CALL IT BRAVADO, CALL IT ARROGANCE, call it what you will. Quiet confidence might be most accurate: that description could apply to Glasgow- based playwright David Harrower at almost any time.
For most writers. unveiling a new play at the Traverse Theatre in August is a daunting prospect. It’s the most important new writing theatre in Scotland and. during the Festival. it’s arguably the most important in the world. Influential people from many countries will see the play and form opinions.
More signiﬁcantly. Harrower owes his reputation mainly to one play. Knives In Hens. which premiered in the Traverse studio in I995. It was suc- cessfully revived at the Bush in London. returned to the Traverse’s main house for last year’s Festival. and has been produced in America. France. Denmark. Norway. and repeatedly in Germany. where it won a major award.
Now comes the long-awaited follow-up. Kill The Old Torture Their Young. which could either cement Harrower’s status in the front rank of up-and-coming British playwrights. or see him dismissed as a one-hit-wonder. There’s a lot riding on it. surely?
‘Nah. not really,‘ he claims, insouciant as ever. ‘I think that’s the way I’m supposed to feel but I don’t really. I’m pretty confident about it. perhaps stupidly so. I’ve got a good
28 THE usr 5—13 Aug 1998
Young Scottish playwright DAVID HARROWER has earned a big reputation with just one major play. When his new piece
has its premiere this week, will it live up to expectation? Words: Andrew Burnet
bunch of actors who’ve responded to it — you can tell in rehearsals when people switch onto something. And the previews have gone pretty well.’
Like its predecessor. Kill The Old. .
focuses more on character and relationship than on a clearly defined plot. ‘Each of the characters has a central story that kind of weaves with everyone else.” explains Harrower. ‘but the kind of over-story is this guy who’s making a documentary. He’s been away for ten years in London. and the theme of the documentary is what it’s like to return; what it means to him; how Scotland has changed.’
One notable change is the burgeoning of Scotland’s cultural confidence, symbolised in the play by a listings magazine — a magazine called The List.
But the documentary. explains Harrower. is really a framing device for the other stories. 'The unifying theme is: How do we remember ourselves? What do people use to tell themselves they’ve lived? That can be family; that can be childern. If you happen to be creative. you do it that way; or you do it through the church or application to work or whatever. It’s this idea' about how people take notice of each other. how they will be remembered.’
None of this quite accounts for the provocative and enigmatic title, which, Harrower says. came to him a few
Thelong- awaited follow- up could either cement Harrower's status in the front rank of up-and-coming British playwrights, or see him dismissed as a one-hit-wonder.
years ago when he was working as a courier driver. schlepping between Glasgow and lidinburgh four times a day. ‘This title kind of popped into my head . . . because you have to think about something on the M8. you know
. and I loved it so much.
‘There’s this recurring image in it of an eagle coming to live in a Scottish city.’ Harrower elaborates. "l’he title's linked to that thing about birds and how they treat their young. how they die. and how redolent is that of the human experience. It’s a link to the way we treat each other - albeit a bit savagely — that we’re slightly maternal in the way we remember or look at other people.’
Ultimately. llarrower will not live or die by the success of this show - he has already been commissioned to write plays for the Royal Shakespeare Company and London’s Royal (’ourt Theatre. as well as a screenplay of Knives In Hens.
All the same. he could be forgiven for a clammy palm or two when the lights go down this Wednesday evening.
Kill The Old Torture Their Young (Fringe) Traverse Theatre Company, Traverse Theatre (Venue 15) 228 1404, 11 Aug-5 Sep, times vary, £12 (£7.50). Preview shows 9 Aug, 7pm; 11 Aug, 2pm, £7.50 (£4).