Midsummer night dreamer: David Greig on Lothian Road. near the Caledonian Hotel
When Scotland's biggest hero goes local, the capital city takes him to its heart. Edinburgh-born playwright David Greig brings Sean Connery to town in his latest study of national identity. Words: Neil Cooper
It‘s official. Sean Connery is a god. Edinburgh’s favourite father. son and holy ghost is the nearest thing to a deity for the characters in the new play by David Greig. Commissioned by 7:84 Theatre Company. Caledonia Dreaming is set one summer night in Edinburgh. when rumours spread like wildfire that the man himself is in residence at the Caledonian Hotel. his regular haunt for visits to his home city. This causes something of a commotion among the capital‘s citizenry. and so begins a quest through the centre of the city. from Lothian Road to Arthur‘s Seat.
With Scotland in a state of Tory-free flux. and the long- awaited devolution referen- dum just around the corner. Connery‘s towering (if unconfirmed) presence provokes a tangible hope that a brave new nation may be born.
This is typical fare for Greig. whose complex.
" multi-plotted plays Europe and The Architect. both
commissioned and produced by Edinburgh’s Traverse Theatre. looked at similar themes. A secular yearning for something to believe in; a struggle with nationhood and love. Coming now. at a crossroads in Scotland’s history. Greig’s recurring themes are more pertinent than ever.
‘lt‘s not a play about Sean Connery.‘ stresses Greig. who has himself achieved some local stardom — his own company Suspect Culture will present a play at this year’s Edinburgh International Festival. ‘I had characters I knew I wanted to look at, but I needed something to bring everyone together.
82 "IE LIST 3O May—-12 Jun 1997
'Sean Connery really does seem to represent something aspirational for Scottish people. It's amazing the affection with which he’s regarded especially as he's most famous for playing the ultimate suave, sophisticated Englishman.’
Because I was thinking about Edinburgh and Scottish identity we went for Connery. And the more we worked on it the more we realised it was a lucky choice. because Connery‘s in the papers so much at the moment. and really does seem to represent something aspirational for Scottish people.‘
Connery’s political alignment with the Scottish National Party was once again reaffirmed in his voice-over for the party‘s political broadcast leading up to last month’s general election.
‘lt‘s amazing the affection with which he’s regarded.‘ Greig continues. ‘cspecially as he‘s most famous for playing the ultimate suave. sophisticated Englishman. We don’t have the same sort of affection for other Scottish icons. like Billy Connolly for instance.”
Subtitled An Edinburgh Fantasy. the play was .
scripted during intensive rehearsals. led by 7284’s artistic director lain Reekie. The rehearsal period rather fortuitously included Thursday 1 May. a night no one in Britain will ever forget. when New Labour swept to power in what will probably be the century's last general election. Like many other people who partied till dawn that night. Greig hasn‘t stopped grinning yet. (Even Connery. whose own party doubled its number of elected members. has cause
feeling before the election that nothing was going to change.‘ says Greig. ‘but the next day it was completely different. even for someone as sceptical as me.‘
Writing Caledonia Dream- ing. Greig was more than aware of 7284‘s history. ‘lt’s got a tradition of both political writing and populism.‘ he says. ‘If you look at John McGrath‘s The Cheviot. The Stag And The Black. Black Oil — which was so ground-breaking in the 1970s and still hangs heavy over any Scottish drama — it’s a very direct approach. I wondered if it might be possible to approach some of those theatrical ideas from my own perspective. There’s a large choral element to things. and the play has a dream-like quality to it. so the politics are quite oblique. That way we explore these people chasing their dreams and trying to map out a future.‘ (Neil Cooper)
Caledonia Dreaming opens at Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Fri 6-Sun 15 Jun. then transfers to Tron Theatre, Glasgow, Wed 18—Sat 28 Jun. before touring.
for celebration.) ‘There was a '
Stage whispers How the boards are being trodden this fortnight.
IN THE AFTERMATH of a disastrous turnout for some Mayfest events (see Agenda, page 4), the summer - traditionally a quiet time - ushers in a dearth of theatre in Glasgow. The Citizens' will stage nothing until 25 November, though the theatre's closure is to allow Lottery-funded building work, and the programme is down less than 10 per cent on last year, from eleven shows to ten. The Theatre Royal closes for refurbishment on 7 June; while the Pavilion has no theatre shows in June or July. While the Tron closes for just two weeks in August, the King’s will be closed for four weeks from mid-July and Tramway is dark until September.
THE CLOSURE BUG also hits Edinburgh, where the Royal Lyceum has been unable to find funding for a summer revival of its successful production, The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie. During the Festival, the theatre will host Nottingham Playhouse's Measure For Measure; but from early June until September there will be no other theatre shows.
THE FIRST PERFORMANCE of Raymond Ross's The lock Stein Story, was nearly kicked into touch after two key props failed to appear , at Glasgow's Pavilion Theatre. With ! just two-and-a-half hours to go until : kick-off, the props — worth around £1000 apiece — pitched up, after i being mislaid on their journey from London in a cycle-courier balls-up. ’We will be using another firm in future,’ commented general i manager lain Gordon. And the j props? Nothing essential, you'd have thought — just the European and SFA Cups.
NOT AMUSED last issue were Jane Mackay and Tommy Sheppard, of Edinburgh's comedy club The Stand, who complained that only three Scottish comedians made it to the Scottish semi-final of the Daily Telegraph/Avalon Open Mic Award. In a late response, Avalon has pointed out that only twelve out of 1027 entries came from Scotland, and that all twelve participated in earlier heats. Mackay and Sheppard have expressed dissatisfaction with
i this response; meanwhile Avalon
encourages Scotland's aspiring stand-ups to enter next year’s
Award by calling the Open Mic
Award hotline on 0891 887 766.
Miss Jean Brodie: no revival