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anyway. They were in this milieu. where they knew it wasn‘t going to be gritty realism.‘
The story. inspired by Byrne‘s earliest working experiences. is well known to Scottish theatregoers. In late 50s Paisley. three teenage lads on the cusp of adulthood try to liven tip their days working in the slab room of a carpet factory to a groovy soundtrack ol~ period songs. sung for the film by the likes of Edwyn Collins. Lulu. Pat Kane. The Proclaimers and Eddi Reader.
()ne of the trio. Phil. has artistic talent and is compiling a portfolio for art school (painted in real life by Glasgow-based Adrian Wiszniewski) but his home life is hardly rosy since his mother‘s committal to an asylum. The not quite as impressively quilted Spanky. meanwhile. dreams of a passage to America. his guitar and his brothel creepers. Last and least is speccy loser llector. 'l‘heir various experiences come to a head at the stall dance to which they all. secretly or blatantly. want to take the boss‘s daughter Lucille.
The film is an unashamed nostalgia piece which Byrne admits will mean more to a Scots audience. but the stylised l'alseness of its sets lift it beyond the realm of The Siva/Hie. It is said to be set in ‘the Paisley ol' the imag- ination‘.
‘lt‘s the Paisley of my remembrance in a work of imagination.‘ claril'ies Byrne. ‘So it‘s a Paisley that doesn‘t exist in a way. You weren‘t in the real Paisley because you had all these dreams that you‘d be ol‘l~ on your chosen path. but I didn‘t even know what the Art School was. so that shows you how l‘cckless we were. It was I957 which seems not that long ago to
me but it was the Middle Ages. Nobody had been anywhere.
‘But it is very particularly Paisley—based and it‘s pointless ironing it out to the point where it vanishes and it could be set anywhere. If it doesn't travel. it doesn’t travel. I'd rather it didn't travel than have something that’s ersatz and did travel.’
'What would i be doing writing about raves? I'd be some old duffer railing about modern life' John Byrne
These days. Byrne lives in London with Your (‘lwutin' Hmrt star Tilda Swinton — at the time of our meeting he was anticipating the imminent arrival ot~ twins. He did return briefly to Paisley before shooting began. though. to give the production designer a look at the place which inspired Byrne‘s most enduring work.
‘I didn‘t really want to go back — it was
Getting lippy: Louise Berry and Russell Barr in The Slab Boys
devastation.’ he says. ‘Ferguslie Park was an ugly place but it used to be full of life. For all the nonsense that went on. there wasn‘t any drugs about so there wasn’t people getting shot or dying. It was so sad going back. because all the houses are boarded up and it’s dead. I stood outside the house where I lived for twelve years and couldn’t even recognise it. The whole place had a pall about it.”
So there will be no grittily realistic dramas set in poverty-ridden urban estates from the pen ol'John Byrne.
‘I could only write about my generation and I don’t write about everyday life either,’ he says. ‘I write things that are slightly out—of- kilter and peculiar. It’s about how people miss each other all the time. I like something that comes to a climax. something extraordinary that changes people‘s lives.
‘lt‘s not that l have to look back. but what would I be doing writing about raves? I’d be
some old dul‘fcr railing about modern life. There‘s that series This Life — I can see it’s brilliant but I have no connection with it. I would be like “what are you doing with that cocaine? Stupid girl!" The lassie Nardini‘s parents must be like that — “Daniela. what are you doing?” In 1957. you never thought you‘d become one of those people who can‘t help but judge younger people's lives.‘
But you probably didn’t think you’d graduate from being a slab boy to becoming a renowned artist/writer/dramatist/director either.
The Slab Boys goes on general release on Fri 29 Aug.
29 Aug—11 Sept 1997ru£us119