sﬂv. the group ehalleztg'e the 2‘. h-‘ie notion ol a united kingdom in its present term llll~‘tl_‘_‘ll a h}ltiitl ol pert'ormaitee. mttsre and arehrteeture \\ ttll lie.t\_\ emphasis on partieipation. ‘l-rtt_\ irrenthers ot the audienee are asked to help v2 itlt proeesses that are taking plaee.‘ e\plams lfrith ( iol’s. tttliil artistie dii'eetor (‘lillord Mel..tie:is. "Hit 5 ’re not |ttsl sitting doun looking in hour the t‘lllslxle' lt _\oii ask \vho ls
eotirpanv tnerged a radial litiropean aesthetie \\ itlt a strong traditional sense of \\'e|shitess h_v highlighting the iitiportanee ol the ittotlter' tongue lit the tl;t}s
‘Britain doesn’t actually serve Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales. It exists to serve England and the notion of Englishness.’
prior to the advetit ol S~1(‘. tltl’s‘ etilttii'al prodtiet ; \vhieli pi'otitoted the Welsh language \‘.as dri\en ‘ underground or loeated t'ii'titl} ill the rural eoitimunities. "l‘he tttaterial \vasn't visible to the opinioit-l'oi'tttei's iii the arts. so there \\as a lot going 0|] lWClillitl Cltise'tl tlt)t)l's.‘ l'e‘k‘illl\ \le‘l,tte',is ‘l'lml
; work in the early thl}'s ‘.\;is‘ \erv iitlluentral to .i \\ hole
‘ makers and )Ull can still ltear the eeho of that tn a lot
of work being made around \Vales today‘
The (‘eltie thrust of Brith (tol's produet has loiind l‘avour on past visits to Seotland. in partieular the open spaces ot"li‘;rttt\\av t\\ here the} eollaborated with 'l’est Department iit l‘)t\")'s phenomenal (Ittt/m/(lt'n). eouittei'aeted b} silent astonishment when touring their English neighbours .\lel.rieas puts this down to a different theatrieal heritage "l‘he scene [in England] is dominated b_v tlte enormous eentral orthodoxy ot' the test and the seript.‘ he believes. ‘ln Wales and. indeed. most of liirrope. there is a tradition ol‘ making visual arid pli)sieal theatre which is not simply the e\position ol' a previously existing seript. So when people eome to see our work iii England their brmv s get \er_\ qurekl) titrrovved.‘
For Seots who believe the l’oll 'l'a\ \\;ls art e\ il perpetrated by an itiiperial dinosaur Irv trig downstairs, the Welsh eait la} elaiiti to stit't'ei'ing equal atroeities. one of \vliielt moulded lirrth (jol's eultural and politieal perspeetne. In the twins. a
’ deeision was made to flood a North Wales \alle} to
. provide a water suppl) for Liverpool
.-\ deeade of
t peaeel‘iti. deittoer'atie resistanee had made little impaet on a pouerl‘ul nation intent on itiiposrng lls
\\ ill oit a \\eakei neighbour l-‘roirt this rtietdent eame a litith (iol te|e\ isiort speetaeitlar translated as /'//t'
' [ht/t /:ttt/. '/'/t(' Vin/lull /./r't/.
‘In doing that proieet l eairre to the eoneltrsioir that Britain doesn't aelrtalls ser\ e Seotland. Northern
Ireland or \\‘ales. lt e\rsrs to setxe liitgland and the
notion ol' littglrsliness.’ states .\lel.tteas. ‘l’eople iii lingland endlessl} t'lit ltet\\een lthe \voi'dst “Britain” aitd "lingland" as it. ll is the same thing. this leads me to belie\ e that ideas ol liiiglishness arid lirttishttess are rmereltatrgealtle btit ideas ol Seottrshness and Britishness. tor iitstanee. are not.‘ PAH/till]. [ill/II! (1.1”, i/Iltlll’llilh (I../ti'\‘\'ll'il. l/I/illlv 3 SH]
getting the eori'eet esperienee. st. ell there
5 generation of young Welsh speakers arid theatre-
mum— Psycho dra
Shadowy relationship: Irvine Allen and Annie George in Witch Doctor
: Fact is, writers and directors don’t
‘ always get on. All too often, creative . partnerships are strangled when
1 differing sets of priorities stifle
l theatrical visions. Which makes the long-standing collaboration between j Cat A director Irvine Allen and writer John Matey all the more remarkable, l especially considering the
r seriousness of the work produced.
t With Maley’s previous works for the
5 company, Doing Bird and Greenock
l Central, Cat A have made the prison
1 drama genre their own. Not since
t lance Flynn’s The Dorm has such
i intense scrutiny been focused on the
? pain of confinement on a Scottish stage.
This time, Matey has set up a confrontation to die for, between two of the bogeymen of Western society, the psychiatrist and the serial killer.
3 Nothing new there, except that the
l killer’s already banged up inside, with l any real chance of redemption slim to l say the least. And the analyst, well
i she’s a woman for starters, introducing a hefty load of sexual
1 tension. She also makes mucky phone
calls, viciously turning the tables on men, as a wronged representative of womankind.
‘The trouble with men is, they don’t like being commoditied,’ says Allen, who plays the serial killer as well as directing. ‘They do it to women all the time but they hate it when it happens to them. We did an excerpt from the play at a rave — it was a fantasy castration scene — and this guy got up and grabbed the mic and said that what we were doing was wrong. It’ll probably upset quite a few men in that way.‘
‘With this script,’ says Matey, ‘it’s just taking things deliberately to extremes. The great thing about Cat A is you can take risks. We’ve all got similar values so we know we can trust each other.’ Maley’s background in social work is central to his outlook. ‘lt keeps you rooted in something real,’ he remarks.
With four scripts ‘in the drawer’, Maley’s working relationship with Cat A looks set to continue. Next up is Friendly Fire, an espionage drama set in Moscow. Once again, the movie
influence is self-evident. ‘I’m very conscious that I‘m not doing anything new,’ Maley concurs. ‘l’m pretty upfront about my influences, and I love playing with genres.’
Although deadly serious about his theatre and Cat A’s campaigning role in the scheme of things, Allen is aware too of how their work might be judged. ‘I believe in the power of theatre to change things,’ he insists. ‘lt’s the last real freedom we’ve got left, but part of the problem with doing issue-based work is that the artistic value of the text can sometimes get buried among the issues. The way John can weave the issues in and use the characters to get them across is fantastic. As far as I’m concerned, as a writer he’s right up there with David Mamet.’ (Neil Coopen
Witch Doctor, Cat A Theatre 00, Paisley Arts Centre, Fri 26 April, then touring. Cat A also appear at the Yellow Date as part of Assembly alivel, Assembly Rooms. Edinburgh, Sun 14 April.
The List I‘) Apr-3 May l996 59