rBOOK PREVIEW Anthony Neilson -
Plays 1 (Methuen £9.99)
You can’t help but feel that Anthony Neilson's missed out on the so-called Scots playwrighting boom. But then, with the publication of his first collection of plays, he doesn't seem that bothered. Especially as he's holed up editing his first feature film, The Debt Collector, starring Billy Connolly.
Indeed, Neilson is ambivalent about the collection, which includes five plays — from 1991’s gothic Edinburgh Fringe hit Normal, through the psycho-sexual mindgames of Penetrator (1993) to last year’s meeting of moralities, The Censor.
’I’ve never consciously written anything for theatre that was intended to be timeless,’ he says. ’I
never go into a rehearsal room with a full script, so the play becomes very specific to the time you’re doing it. Because they're over and done with fairly quickly, I don't
know how they’ll stand up.’
Neilson sees himself more as a director than a playwright. 'There's always a part of me that's never felt like a proper writer,’ he admits. ’Writing’s quite a sad pursuit really. I’m sure it’s not healthy.’
Some might say the same about Neilson’s plays, which explore the darker recesses of sex in a manner that's the complete antithesis to any nudge-nudge notions of slap and tickle. In The Censor, for instance, a film censor is confronted by a porn actress, who leads him on a merry dance tovvards confronting his own repressed desires. ‘Nothing freaks people out more than sex,‘ Neilson maintains. 'People either pussyfoot around it or else use it as titillation. With my work it’s harder to sell it,
Sex and excess: the Tron Theatre's 1995 production of Penetrator
because it’s a bit weird, but also too conventional to belong in the margins.’ The play’s transfer to the West End would seem to confirm this.
The Debt Collector looks set to cause an entirely
different set of responses. This tale of a reformed criminal who is feted by the art world is in the classic thriller mould, but there have been accusations that the
Connolly character is based on Jimmy Boyle. It's a claim
SCOTTISH CLASSIC REVIEW Whisky Galore
Edinburgh: Royal Lyceum Theatre, until Sat I Aug 4’ wk “3*:
Those With a taste for the all-out thmSical wrll welcome its comeback in this adaptation by Paul Godfrey of Compton Mackenzie's famous novel. Alasdair lecCrone, of the lvlull Theatre, directs a production which, rather than attempting to recreate Mackenzie’s narrative or Alexander Mackendrick's ClaSSlC Ealing film, (ClljUFQS up a radio productiOn from the novel's 19403
56 THE llST 9—23 Jul I998
Fantasy islanders: Fletcher Mathers and Robert Paterson in Whisky Galore
setting, With the airdierice as partiCipants.
A twrtchy producer «DaVid Richey) introduces three luvvres, Bunny Rigg (Fletcher Mathers), Carlton Hill rTim Thomas) and Dawdson Mains rRobert Paterson). With varying success, these three attempt to imitate the Hel'iridean Wee Frees ol the original, whose wartime whisky shortage is averted by the fOrtUitous cargo of a shipwreck
lnevitably, the audience’s attention is drawn away from the story and on to its telling, as the actors miss their cues, make Silent bets On failures With
‘It’s about this character who’s been accepted by this different class of people,’ Neilson explains, ’but it's as much too about the policeman who put him away, and who’s left with nothing. I just became interested in this idea that you can lead a life of crime then become a celebrity on the back of it. When people see it, I think they'll see something very different to what they expected.’ (Neil Cooper)
diffiCiilt lines anrl mistime their sound
effects. It’s as much to do \‘JIIII neis‘es on as Noises Off, but one wonders if this doesn‘t distract a little from the original tale, which ,Iust ah0ut surVives underneath the superimposed narrative
Perhaps Mackenzie's story of win locals concealing the shanghaied whisky from the exCise men is funny enough wrthout its farcical subcommentary, but the added stage
business is \ery aniasmg in places The :
innocuous source of Paterson's apparent heart attack at the beginning of the second act would bring a laugh from an audience of depressed
Lutherans on the Sabbath, while Matlier's girl caught deUSilﬂg stockings i behind a flat freshens up an elderly rOutine nicely DeSIgner Alicia Hendricks
reproduction of an art deco radio studio is delightful, and the first night audience seemed happy to muck in With the Hi Di) HI-style requests for b:ts of pop-Gaelic and general background noise from the cast
There is nothing strikingly new or experimental here, but audiences who
are weary of being poked, prodded, clinically analysed and dissected by contemporary theatre \Nllf enjoy its warm-hearted farce. (Steve Cramer)
Stage whispers *
Clearly delivered, with no prompting. . .
MISERABLE CHILDREN REQUIRED for Edinburgh’s biggest theatre. Cameron Mackintosh’s touring production of Les Miserables arrives for a three- month run at the Playhouse beginning September 15, and is seeking to cast six local children — two each for the parts of Cosette and Eponine (both female, minimum age 8, maximum height 4ft 4in) and Gavroche (male, minimum age 9, maximum height 4ft 7in, unbroken voice). Auditions will be held at the theatre on Saturday 11 July. For full details, contact the Edinburgh Playhouse on 0131 557 0029.
CASTING FOR AN equally prestigious role is Edinburgh’s Traverse Theatre. One of two world premieres presented by the Traverse company for the Festival this year is David Harrower’s new play, Kill The Old Torture Their Young. It features a Scottish listings magazine which — we’re told — represents the burgeoning of Scottish culture for one character, who has returned after years abroad. Who better to play the role of the magazine itself than your own lifestyle lifeline, The List? We’re already practising our lines.
WELL PRACTISED LINES were denied Stephen Barry on Tuesday. The director of Festival City Theatres, the new Edinburgh company which will programme and manage the King’s Theatre and the Festival Theatre, was forced to admit that 'final legal niceties’ had prevented the merger from going ahead on schedule, though he remained 'convinced that it will be signed off by the end of the week.’ Announcing two varied seasons — in which glove-puppet Sooty rubs shoulders with Romanian theatre guru Silviu Purcarete, comedian Paul Merton, and Jason Donovan in The New Rocky Horror Show, plus major orchestral, opera and ballet ensembles - Barry stressed that the company aims to live within its (grant-aided) means, conceding that ‘there may be some job losses' in the 'job-matching process and the re- organisational process.’ Both seasons begin in the autumn.
Les Miserables: a chance to put your daughter (or son) on the stage