It’s about time

SUSPECT CULTURE, formed by playwright David Greig and actor/director Graham Eatough, has been commissioned to create a new piece for the Edinburgh International Festival. Joined by Nick Powell of indie band Strangelove, they're exploring a theme that affects US all. Words: Neil Cooper

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Time on their hands: Suspect Culture (clockwise from left) Graham Eatough, David Smith and David Greig

COLLABORATION IS A buzzword in Edinburgh this year. with mix ‘n‘ match productions all over the show. Chucking in everything bar the kitchen sink doesn’t always come up trumps. though. Which is why Glasgow‘s Suspect Culture is being so darned careful about Tl!)l(’/(’.\‘.\‘, the company‘s new show. commissioned by the International Festival.

Suspect (‘ulture's increasingly global and glowing reputation is based on a string of plays devised in the rehearsal room. then knocked into shape by director Graham liatough and writer David Greig. Now the company is adding a new dimension with a live score played by a string quartet. It’s composed by regular collaborator

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Nick Powell, who is more widely known as a member of the band Strangelove, current great white hopes for EMI records.

Powell has worked with Suspect Culture since student days, and welcomes the chance to indulge in such democratic creativity. ‘I enjoy the working method because I get a lot of input.’ he says, during a break in rehearsals (the other company members are doing lunch with the Scottish Arts Council). ‘l’m not just brought in as a musician to play on top of things David and Graham have worked out. I’ve been there from the beginning. I’ve been in on the creative meetings when everyone’s put their ideas in, and though everyone’s got a

‘It's about how people change in relation to each other. Phrases they hated ten years ago they now use all the time. One character says, "God, I hate Heathrow," and that says so much about how he's changed.’ David Greig

clear role in rehearsals, we’re all welcome to chip in.’

Not coming from a classical background hasn’t hindered Powell ajot, especially as he’s aided and abetted by an exceedingly classy quartet. whose members have played with leading rock acts such as My Life Story, Tindersticks and Beth Orton.

‘I don’t write notation,’ explains Powell, ‘but the music’s developed in much the same method as the play. in that there’s a lot of improvising and re-writing as we go along.’ The result is a haunting. nostalgia-tinged score evoking loss and yearning.

Timeless as a whole is a moving exploration of memory and friendship, which takes a backwards leap to an epiphanal moment that etched itself deeply on the lives of four friends. It’s never left them. even when their relationships have changed with age.

Rather than go in all-guns-blazing, with grand gestures and high drama, Suspect Culture has opted for something simple and everyday. the significance of which is only becoming clear with the passing of time.

‘We wanted to do something about “normal” people,’ says Greig of the play, which looks the way Friends might do if Harold Pinter was on the writing team. ‘lt’s about how people change in relation to each other like phrases they hated ten years ago, they now use all the time. One character says, “God. I hate Heathrow," and that simple phrase says so much about his status and how he’s changed.’

You can't help but get the impression that Tinw/ess' comes straight from Suspect (,‘ulture‘s collective heart. The tight-knit foursome that makes up the company Greig, Powell. actor/director Graham Eatough and producer David Smith are hitting their late twenties and early thirties. no longer regarded as new kids on the block, facing responsibilities and reputations. ‘You make most of your major friends between the ages of sixteen and 23.‘ Greig reckons. “After that you‘re not as likely to meet new people, and you‘re stuck with each other for life.’

Timeless (International Festival) Suspect Culture, Gateway Theatre, Edinburgh, 0131 437 2000, 27—30 Aug, 7.30pm. £12.

22—28 Aug 1997 THE LISTTI