Caledonia Dreaming On tour *** it
As Scotland girds its sporran for that long-awaited referendum, who better than David Greig to explore the state of the national identity? This young, gifted and Scottish playwright has built his reputation on related themes, while the play Europe and forays on the Continent with his own company Suspect Culture reveal an active and informed interest in federalism.
Written with 7:84 Theatre Company’s actors, director and designer during the weeks around the election, Caledonia Dreaming is in Greig's own words, 'a childish fantasy'. But, although it begins with toy people on a playfully naive set, its spirit is that of a nation on the brink of major change.
The five characters — an MEP, a prostitute, a hotel doorman, a middle-class widow and a misfit young lad, ferried around by an implied sixth character, a taxi-driver - are all ordinary people chasing dreams they believe will fulfil them. But this play is set very specifically in a city with a castle on a rock, a cobbled heart at its centre, a writer called Irvine Welsh, a theatre called the Royal Lyceum . . . and eventually the characters' aspirations crystallise around the messianic figure of Sean Connery.
It’s natural that such a play should focus on Edinburgh, the country’s capital and future seat of power, but comparisons with Stephen Greenhorn's 'road movie’ of Scottish identity Passing Places — premiered a few months ago in the same theatre — are irresistible. While both are fine, entertaining and intelligent plays, Greenhorn's does a better job of marrying Scotland's urban Jekyll and rural Hyde; while Greig's is rooted firmly in one locale, even if — in keeping with the city
Six characters in search of a film star: 7:84 Theatre Company in Caledonia Dreaming
itself - only half the people are Edinburgh-born.
In an attempt to broaden the frame of reference, Greig intersperses the action with quasi-Brechtian choruses; yet while some are engaging, and all have something to say, few succeed in rupturing the beguiling narrative flow.
This aside, the script sparkles with Greig's characteristic lightness of touch, flashes of knowing humour and human insight. The ensemble cast works together beautifully in lain Reekie's brisk production, which was notably free of first-night glitches on the first night.
Caledonia Dreaming marks Greig once again as an important voice in Scottish theatre, easily dynamic enough to make itself heard at a time when the air is thick with sage commentary. (Andrew Burnet) I For tour dates see page 70.
Not For The Fanfare Netherbow Arts Centre, Edinburgh,
for Dundee Rep.
Challenging the reign in Spain: Not For The Fanfare
Hector disappointing if well intentioned play
history’s dustbin if it weren’t for such plays.
Acc0rding to Stewart Aitken, director of all three proiects, they've proved something of a consciousness—raiser for all involved, not least the BO-strong cast who’ll be cramming onto the compact Netherbow stage next week
’The more we’ve looked into it the more of an eye-opener it’s been for all of us, and the more complex it’s become,’ he says. ’We discovered that all the International Brigades were offered Spanish Citizenship, but because Franco won it never happened, and only recently has it been offered again because of the democracy.’
Rather than go for a straight historical rendering of events, writer Zinnie Harris has got to the heart of the
Wed ll—Sat 21 Jun.
It was known as the Artists’ War, and is well documented in poetry and prose penned by both the survivors and the fallen who'd been inspired to drop everything and fight for freedom in a strange land. Even now, 60 years later, the Spanish Civil War is suddenly being revisited rather a lot. First it was immortalised in Ken Loach’s film Land And Freedom, then more recently on the Scottish stage in A Greater
86 THE U3T 13—26 Jun I997
Now it’s the turn of Edinburgh’s First Base Theatre Company, which has opted to commission a brand new play about the war for its annual community extravaganza. This continues a trend of the socially aware themes for the company. PreVious shows, set during the same historical period, looked at the equally rousing, conscience-pricking Hunger Marches, and the less well-known struggles of Dalkeith potato pickers. Such events could eaSily have been tossed into
matter via the stories of those who went to war and those left behind. So the romance wrth Jamara goes on, but what can we learn from the experience half a century on?
’It makes you realise how selfish we've become, and wonder what it would take to drop everything like that,’ admits Aitken, ’Now we’ve got Bosnia, which a lot of people try and contribute to; but it's still very different from what happened in Spain!
On cue with theatre news
THE CITIZENS' THEATRE looks sad from the outside, but inside it's smiling. Closed for the summer, the theatre is undergoing £1.15 million- worth of refurbishment, backed up by a plump £888,000 Lottery award. Artistic director Giles Havergal has also announced a robust season for early 1998, including a new play by associate director Robert David MacDonald, Beckett's Krapp’s Last Tape and a production of Macbeth.
CELEBRATIONS IN NEW YORK are also due for Glasgow-based director/designer Stewart Laing, whose reputation was partly built at the Citz. Laing has won a much- coveted Tony Best Design award for the Broadway production, Titanic. Technical problems, which delayed the production’s opening night, have sunk without trace, as Laing rides the crest of his wave.
GLASGOW-BASED THEATRE DESIGNERS being in the ascendancy, the Tron Theatre and Glasgow 1999 have set up an intensive five-day course, Whose Space Is It Anyway?, on the partnership between designers and directors. Led by Tron artistic director Irina Brown and Glasgow School of Art's theatre design lecturer Sarah Pauley, the course is open to those with relevant training or track record, and costs £100 (though some bursaries may be available). Applications to Gwen Stewart at the Tron by Friday 27 June.
MEANWHILE IN EDINBURGH the Royal Lyceum has announced its autumn/spring season, with two large-scale pieces performed by an ensemble company. As revealed in this column, Elaine C. Smith and Forbes Masson will star in Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. The programme begins on Friday 3 October with the Scottish premiere of Terry 99—1 Johnson's dark comedy Dead Funny, and also includes a new play, Clay Bull, by Scottish writer Stewart Conn. The ensemble pieces are Brecht's Mother Courage and O'Casey’s Juno And The Paycock.
THE EDINBURGH FESTIVAL is looming, the Fringe programme is now out, and already the city is preparing for an influx of thousands of performers. All will need somewhere to stay, and the Fringe is trying to help them out. If you have suitable accommodation to let at a reasonable rate, contact the Fringe Office on 0131 226 5257.
Stewart Laing: plain sailing aboard Titanic