On the eve of the opening of his major new musical STIFF! actor-writer—composer FORBES MASSON makes a right song and dance about life and death. Woes: Ellie Carr
EVEN A DEDICATED FAN OF EVERYTHING that‘s all-singing. all-dancing would be hard- pressed to name many examples of that little- known phenomenon - the Scottish musical. There are some about football. a few abottt magical villages and that‘s pretty much it. Trust liorbes .\lasson carrot-topped. multi- faceted. hyperactive performer that he is — to invent the genre single-handedly.
While Alan Cummings. his pal and former
sidekick in much-loved thespian double-act Victor And Barry and camp airline comedy TIM High Life. gets air—kisses from Broadway and calls from Madonna. Masson has created Scotland's first ever ‘easy-listening musical’ about death. Written. composed by and starring Masson with l)l\':\‘s influential ('aroline llall directing. Stiff? embarks on a major Scottish tour this month. It might not be Broadway. but this litustian extravaganza is as sl1()\\'hi/./_\' as we Scots get.
The story goes like this. (ieorge Mathieson. a stonemason from 'l)riech’ hits a mid-life crisis and sells his sotil to a devil named Neville. Described as a halfway house between The Rocky Horror Show and Scottish
variety. it‘s played otit against a backdrop of
songs inspired by every decade since the l‘)()()s (phew!) and packs in themes as multifarious as death. life. birth. rebirth. love. masculinity. devolution and pre-millennial angst (double-phew? ).
lior 35-year-old Masson (whose own father was a l‘alkirk stonemason). it’s the creative pay-off for a Scottish actor forced to do everything from panto to Beckett in one week. 'S'Ii't'f’ is actually a culmination of me doing all these different sorts of \voi'k.‘ says the man last seen as the gleefully slea/y :\rt Stilton in ('hannel 4's Young l’t'rsmt ‘s (In/(Iv 'l’n [in-inning xi Rock Star.
It is also a product of his manic energy. ()ne attempt to summarise the show ran eight pages long. he warns. But much arm-waving and several entertaining rants later. the slightly strung-out looking actor pins himself down. ‘(ieorge is an everyman character for non— assertive Seotsf he says. grasping his beer triumphantly. "l'he bitter. the angst—ridden. the
12 THE LIST ' ‘3 ":99
drunken people who have all this talent. btit have been kept down for a long time. It’s very
positive and it‘s a hope that l have for
Scotland that we can get rid of the chip on the shoulder. Independence l have a big question mark over: bttt not being dependent is important.’
Timely as this may seem. SIM/7‘s political relevance is simply an accident of fate. Shelved in 1996 when both Masson’s parents died in the space of six months and its overriding theme of death became painfully ironic. the project is now enjoying a rebirth. For the show‘s creator. it represents an important moment of spiritual growth which outweighs even careerist considerations. Asked if he was set to rocket into the same orbit as his more famous pal. Masson shakes his head in suitably fiery defiance: '.\'o. It’s only a big break in the sense that it‘s a break from things in my past. I hope it‘s going to be cathartic for me.’
Notorioust self-critical. Masson would be the last person to predict his own ascendance.
But it appears that. in This Show is
his mind at least. . Victor is finally for the bitter, emerging from the an st_ Barry‘s starry shad— g
ow. ’l‘m coming to ridden: the terms with all that drunken much more now.’ be
says candidly. although there's have a" this always [troll] lot a hit talent but
jealousy. ’Alan has have been
been in a Bond ‘movie kept down for [(i()/(/('Ilt'_\'(’l. he . , says. shades of \r'ictor '3 long t'me- creeping into the Forbes Masson eyebrows and wrists.
‘Bobby (‘arlyle is in the new Bond movie. So I'm like 'l wanna be in a Bond movie‘. But there‘s few parts for gingeries in Bond films.’
Stiff! has a free preview at the Royal Lyceum on Thu 15 Apr prior to a major tour. See Theatre listings page 58 for details.