With BEGIN AGAIN, KtC take a film noir influenced look back half a century to a time of idealism and seismic social change.
Words: Rob Fraser
As the 20th century draws to its close. a certain amotmt of stock taking is inevitable. — healthy even. For some. this will merely mean compiling lists of their favourite book/film/record/fltn'our of crisp. but others. such as the creative team behind Begin Again. will seize the opportunity to examine the events that shaped our society. The play is a devised piece. and came about thanks to some happy synchronicity in the thinking of writer David Harrower and director Guy Hollands.
‘Guy had the original idea for the structure — a noirish journey back through a man‘s life.’ says Harrower. whose own works Kill The Old. Torture Their Young and Knives In Hens have seen him established as one of Scotland‘s leading dramatists. ‘And I‘d been reading about post-war Scotland and the setting tip of the Welfare State so I suggested we adapt the structure to fit that period. Handily. I didn‘t have to do too much more research.‘
Hollands feels the aftermath of World War II is a
dramatically rich seam to mine for a variety of
reasons. ‘The establishment of the Welfare State came at a time of great idealism. and of mass social change and reform.’ he says. ‘The period offers so many themes and ideas. Whether it‘s small individual stories about someone returning from the war in specific circumstances or a large scale story about a society in flux.‘
Certainly. the early years of the Atlee government bear investigation. if only because most cultural representations of the era offer cliched views of lovable cockney salts-of- the-earth or terribly well-‘ spoken denizens of the Home Counties. The official This Happy Breed version is one Begin Again (set in an un-named Scottish city) seeks to confront. ‘It engages the assumptions we have of the time.‘ says the director. ‘We‘ve talked to elderly people to see if the perceived view we have is accurate. or just revisionism.‘ l-Iarrower interjects. ‘We've tried to find out if there was that “we‘re all in this together" spirit. or if that‘s a myth that‘s been created.’
The piece proved particularly challenging to the
'Do I replicate the 405 innocence, and hence have no one in a modern audience laugh at the jokes? Or do I just say "fUCk it" " David Harrower
Post War Child: Actor Stewart Porter
writer when it came to the tricky business of putting words into the mouths of characters inhabiting a world and value system very different from our own. ‘How much do you try and recreate 4()s dialogue. with all the attendant problems of “did they swear? Did they talk about sex?” ’ ponders Harrower. ‘Do I replicate the innocence. and hence have no one in a modern audience laugh at the jokes? Or do I just say "fuck it” and put a 90s sensibility on the whole thing. That‘s been a difficult process.‘
As well as the time specific socio-political elements of the play. the KtC production seeks to explore a philosophical issue as relevant now as it was 50 years ago. or indeed at the end of the last :V'Iillennium. ‘Is there such a thing as a defining moment in life‘.” is the question Hollands feels is central to the piece. ‘If so can we recognise it as it happens. or do we need distance? The central character has such a moment. and we see two possible outcomes which depend on how he reacts. In a way his choice reflects that of society as a whole.’
Begin Again opens at the Arches, Glasgow on Tue 30 Mar, and tours to Stirling, Edinburgh and Paisley in the coming weeks. See Theatre listings.
Stage whispers Re: treading the boards
HATS OFF TO the charitable folk among the performers, crew, and audience for the opening night of An Experienced Woman Gives Advice. Entering wholeheartedly into the spirit of Comic Relief, the entire cast of the lain Heggie comedy reappeared for their curtain call wearing red noses. Jennifer Black quipped that the previous two hours worth of raucous gags and colourful language had all been in aid of the charidee, and that for the remainder of the run the cast would be presenting the decidedly chuckle free Hedda Gab/er. A few hundred quid's worth of collection subsequently found its way into the Comic Relief coffers.
ON A SLIGHTLY more sombre but no less congratulatory note, The List declares unqualified admiration for the creative team behind the recent production of Phaedra’s Love at Glasgow's Citizens’ Theatre. The playwright’s suicide - just a week before the play opened - inevitably cast a shadow over the proceedings, as well as bringing more media attention than is customary for a production of this scale. These difficulties seemed to have a galvanising effect on all concerned however, resulting in a memorably powerful piece of theatre, with Cas Harkins particularly impressive. His central performance, part Liam Gallagher/part Jesus Christ, was a fine tribute in itself.
AS BIZARRE THEATRICAL experiences go, Getting Intimate With Richard White/y may just about take the proverbial biscuit. Witnesses stood agape at the climax to his Queen’s Hall gig, which consisted of a mass singalong to the Countdown theme. Lyrics were provided by a former contestant on the show who just happened to be in the audience. If that were not peculiar enough, the evening acquired Nuremberg rally overtones when the throng were required to raise their hands in imitation of the quiz show’s famous clock.
Sweet charity: Jennifer Black
18 Mar—l Apr 1999 THE “ST 55