Scots playwright Chris Hannan is back at his alma mater the Traverse Theatre after a lengthy absence from the stage. Neil Cooper asks him why his new play was so long in the making.
As stress goes. wedding days and l'unerals' are the worst. Especially if the bride-to-be can‘t decide what to do about her bloke on the side; or scraping together the readies to pay the collin bill is proy ing rather tricky. Two such scenarios are set up in Shining Sou/s. playwright ('hris llannan‘s long- awaited return to the Scottish stage. which sees two
well. wait and see. but hopcl'ully somewhere better than they're used to.
As the ﬂagship ol’ the ’l‘raverse 'l‘heatre's I-‘ringe season. the play is a return for Ilannan to the theatre which first produced his early successes more than ten years ago. [Climber/i (ion/on Quinn was the play that first put him on the map. a quirky take on tenetnent life and one woman‘s struggle to keep her dignity. Linguistically clipped. it felt like ()‘Casey. re-written by a less smutty ()rton. More plays followed. complex in theme but tempered by healthy doses of wry. dry humour and an unwillingness to he didactic. His most recent play. The Iz‘ri/ Duo/Cy.
characters‘ separate journeys interlock en route to . , .
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hris llannan: where’s he been all this time?
Scottish production Irom Winged Horse (the company which. under Hamish (ilen's ambitious tcnurcsliip. had also revived [flint/will (inn/on annl.
That w as way back in l‘)‘)|. but llannan has been anything but idle since. lle's translated Ibsen. mm ed into teley ision and begun a noyel. But all the while Shining Sou/v has been on the boil. gradually taking on its current shape. liven now. new rites are being painstakingly \\ heedled out ol' rehearsals under the
heady eye ol‘ the Tray erse's outgoing artistic director Ian Brown. There’s a cracking ten-strong cast. who'll have the rare priy ilege of a decent run of previews ~ a chance to nip and tuck things prior to being let loose on a hungry Fringe audience.
To the uninitiated. live years might seem a hell of a long time to spend writing a play. but for l-lannan it's been much needed. ‘When I look back I sometimes wonder what I have been doing.' he admits. ‘But it did take a hell ol‘ a long time to write. largely because l'ye been more honest emotionally. l’lays like lilirulu'I/i (ion/on Quinn were kind of oblique in how they related to me personally. but I‘ve given this one a lot more. and it took a lot out of tne. That's the real reason it took so long.‘
llannan sees the play as a romance. in which the protagonists - star-crossed or otherwise -- put blind l'aith in the decidedly ambiguous world of Tarot cards
‘Plays like Elizabeth Cordon lluinn were kind of oblique in how they related to me personally, but I’ve given this one a lot more, and it took a lot out at me.’
and other old-time shenanigans in order to get by. 'I see the play as being ultimately ritualistic.‘ he says. 'It explores old rituals. and tries to moye towards new ones. Here‘s a woman who‘s completely lost her instincts and can't trUst herself on any level. so there's a quest there to see if there‘s a way to lind these things again.‘
With llannan's own l'iye-year quest about to arrive somewhere special. isn‘t he at the stage where he'd happily chuck it and do a runner‘.’ ‘Not at all.‘ he at‘l‘irms. ‘When you‘ve been involved in a process that takes that long you‘ve got to see it through. I want it to be right. and I want it to be right first time.‘ (Neil Cooper)
Shining Sou/s. Il'tll'l’l'ht’ ’l‘ln'um' ('mII/mny. Tue 2.? Sin 27 July: I/lt‘ll (II l/lt’ I’ringi' from “27/ 7 xltigtisl.
played in London before receiy ing a shoestring
The end of the world as we know it
Troubled sleep: Entertaining Angels
Only 1996, and fin de siécle lever is already past its sell-by date. The impending end ot the millennium seems to have been going on torever, as one more lost Generation struggles to tind a voice. Theatrical responses to the alleged collapse at old beliet systems have been mixed: opportunistic bandwagon-jumping and tormula histrionics, which have tended to sell people short. Gradually, though, plays have tiltered through trom America which articulate the splintered contusion ot the times. In Scotland, only David Creig has really had a stab at it.
New llicola McCartney’s looktlut Theatre Company are having a serious pop with Entertaining Angels, a new play scripted by McCartney with tellow LookOut stalwart Lucy Mclellan. Set in liverpool on the day the world’s supposed to end, the play looks at the collapse ot the tamlly and taiths in an uncertain world. Big
themes to be sure, and a marked expansion trom Easy, McCartney’s date-rape play trom last year.
‘We wanted to look at what we telt was in crisis in this country,’ says McCartney. ‘A lot oi that is to do with the tamin and issues (it beliet and where you draw your identity trom. People are looking to the past because they’ve no real roots anymore. There’s a real sense at being lost, and even though we’re moving into a new century, people are clinging to old ideologies. On one hand there’s a whole new wave ot Christianity, while meanwhile there’s other people waiting tor Communism to raise its head again.’
McCartney comes trom a strong religious background, while Mclellan hails trom a proud Marxist tradition. ‘We’ve both believed in things and rejected things,’ says McCartney. ‘l’m still idealistic though, and believe that the world can be changed and that
there’s something bigger. I suppose at the centre at it all is that nobody wants to be on their own, so we construct a set at myths to make living more bearable.’
Marxism and Christianity though. Two sides at the same coin or what? McCartney concurs. ‘There’s the same kind at indoctrination trom both. The language both use are tundamentalist. It’s all about proselytising and recruitment, and they both want to change the world. The problem is that everyone wants to pin something down. What we’re saying is that you’ve got to retain a sense at humility and admit that there are other things, and even that you might be wrong.’ (lleil Cooper)
Entertaining Angels, lookliut Theatre Company, Tron Theatre, Glasgow Tue 23-8un 28 July; then at Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh tor the Fringe from Tue 20 August.
54 The List l2-25 Jul 1996