Out west, two plays are gearin’ up for a country hoedown. Paul Welsh goes out walkin’ after midnight with the writers.
Scotland’s Wild West is home to a posse of exotica. in Glasgow's underworld of gunslingers, cowgirls and sheriffs, excitement is building round two plays featuring the culture and sounds of country ’n’ western music. Riding into town, the Scottish writers of both plays prove inspiration (like a good horse) comes in various hues and heights.
Take Stuart Thomas’s Sweethearts Of The Yellow Rose, which opens this fortnight in a Cumbemauld Theatre/Paisley Arts Centre co- production. Deﬁnitely one from the heart. Set in a Dennistoun theme bar, Sweethearts tells the story of Jean, Chrissie and Tammy (really Yvonne but she’s changed her name for obvious reasons) - three friends coming to terms with getting older. Simultaneously, they tackle familiar problems: men and kids. Thomas was encouraged to write the show - a comedy interspersed with local patter and classics by Dolly et al - after a salient, lifeochanging experience.
‘l was pished at a friend’s house,‘ Thomas confesses, ‘and heard Tammy Wynette’s Greatest Hits. It’s extremely maudlin but, drunk, 1 responded to the
. r2» ‘ iiard to be a w man: Alyson Orr and Jane McCarty In
Sweethearts 0i The Yellow Rose
music. it was fantastic, so I went out and bought the album.’
Sweethearts was ﬁrst staged during Mayfest 93 at the Grand Ole Opry, Govan’s spiritual home of country ’n’ western, which is now the venue for Douglas Moffat’s Spitting In The Face Ovae, a comedy presented this fortnight by Glasgow’s Annexe Theatre Company, that chases the mood of Middle America in the 40s and 50s. Tapping the ambience of Hank Williams, battered hillbilly farms, and paintings by Edward Hopper, Spitting concerns a night in the life of Rose. the long-suffering wife of a country ’n’ western fanatic.
Set somewhere in the UK, the play begins when Rose’s car conveniently breaks down at a garage. There she meets Marie, mechanic and soon-to-be ally. Together, the gals negotiate a night of murder and mayhem ﬁlled with
randy mechanics, pimps, prostitutes and unusual ﬁshermen . . . yee-hah! it’s a contrasting approach: where Thomas makes a respectful nod to their shared theme, Moffat plays with enthusiasts.
‘The play is a mild poke at people who take the scene very seriously,’ Moffat explains. ‘After all, it’s written from the perspective of a woman driven mad by her obsessive husband. The play is partly about forming opinions audience will form an opinion of Rose because of her clothes. Actually country ’n’ western is a thorn in her side. She’s really not a big fan.’
The same cannot be said for Thomas. Grounded in emotion - the trials and tribulations of life — he argues country should be taken seriously, with superﬁcial associations bucked for good.
‘lt’s a modern form of folk, responding to very basic elements of human experience — being extremely sad, happy, in love, the existence of God . . . all these things.‘ he says. ‘That’s why people relate to the music.
‘The style has excessive, dated elements,‘ he concedes, ‘but take away the kitsch rhinestones and at heart, there is good music with no qualiﬁcations. When Dolly Patton sings about sheltering an orphan and her dog, then waking up to ﬁnd them dead, that’s pretty extreme; but after l’ve had a few pints, l’ll go home, listen to the song and weep. These people are authentic.’
After Glasgow this month, it‘s Nashville or nothing, folks. Sweethearts Of The Yellow Rose. Ctrmbernauld Theatre Company/ Paisley Arts Centre. Cuntbernauld Theatre, Thurs I9—Sat 2] Sept; Paisley Arts Centre. Mon 23—Sat 28 Sept. Spitting In The Face Of E ve, Annexe Theatre Company, Grand Ole Opry. Tue 24—Thurs 26 Sept.
