Bringing together alienated individuals is a thematic strain in David Greig's work and he's at it again with his new play. Just don't call him prolific.
Words: Steve Cramer
With half a dozen new plays going on in the past year, David Greig’s name seems to have been as inevitable to Scottish theatre-goers as homeless folk beside autotellers and irritating coffee commercials. But there’s been a great deal of quality for us to peruse, with such pieces as Suspect Culture’s Mainstream, the International Festival’s The Speculator and the superb children’s play Danny 306 + Me 4ever garnering high praise from many
quarters. But the much sought-after dramatist assures us that his ubiquitous
presence is unplanned.
‘It’s not been a deliberate thing,’ Greig explains. ‘About three years ago I took on a number of commissions which were scheduled to take place over a three year period. But a number of random decisions were made, mainly about theatres being rebuilt and schedules changed. As a result, I had no new plays on in 1998, and six full-length plays this year. This is the work of three years which all came together at the same time.’
Greig appreciates this bounty, but can also see the problems. ‘People get the impression that you produce a new play every five minutes, so if you miss this one there’ll be another along shortly. And I’ve started to get the tagline “The Proliﬁc David Greig”, but there’s no great virtue in . . . prolificity,’ he comments, grinning wryly at the last word.
His new play could be said to do exactly what it
'I didn't care if it went on or not. I didn't think about what I was going to say, what it was going to be about, who am i trying to please, what's the director going to think - I just wrote for myself as a writer.’
Epitomising the post-modern experience: David Greig
says on the tin, the title exactly explains part of the narrative, but there’s more to it than this. Two forgotten cosmonauts orbit the earth, while the story drifts through the lives of a disparate group of characters, among them, a stripper, a Scottish civil servant, a Norwegian World Bank official, an Edinburgh speech therapist and a policewoman. With a multi-dimensional structure and much reﬂection upon the quest for human contact between alienated individuals, the thematic concerns of the play seem to echo those of Mainstream. Does it share similar origins?
‘Each piece of work I do has its own specific genesis,’ comments Greig. ‘This one, particularly, is quite different from the others, since there was no commission for it originally. I found a period of time, a month, really, where I could write for myself, and I thought fuck it, I’m going to write something which is purely for my own pleasure. I didn’t care if it went on or not. I didn’t think about what I was going to say, what it was going to be about, who am I trying to please, what’s the director going to think — I just wrote for myself as a writer.’
From its highly personal start, the play found its way to Irina Brown at the Tron, who worked with Greig in developing it through a succession of workshops in 1997 and 1998. Greig, who, quite characteristically, is reluctant to attach specific meanings to his play, is fulsome in his praise of . Brown, who will depart as Artistic Director of the Tron after this production. ‘Irina’s really good at finding the pictures, and the emotion in the play. She and I lived with the play for a very long time, and she understands it better than me, I think. If we’d staged it when it was originally scheduled a year ago, it wouldn’t have been as good.’ On this level, at least, a tight schedule in 1999 seems to have beneﬁted Greig.
The Cosmonaut's Last Message To The Woman He Once Loved In The Former Soviet Union plays at Tron Theatre, Glasgow. Thu 14 Oct-Sat 6 Nov.
Sta e whispers
Re: trea mg the boards
EXCITING NEWS FOR one of the Scottish theatre's most talented performers, Siobhan Redmond. Redmond has been nominated for the Best Actress award in the 1999 Barclays Theatre Awards, for her portrayal of Barbs in Liz Lochhead's Perfect Days, which opened at the 1998 Festival, and toured Scotland to great acclaim before transferring to the Hampstead Theatre in London. The award ceremony will occur at this venue on 7 Nov. It sometimes seems sad that our local performers must go to London before they can be thought of for such accolades, but we're still delighted to hear of Redmond's richly deserved nomination. Whispers will keep you posted.
IN KEEPING WITH the International Festival's commitment to year-round information, debate and entertainment. The Hub will be hosting five weeks of events, lasting until 6 Nov under the general title of the World Dance And Music Residency. Events will include workshops, talks and a schools programme. Music and dance influences will be explored from all over the world, with events based around forms as diverse as hip hop, Afro-Cuban music, classical dance and jazz. Under the directorship of Charles Chip McNeal, the American dancer and choreographer who has long been associated with the San Francisco Ballet, the event looks set to raise much local interest. Details of events, and tickets can be attained from the Hub ticket centre on 0131 473 2000.
THE BYRE THEATRE'S campaign to raise further funds toward the completion of its new complex has been boosted by the appearance of Paul Scofield among its list of patrons. Scofield is lending his considerable kudos to a project which requires a further £703,000 to meet its aims. The best of luck to all concerned in what looks like a daunting endeavour.
Award nominee: Siobhan Redmond
7-21 Oct 1999 I'll! “81' 53