Not content to ride'iti'he
permanent wave with her
smash-hit hairdressing comedy Perfect Days, Glasgow writer LIZ
LOCHHEAD aims to top it
with another new play, set
on Coronation Day.
Words: Andrew Burnet Photograph: Kevin Low
LIZ LOCHHEAD IS HAVING A GOOD day. As she sips coffee in the 'l‘raverse 'l'heatre‘s bar. a long queue is fortning across the room. It‘s the audience for her sell—out. liringe First—winning hit l’er/i't't Days. In the past few weeks. l.oehhead and the sltow"s star Siobhan Redmond have been stopped on the street by admirers. the walls of the backstage area have filled tip with letters of appreciation. and Paul Webster » 'a very nice man from (‘hannel 4‘ has commissioned her to write l’er/i't't l)a_vs. the screenplay. ‘l‘m very excited abottt it.‘ she
says cheerily. between nibbles of
biscuit. ‘l‘m determined not to screw it up. l’ve started it already — I couldn‘t resist.‘
No one could blame her for striking while the iron‘s hot: but there is a small complication. Barely a month after l’wj/i't't l)a_vs premiered at the 'l'raverse. the Royal Lyceum Theatre is due to stage another new l.i/. l.ochhead play.
Well. halllnew. lincouraged by director 'l'ony (‘ownie with whom she formed her own company. Nippy Sweeties she has reworked her much—revived early comedy .S'lutng/Iaietl. commissioned by Borderline Theatre (‘ompany back in 1981A ‘play for all ages'. it tells the story of three (‘lydehank children evacuated to the country during World
War II. and the posh little hostess. Emily. who becomes a kind of sister to them.
For the first half of Britannia Rules. Lochhead has made slight alterations to .S'ltanghaiecl; bttt the all- new second half picks up the characters fourteen years later. on 2 June 1953 — Coronation Day. ‘lt was a very particular day.’ says Lochhead. who still remetnbers it vividly — after all. as she has admitted. it‘s not every day you get dressed up as Britannia and wind tip peeing your pants.
At 50. Lochhead is too young to have been evacuated during the war. though both her parents served in the army. ‘1 was born at the very end of '47.‘ she says. ‘The war was this thing that grown-ups talked about all the time. You had missed all the terror and horror. but you‘d tnissed all the excitement and fun as well. There was always a form of bittersweet romance in it for us; and a sense of optimism aboutl953f
There was. of course. a buried irony about .S'lianglzaied's refugees coming from (‘lydebank The Clyde’s shipyards were of huge stategic importance. and the surrounding area attracted punishing attention from the Luftwaffe. ‘A lot of evacuees were back home in time for the Blitz. both in Clydebank and in London.~ Lochhead laments. ‘The evacuation
'The war was this thing that grown-ups talked about all the time. You had missed all the terror and horror, but you'd missed all the excitement and fun as well.’ Liz Lochhead
programme was so painful for children and parents that very often people were reunited just in time to be bombed to death -— such are the cruelties of war.‘
The post-war world of Britannia Ru [as has suffered so me bereavements: but there are other concerns too. Billy. the eldest evacuee. has joined the Communist Party —- partly in response to his experience of National Service — while vulnerable young l-lughie still has that ordeal ahead of him. Billy‘s wee sister Morag has developed transatlantic yearnings and Emily has disappeared into upper—middle-class oblivion.
‘lt was a time when things were very different from how they'd been in the war.‘ says Loehhead. ‘People who‘d been kids in l93‘) were at a very interesting age. and I wanted to explore them at that age.
‘lt's quite a gentle play. quite different frotn l’erj/i't't Days which was very plotted. very new and raw for tne. Thank goodness.‘ she adds cheerfully. ‘because I think two experiences of the same intensity would have blown my psyche apart.‘
Britannia Rules is at the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, 0131 229 9697, Fri 11 Sep—Sat 10 Oct.
10 ~24 Sep 1998 THE “ST 17