Facust rejected for publication in America because ‘animal stories don’t soii,’ George Orweil's Animal Faun has nevertheless become an enduring ciasschAorethanSliyearson, it remains a brilliant analysis oi what power does to people, and lends itself easin to adaptation. Opening their autumn season with a revival oi their hit 1993 production - complete with mud and water baths - liewcastle’s Northern Stage have added the talents oi Glasgow-based Frank McConnell, one at Scotland’s most interesting and inﬂuential dancers and choreographers. Tali about a mud-in- your-oye production.
‘Thocleseryougottothestagethe more exciting it ls,’ says McConnell, in a laid-hack, quiet manner laced with dry wit. ‘Atud does ily,’ he continues (as it hparting a universal law), ‘and a let oi water tiles. it’s very exhilarating. The movement sequences are very last, as you would expectoiahattleandarevoiutlonina cowshod. Aye, it's quite exciting tor the hrave to get up there in the iront m !
the play is intensely physical, the keys to Animal Penn are character and storytelling. ‘I worked a lot with the actors on developing movement iron the animal characters they were playing, rather than just choreographing scenes,’ explains McConnell, adding that in this adaptationthecastisagroupoi reingeeswhotellthesioryasakind oi exorcism.
“They’ve been ignored, brutalised and left outside the dominant structure,’ he continues. ‘They’re telling the story oiourthne.Vllratwe’vedoneisto take vivid images from events lived by relapses in Eastern Europe, people whoarotryingtoiindapiacethat
‘ .1 -1s37 _. . Animal Farm: mud ls thicker than water
they can call their own. But it’s as relevant to the homeless in lritaln as itistothe Bosnians-therootcauses oitheprobiemarethesame.ithasto do with power and the corruption oi power.’
As for working with Iothern Stage, McConnell - who has recently worked in Canada and at the Edinburgh Fringe - couldn’t be more entimsiastlc: ‘As a kind oi outsider coming to work with Geordie actors it’s a real joy. They periorm with an maxing amount oi energy and commitment.’ iiigh praise indeed. (Aterc lubed)
Animal Farm, We Sign, Aiacliobert Arts Centre Stirling, The 24-Set283ept.
The alliance wrth srence
You’ve read the books and seen the plays but will you wear the Hagar T. Scherti
Science and the arts might not seem natural bedieilows these days, but once upon a time they were co- dependents at the seat oi learnmg, essential ingredients tor a fully mended education. iiow the llamshorn Theatre aims to bridge the gap between the disciplines with Surfing The Universe, a two-month festival oi drama and science. Included on the itinerary are a new staging of Douglas Adams’s illichhilrer’s Hulda To The Salary, a lecture and concert irom The Sky At lights musical starspotter Patrick Moore, and a decidedly strange re-worklng oi ibsen’s An Enemy 0! The People by a German masque troupe.
‘There’s a thread that goes right back to Greek drarna,’ says the festival’s director Susan Triesman. “Wrestling with big questions has always been there, but these days it's supressed by playwrights who don’t know enough about it.’ Triesman does however cite Tom Stoppard, along with Stephen Poliakoii’s Blinded By The Sun (currently playing at the liational Theatre) as notable exceptions.
An Enemy 0! The People is something oi a grandaddy to the whole shebang, setasitislnatouristresortwitha contaminated water supply, the news at which is duly suppressed ior economic reasons. it’s periormed here by the Faili Scherz, a iictlonal group oi masked characters - actually a bizarre product of two years’ development by Integralie Theatorwerkstatt, an experimental company based in lib, Sermany.
As elusive as they are peculiar, no member oi the Famlii Schen - no, not even cloned leading actor iiagar T. Scherz - can coniirm what they’re on about, though it seems they aim to highlight some modern implications oi the play via a cabaret style. This would appear to correspond with Triosman’s notion that science can be ten. ‘It isn’t last about reading mind- numhingly boring books,’ she says. ‘lt’s about being a complete human heiog and eeloying it.’ (loll Cooper) An Enemy 0! The People, Full! Schea, integraiie "mahowernsiatl, Mn Theatre, iVodZ-Sat 5 Oct. Surfing The Universe continues until levember.
The List 20 Sept-3 Oct 1996 a