Two shows boasting extreme reputations hit Glasgow in the same week. But the people behind SHAGNASTY and FAUST (FAUST IS DEAD) insist they are not interested in shock tactics.
Words: Thom Dibdin
Sex and violence have become so integrated into the vocabulary of modern performing arts. that it seems that no public display of either could ever now be condemned as gratuitous. What was. a decade ago. shock theatre. is now no longer a luxury of the avant garde. bttt a necessity for ailing companies who wish to increase their audiences.
To Glasgow's Arches theatre comes a pair of plays which. on the surface. follow this trend. .S'Itugnus'ly is by i:l'Cilk.\ll()\\', a company which isjust returning to the theatre after almost a decade of playing in house music clubs and S&.\l dungeons. Fans! (Fans! is Dead) comes from the pen of controversial playwright. Mark Shopping and I": “lug Ravenhill.
But just when you thought that a night of drama would be as safely titillating as a trip to the Fantasy Bar. it turns out that both plays come not to praise shock theatre. btit to bury it.
‘.S'/iug/tu.v1_v is neither dumbing down nor sexing up. it is about the debate between the two.‘ says Freakshow‘s Adrian Lochhead. author of the play. the first dt'alt of which was written almost as a piece of setni-autobiographical therapy for the company. ‘I think the dumbing down part is where all you get is sex and violence. I do find that pretty dumb. although there is a place for it.‘
It turns out that the Shagnasty of the title is a company whose worthy plays are failing to attract an audience. The question is whether they should stick to the meaningful drama they know. or move on and get sexy to sell their product. lntriguingly. a damning review of Ravenhill‘s recent Hum/bug from a Sunday paper is read otit as a justification for the latter course of action.
If anything could be relied upon to deliver the sexy. violent goods. then Ravenhill‘s second play. Faust (l’uusi is Dead) should have been it. The play is about a young philosopher and the son of a software magnet who embark on a hedonistic journey
52 THE UST 29 Apr l3 May 1999
'I am not interested in having people killing and fucking on stage. That is more boring than controversial.’ Andreas Kebelmann
Shagadelic baby: Freakshow at The Arches
across America. But controversy is not part of the vision of Andreas Kebelmann. a (ierman director who is taking time out after spending three years with the Volksbtihne am Rosa-l..uxemburg-l’lat/ in Berlin.
‘lt was not having a controversial play which was interesting to me.‘ says Kebelmann. ‘I am not interested in having people killing and fucking on stage. That is more boring than controversial. because .VUtt‘ve seen that a lot of times. Much more interesting for me is the relationship of these young men. how they find a way to live together.‘
Kebelmann sees \iolencc as something which creates an atmosphere. rather than as an integral part of the action. And it is atmosphere which lies behind his portrayal of the sex in the play. :\s he explains: 'You create atmosphere when you have two actors on stage. fiye metres apart. not looking at each other. and they are both laughing. but it is not a happy laugh. and one says “what are you thinking now." and the other replies. "I think I am going to fuck you." This is a much stronger moment. and a much more interesting moment. to see than the action. I have the faces of the actors. I don't need the action.‘
Both shows are at the Arches, Glasgow, see Theatre Listings.
Re: treading the boards.
7:84 THEATRE COMPANY are conducting an alternative election campaign to tie in with the Holyrood shenanigans. ’Writer Stephen Greenhorn and I had this idea a while ago,’ explains artistic director lain Reekie. ‘We think of it as fire station theatre — the alarm goes off and we're ready to Spring into action. We needed some kind of major event to structure the work around, and the election represents the perfect opportunity.‘ Joining Reekie & Greenhorn to slide down the metaphorical pole will be Suspect Culture’s Graham Eatough, composer/musician David Young and performers Sally Howitt, Billy Boyd, Jill Riddiford and Grant Smeaton. This ragged band will perform material devised on the day to include the most topical of references. The troupe will debut at Maydaze on Glasgow Green, before moving on to the Tron (4 & 8 May, 8pm) and the Traverse bar on election night itself. Other appearances in more unusual locations are also planned. Call 7:84 on 0141 334 6686 for details. More election coverage in Agenda, page 16.
VETERAN SCOTTISH AUTHOR Jimmy Black, whose career has encompassed work for STV and BBC Radio Scotland and such books as History’s Mysteries has written his first play at the age of 79. The Lost Boy And The Promised Land tells the - story of the Livingstone brothers, sons of the famous explorer Dr David Livingstone, and the time they spent in America during the war between the States. The show opens at the Ramshorn on 10 May, and is accompanied by an exhibition focusing on the life of Robert Livingstone whose journey from Africa to find his POW sibling forms the basis of the drama. See Theatre Listings.
COMEDIAN PHIL KAY is among those lending his moral support and actual physical presence to a charitable evening’s entertainment at Glasgow's Arches on 13 May. A Night For Kosovo will feature live bands, 3 prize raffle hosted by Mischief La Bas, and a 705 disco, as well as the aforementioned comedy. Broadcaster Janice Forsyth will be MC for the whole shebang.
Phil Kay feels . . . charitable.