l .lone as a hymn to impotence. ('hoice. will and
instinct don‘t exist irt (‘hekhov's world. and just now 5 some cotnfort and sensuality seems to be had from
r the social impotence it reflects. I think tlteatre cart
i .tlfer more. though I'm rtot naiye enough to believe it .‘an inlluence things in any direct way. Rather. it can
Sharing artistic director Kenny Ireland with the radical Wrestling School company has given Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum a special relationship with one of England‘s most uncompromising playwrights. Neil Cooper welcomes Howard Barker back to town.
dignify tncn instead of humiliating them.‘
(I 'ttt'lt’i lilll_\'tl marks a new stage itt Barker's eyoltttion as a writer ‘.\loving from phase to phase.' is how he describes it. ‘l‘yc moved otrt of history attd into more mythical areas now.‘ The Wrestling School pttts him in a priy ilcged position. particularly since he dismisses the RS(' and National 'l‘hcatre as part
‘Conventional wisdom states that tragedy isn’t possible in late democracy. I believe tragedy is now more important than ever, and far more dangerous than
of the national propaganda machinc'. Above all. he loatltes the gradual decimation of art irtto the trivial. preferring to see theatre as oppositional. "l‘he two key words of the last ten years have bectt “celebration” arid “access”. botlt of which make my blood boil.‘ he say s. ‘x\ccess is beirtg trscd as an excuse to lower things to a very basic level. and all
that ends tip being celebrated is the mundane. ljust think we ltave to take our culture seriously. when what’s happening now is w e're pissing on it.'
So w here exactly does he see himself in the current
Difficult to piit down is lloward Barker. The affability of the tnost adventurous playwright of his generation is strangely at odds with his complex body of work -- one that‘s confounded audiences since the 1970s. liven then. his satirical. state-of-the- ttatiott plays stood apart from the grim idealogues they were lumped alongside. And when the Left was blown apart. Barker was already re-wt‘iting art imagined. arttbiguotts history. where everything was decidedly not black arid white. More than any other British playwright. Barker recognised the confused
Man of action: William Armstrong as Vanya
attd contradictory times we live irt. Not only that. he = \e‘l‘sttlll. But w hat tirade him want to mess with climate'.’ ‘lt would be wrong for rttc to judge what‘s dared suggest they‘ve always been this way. (’hekhoy in the first place'.’ going on. because I don't go to the theatre tnuch. l've With the premiere of his latest play. Barker is again ‘l’ye always had a relationship with classic tests.‘ ittst always pursued ttty own ends rcally.‘ .-\nd w hat streets ahead of the desperate bandwagon jumpers he says. ‘.-\ny serious artist needs to engage with his would he say to anyotte w ho suggested this approach who seek to make not only a virtue. bttt an entire predecessors. I also think these classic texts carry might be too eleyer for its own good" "l'here‘s no movement. out of /(tt'.s'.y‘z'::/ttt‘i'(' attitudes. (Um/(bl :normous authority irt theatre today. which is n such thing.‘ he states simply. ‘.\ly plays hard work
lit/rm is a radical subversion of (‘hekhov's currently sorttething I'm quite interested in. By making the but so‘sllitr tt'llt/ l’t tar My approach has always vogueish classic. performed by the Wrestling School bullet hit the target iii the play l‘ve converted it ittto a been to relteal'ss‘ (I lilll.‘ 3‘ l‘L'”Cd 1“ “C L11”?” '1‘
company (formed solely to perform Barker's work) tragedy. then even it w c play it in art empty roottt. it still
and directed by the playwright himself. This is no ‘.\'ow. eonyentional wisdom states that tragedy- isn‘t e\ists. 'l'hc lhcatt'cs hayc got to stop thinking abottt .‘ain cow adaptation. lndeed. only twenty lines oftlte possible in late democracy. which is art argtrmertt l've \\ hat the audience wants What we do is offer it to triginal remain. attd a crucial plot twist is reversed. ncycr understood. because I belieyc tragedy is now them. They can take it or lcayc it.‘ t.\'eil (‘oopcrl liberating \‘any'a into a man of action. Hence the more ituportant than ey er. and far tnore dangerous it 'ttt'lt'i littty'tt. ‘l‘t’tr lites/lute .X't‘liuol. lt’oy‘u/ lyt‘t'ttm initially preteritions-looking parentheses of Barker's than cotttedy. 'l'berc's lots of productions of littrvtt Him/rt. lit/'t/t/tttte/I. lite N 511/ /r\' .l/u_\'.
cobwebbed corners of the local library , The all-women company, who had a as the women, marooned on an island hit at last year’s Festival with the of books, trade in their date stamps to award-winning Paper Walls, again become Captain Mandarin, Sergeant combine a unique blend of straight- Winsome and Corporal Trout. faced slapstick, physical theatre and Words from underfoot fill their meticulously observed mouths and the role-playing becomes characterisation. ‘The hallmark of the increasingly real as a last-gasp grab company is that we present pieces at escape. The bizarre heroines offer which are funny on the surface only,’ each other solace and strife as they says Byrne. ‘By approaching tragedy bicker, banter and battle their way with humour we induce the whole through the surreal hell, slipping into gamut of emotions. madcap sketches in the vein of Arthur ‘lt’s our aim in The Fruit. . . and in lowe, Clive Dunn, et 3/. each thing we do to push back our ‘lt’s a mixture of Ealing comedy with ; own boundaries and create something lots of innuendo and Restoration adventurous and entirely new.’ An English, which explores themes of admirable objective indeed. And one passion, compassion, hunger, fear and which looks set to yield a rich harvest. ruthlessness. It’s primarily about the (Claire Prentice) misadventure The Fruit Has Turned To overwhelming desire to survive and The Fruit Has Turned To Jam In The Jam In The Fields presents a group of the human, perhaps very British, Fields, Scarlet Theatre, Theatre people trapped in the aftermath of an Books of revelation: Scarlet Theatre in The l capacity to laugh when things are at , Workshop, Edinburgh. Thurs 9—Sat 11 apocalypse. Lunacy lurks in the dusty, l Fruit Has Turned f0 Jam In The Fields l their most bleak,’ explains Byrne. May.
A trio of librarians waiting to die. Hardly a recipe for a riotous romp, but chuck in some seaside humour, Dad’s Army type alteregos and a theatre company with a talent for the absurd and the result, according to Scarlet Theatre director Grainne Byrne, is ‘totally insane, eccentric and incredibly tunny.’
Reminiscent of Beckett’s Endgame, : Jyll Bradley’s metaphysical l
'l‘he l.lsl 3- lo May l‘)‘)() 55