Drum role: Molly’s Collar And Tie

Even these days, gay history doesn‘t get much of an airing outside its own closet. Christopher Deans's new play Molly ’s Collar And 77c developed through extensive workshopping and research - aims to redress the balance. A brightly hued gay history lesson, it goes right back to James Vl’s own dabblings, via the founding of the Scottish Minorities Group in 1969. to present-day iniquities. All this is hung on a narrative in which a drag queen and a drumming woman exchange memories, and there are hearty doses of humour, campery and camaraderie along the way.

‘We couldn't approach a piece like this without using humour.‘ asserts Deans. ‘But there's also a lot of poignancy, as we hear about people growing up and dealing with love and losing love. A lot of people actually committed suicide.’

Directed by Lorenzo Mele, whose recent productions for gay company Starving Artists have left audiences reeling, Molly 's Collar And Tie is the first fruit of a new company of the same name - derived from outmoded slang terms for gay men and lesbians. A work-in-progress performed by a team of professional and community actors, it will be developed further for next year’s Glasgay festival.

Deans believes mainstream Scottish companies have neither the resources nor the remit to identify themselves fully with gay issues. ‘Clyde Unity and 7:84 have contributed very well to the debate, but it’s still quite sporadic.‘ he argues. ‘As a company. we felt we had to be committed to this type of theatre. That's the only way there'll be any kind of continuity and progression.’ (Claire Prentice)

Molly 's Collar And 77c, Tron Theatre, Glasgow, Sat 5/3101 6 Oct.

COMEDY Ducking and diving Hangover from the daze of drugs and demos that characterised the era, a couple of sixties casualties meet on a park bench to swap nickel ’n’ dime philosophies in Duck Variations, presented this fortnight by Glasgow’s Tangerine Productions. One of David Mamet’s earlier and lesser-known plays, it sees old hippies Emil and George clinging to their naive ideologies as they find themselves displaced in the post-llower-power seventies.

Disillusioned and without jobs, tamin or other friends, the duo compare the trivia of their own lives with the ducks

they watch in the pond, longing for the freedom symbolised by their teathered

lost in the seventies: Tangerine Productions in Duck Variations

companions. Their episodic sequence of conversations range from the trifling to the universal as they fly off at bizarre tangents, taking in the purpose of sweating, mating difficulties of ducks, religion and politics.

‘Emil and George have reached a point where they are reassessing their lives,’ explains Grant Smeaton, director of the production, who also plays George. ‘There’s also a sense that they’re trying to prepare for something, death almost, only they’re not aware of exactly what themselves.’

Mirroring the zany spirit of the era Tangerine’s production uses an abstract setting, as the park is made to resemble an art gallery. This device, says Smeaton, is a ‘tongue in cheek send-up of the whole “pile of bricks” seventies art and style concept.’ Meanwhile, slides and video projections separate the dialogues and highlight the men’s isolation.

‘It is largely humorous, but each variation also has something to say,’ asserts Smeaton. ‘If not dealing with wider issues like society and the environment, then they look at the meaning of friendship, the way people communicate or fail to communicate with each other. In the play there’s a lot of tear and angst around over nuclear war and pollution - an issue that remains pertinent today.’ (Claire Prentice)

Duck Variations, Tangerine Productions, Arches Theatre, Glasgow, Tue 15-Sun 27 (let (not Thurs 17, Sun 20).

Heartbreak hotel

The name Ddiin von Horvath may not ring immediate bells with the majority of English-speaking theatre-goers, but this is a situation that Nick Philippou, artistic director of Actors Touring Company, believes might well be on the point of timely redress. His production of Horvath’s early play, The Belle Vue (newly translated by Glaswegian Kenneth Mcleish) visits Scotland on a tour which marks its British premiere. ‘The play is very well known in Europe, and rightly so,’ says Philippou. ‘Horvéth writes brilliantly about hope, idealism and fantasy.’

Set circa 1926 in the optimistically- named Belle We, a down-at-heel hotel somewhere in central Europe, the play centres around the arrival of a young woman, Christine, and her etfect on its decidedly dodgy inhabitants. ‘It starts as light comedy - almost naturalistic - and then just explodes,’ Philippou explains. ‘Christine arrives full of hope - and then we see what happens to her hope.’

Written as it was in pre-llazi Germany, the play’s uncanny presentiments of the dangers of ill- founded idealism are impossible to ignore. ‘Horvath is really saying, “keep your teet on the ground”, agrees Philippou. ‘He’s warning of the destructiveness of promises and

Hope springs eternal: The Belle Vue

optimism which are not based on reality. I think that’s very interesting in the run-up to a general election.’ What also appeals is Horvath’s refusal to provide answers or stand in moral judgement. ‘He’s right there in the dirt with us,’ as Philippou puts it. ‘He sees the shabbiness behind the big ideas.’ Perhaps the circumstances ot Horva'th’s own premature demise provide the most fitting summary of his work - he was killed in 1938 by a falling tree on Paris’s Champs- Elysées, while attempting to escape the Nazi regime. ‘life is that complicated - and that ridiculous,’ Philippou concludes. A sentiment with which Horvéth would no doubt agree. (Minty Donald) The Belle Vue, Actors Touring Company, Tron Theatre, Glasgow Tue B-Sat 12 Oct; MacBobert Arts Centre, Stirling, Tue 15/Wed 16 Oct.

Double Toubles

Bold girl: Rona Munro

In 199 l. Edinburgh writer Rona Munro won the London Evening Standard‘s Most Promising Playwright ()l The

’ear award for [Io/(l Girls. It was quite an accolade. but came a bit late in the day: Munro had been writing professionally for a good ten years.

Since then, she's gone on to even greater glory. scripting Ken Loach’s harrowing lxI(/_\'I)it'(l. lxnlybird, while Bold Girls has slipped into the contemporary repertoire. Two Scottish companies are about to embark on simultaneous tours with the play, a remarkable indication of its popularity. which belies its setting and subject- matter -- modern day Belfast; the Troubles.

It‘s heavy stuff to be sure. yet Munro managed to inject her story three women whose lives are completely turned on their beads by the appearance of a strange young girl with humour, warmth and a show of collective strength light-years away from any macho polemic on the subject. Originally commissioned by 7:84 Theatre Company, the play is now on the Scottish schools curriculum, which is probably what prompted the two tours, one by the currently homeless Brunton Theatre Company, the other by Ayr-bascd Borderline.

‘I originally tried to do something Iarge.‘ says Munro. now London-based, ol‘the play‘s origins. ‘But having worked as a writer-in-residence in Belfast with Paines Plough, the women 1 was living with there were an influence. and i suppose the play ended up as it did because of them. I'm glad I went down that road, because Ireland's notorious for being a big turn-off subject because people think it’s going to be grim. Bold Girls isn't. and maybe that's why it went down so well.‘

Munro‘s busy schedule which includes a new stage play for London's Royal Court and two television films - will prevent any involvement in the productions. but she believes the play is still pertinent. ‘It‘s not describing a particular event.‘ she says. ‘So even though lots ol‘evcnts have happened since then. the basic situation of people‘s lives is still the same. and it's one that continues.‘ (Neil Cooper) Bold Girls. Brunton 'I'lteatre C(ltllptlll)’. Town Hall. Mussel/unfit. 'I'lnirs / 7—.S'at [9 Oct. t/Ien touring East Lot/nan; Borderline 'I‘lieatre Corn/nut): Ryan Centre, Stranrar 1: Tue 22 ()('t. then touring western and Northern Scotland.

54 The List 4- l7 Oct I996