MICHAEL BILLINGTON. CHIEF THEATRE CRITIC FOR THE GUARDIAN, recently made the curious observation that Scottish playwrights are failing to address their country’s current state of political ﬂux.
This myopic comment, made from a distance of 400 miles, carries a hint of the English Left’s complacency about Scotland — one of the main drives behind Stephen Greenhom’s new play, Dissent. ‘I think Labour took their eye off the ball in Scotland,’ says Greenhom. ‘They assumed that once they’d delivered the Yes, Yes vote, that was it. It was as if they said, “Right, enough voting now — go back and read the sports
West Lothian-born playwright STEPHEN GREENHORN scored a big hit with his 'road movie for the stage' Passing Places. Now he's behind the wheel of a new play set on the long and winding road to the Scottish Parliament.
Words: Andrew Burnet Photograph: Kevin Low
pages and we’ll give you a shout in nine months when we need you to
vote for us”.’
This fortnight. as the parties saddle up for the campaign trail,
nation via two young urbanites driving through the Highlands.
Greenhorn originally planned to write Dissent at the turn of the year ‘to try and catch the zeitgeist of what was happening on the political landscape’. Instead. he found himself caught up in the rapid turnover of events, and finally put pen to paper in May. Rewrites continued all the
delivered by last summer’s referendum.
But it also‘touches‘o'n two other prominent in Scotland.
areas of Scottish lite. football and drugs.
Set in Glasgow. the plot centres on a They assumed Labour councillor. Paul Gray, who is that once they'd seeking selection as a candidate for the .
Scottish parliamentary elections. A party dEI'VerEd the Yes, Yes vote, that was it.’ Stephen Greenhorn
Gray's best friend Derek is a former footballer who views life in metaphors drawn from the beautiful gemme — the main source of humour in a play Greenhorn describes as ‘a political thriller’. Derek now owns a swanky club where various substances change hands in a
discreet. unofficially sanctioned fashion. Elsewhere in town. an illegal club held in a railway arch has no need for such discretion. When Gray discovers that his daughter has been there, a conﬂict ensues events on their personal relationships and their sense of themselves. It’s not a straight line through to an easy answer at the
3? end. It’s quite a diverse set of arguments and perspectives.’
The success of Passing Places should ensure Greenhorn finds a substantial audience for Dissent. It has also provided him with further employment — he recently completed a screen adaptation for BBC
Films — and one or two other perks. Earlier this month, Greenhorn went
Greenhorn’s play opens at Edinburgh’s Traverse Theatre in a production by 7:84 Theatre Company. Dissent is his first
. play for the company since The Salt Wound in 1994 and his first staged in Scotland since the enormously successful comedy Passing Places. which examined the state of the way through until the third week of rehearsals.
So yes. Dissent is a highly topical play about Scottish politics and society. tracing the shifting moods of the country from the triumphant ousting of the Tories in Ma 1 ’97 to the resounding double afﬁrmatin Lat-’0'" tack
their eye off the man. he wears his red rose with pride; but that position is questioned by his daughter’s friend Avril. a single-issue activist who reckons party politics are too ossified to achieve results. that will force him to re-examine his principles.
‘We’ve settled on this fairly classical thing of taking a family and pushing them through this process of trying to get selected: then seeing what happens as they go through that process.‘ explains Greenhorn. ‘The thrust of the play is about the effect of
with Passng Places when it was performed in Berlin. Unable to resist the importunity. he had his photograph taken with the statue of Bertolt Brecht outside the Berliner Ensemble. 'l was consciously thinking.’ he admits. ‘I wonder what he’d make of Dissent.‘
Dissent is at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh. Sat 24 Oct-Sun 1 Nov; then tours Scotland until Sun 6 Dec. Greenhorn and director lain Reekie lead a post-show
discussion at the Traverse on Thu 29 Oct.