De Winters Tale
‘lt was like A Question of Sport. You lost saw her nose or her mouth or her knee. Who is it? Oh, it’s Ian Bothan.’ Phillp Franks is not a huge tan ot Carlton TV’s recent adaptation ot Daphne du Maurier’s Hebecca. His mission - as director of a new production at Edinburgh’s Hoyal lyceum - is to get back to basics on a story ot death, wrecked marriage, love and hate, guilt, revenge and all those other things that make great drama.
llnsurprisingly, Franks preters to take his cue trom the 1940 tilm version starring Olivier and Fontaine. ‘l’m much more inclined towards the Hitchcock than the Carlton production which I thought was a long, glossy, advert lacking in power and darkness,’ claims Franks. ‘The book has a
nightmare feel to it right from the word
go. It’s also about class with one person (the second Mrs de Winter) trom one class entering into an aristocratic class which she simply doesn’t understand. People seem like martians, with rituals and talking in code. They basically mean her harm.’ The name Philip Franks may not be instantly recognisable, but his lace certainly is. Having played Catherine Zeta .lones’s ill-lated suitor in The Darling Buds D! May, the bald bloke in Martin Chuzzlewit and indulged in occasional thesaurus-twiddling on Countdown, he has recently turned his hand to directing. This shitt has opened his eyes to these twin skills. ‘I hadn’t realised how much time in acting is about sitting around thinking
about cottee and letting your mind tree
associate,’ admits Franks. ‘That’s valuable but, as a director, you have to be on all the time, working with other artists with whom, as an actor, you scarcely meet. You touch hands with composers, lighting designers - so I’ve learned a hell ot a lot more about how theatre works and what individual artists do.’ (Brian Donaldson)
liebecca, Royal lyceunr Theatre, Edinburgh, Fri 7 Feb-Sat 1 Mar. Free preview, Thurs 6 Feb.
Phlllp Franks as ‘the bald bloke in Martin Chuzzlewlt’
Go north, young men
Scots playwright Stephen Greenhom is the driving force behind a ‘road movie for the stage’ at the Traverse. Neil Cooper stops him to ask directions.
()n the road with no particular place to go is a happening place to be. and has inspired urnpteen generations of beatnik wannabes tojump behind the wheel. Road movies too have presented a glamorously existential image of check-shined outsider types hitting the trail in search ofthe American heartland. But hey. it's a big country. and Hollywood’s there to make it even bigger. right? Yet imagine if someone tnade some kind of arthouse buddy flick about two guys searching for the perfect wave. Between Motherwell and Thurso. Via the Isle of Skye. And then. rather than immortalising it on celluloid. put it on a stage. In a theatre. You dig'.’
Nutso or not. a 'road movie for the stage' is exactly what playwright Stephen Greenhorn's attempted with Passing Places. Commissioned by the Traverse. Edinburgh’s most prestigious home of new writing. the play opens the theatre‘s winter season. directed by resident assistant director John Tiffany. it ﬁnds Greenhom — in contrast to his last grown-up play The Salt Wound — with his foot ﬁrmly on the dramatic accelerator. ‘I became very interested
in cultural clashes,‘ he says. 'ln the west coast of the Central Belt there‘s an obsession with American culture. with loads of these wee Glasgow wide guys wanting to be New York gangsters. while there’s all these kids in Motherwell who want to be East LA. rappers.‘
The new play charts the unruly course made by a couple of unlikely lads who hit the high road in a clapped-out Lada with a nicked surtboard in tow. only to be hotly pursued, over the course of 50 short. sharp scenes. by the psychotic owner of the sports shop from which the board first surfed. ‘lt‘s a shop that sells nothing but baseball bats for violence. and baseball caps for fashion victims who'll never play sport in their lives.‘ says Greenhom.
Like all road movies. Passing Places is a Zen-like getting of wisdom. as the pair encounter New Age travellers. Ukrainian sailors and others en mule. All pan and parcel ofthe play‘s general foray down a decidedly philosophical road. while staying accessible and fun enough to avoid any diversions up its own jacksie. lt‘s aided and abetted by
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Passing Places: Dunnet Head revlslte esteemed Glaswegian choreographer Marissa Zanotti. as well as live electric guitar music by Mick Slavin of excitable Glasgow pop noise types The Leopards.
The play‘s origins date back to a journey Greenhom himself made some ten years ago. and one he recently revisited with the play's cast in a down- memory-lane-type scenario. ‘Coming from the Central Belt. as soon as I got north of lnvcrness or Fort William I felt very out of place. It‘s as though it‘s a foreign country. even though it's the heartland of Scotland that everyone knows. from Brave/tear! to shortbread tins. It's very strange to feel like a stranger in your own country. and to realise you know more about what's going on in America than you do about Scotland. There's a debate about culture that‘s complicated by the fact that Glasgow thinks it‘s Chicago. People know more about (ilengarrv Glen Ross than they do about (ilencoe.' (Neil Cooper)
Passing Places. '1 rai'ersr Thea/re. Edinburgh. 'I'ue 4—Star [6 Feb (i’t't/llt‘t’rl price previews Fri 3/ Jan—Sun 2 Feb).
In the closet
Alter Frankenstein, Dracula and Dostoyesvsky’s The Double, it comes as no surprise that Citizens’ Theatre director Jon Pope is sticking with the gothic vein. His collaboration with musician Adrian Johnston and actor Brendan Hooper now continues with a prime piece ot 20th century gothic - Ian McEwan’s short story, “Conversation With A Cupboard Man’.
It’s a strange tale it ever there was one, in which a disturbed narrator recounts his horrifying lite story to a social worker. Rather than growing up to lace the cruel world, McEwan’s Freudian victim at an ovenprotective mother has taken to hiding in a cupboard, prey to his own bitter demons and tantasies. So what is it about Pope’s tascination with the grotesque side ot lite, what does it mean?
‘I just have an inclination tor the ottbeat, i suppose,’ says Pope, seemingly at a loss to explain his own procllvlties. ‘I wonder why . . . ?’ he continues in a halt-ironic stage whisper. For a moment you wonder it
he’s taking the piss - but then he adds: ‘l’m not particularly interested in urban realism, you see.’
Fair enough. Urban realism has its limitations, a point Pope is happy to elaborate. ‘It’s the tantasy element in McEwan’s story which interests me really. You’ve got this character who regards himselt with some detachment, but also with soil- loathing, and he teels the same about his mum and the rest ot the world. At the same time he’s very unstable and subiect to mood swings, so it’s similar to the end ot The Double, when reality starts breaking up. What I’m doing here is an extension at that, it you like.’
looking back over Pope’s recent productions, it seems that what attracts him to certain stories is not so much the narrative line, but how it can be used as a springboard tor visual ettects and interpretations. But while this strategy guarantees originality, it also probably explains the mixed reviews he’s had in the past - last Hovember’s Dracula being a case in point.
Conversation With A Cupboard Man should be similarly intense, but also marks a departure ot sorts trom his usual practice. ‘Brendan’s very
Womb with a view: Ian McEwan's early stories explore sexuality and identity
brave,’ says Pope enthusiastically. ‘It’s the tirst time I’ve done a one- character piece and we haven’t adapted it at all, we’ve taken it verbatim trom the text. It’s an Edward Scissorhands or Birdy kind ot situation. We’re trying to explore why . you would want to go and sit in a cupboard and what you would imagine when you were in there. We’re going to create a world oi the imagination.’ (Marc lambert) Conversation With A Cupboard Man, Citizen's Theatre, Wed 5 Feb-Sat 1 Mar. Free preview, Tue 4 Feb.
56 The List 24 Jan-6 Feb I997