MODERN IRISH DRAMA The Arches Irish Season

Glasgow: The Arches, Wed I 5 Mar—Sat 15 Apr.

What is it about Irish culture that holds such a fascination for the rest of the world? Long gone are the days when the mere mention of 'lrishness’ heralded a cheap joke or heated discussion of The Troubles. Nowadays, mention Ireland over a pint of the black stuff to even the least worldly punter and you're likely to hear about Riverdance, Oscar Wilde, Father Ted or U2. Judging by the public‘s continued obsession with all things Irish, The Emerald Isle is here to stay.

In anticipation of the hordes of thrill-seekers of all backgrounds that hit town on St Patrick's Day, The Arches Theatre Company have a line-up of shows that should satisfy even the most ardent of Eirophiles. Focusing on a new generation of theatre companies, The Arches promise to bring to Glasgow the very best contemporary theatre Ireland has to offer.

‘There's a strong Irish interest in Glasgow, more than most British cities,’ states Andy Arnold, Artistic Director at The Arches. ‘There's a very large second generation Irish community and generally a lot of interest in Irish work, so it's good to bring over stuff they wouldn't normally see. They're young Irish companies who're making a name for themselves and doing great work. Most of the plays have already made their mark at the Dublin Fringe Festival, and are now making their first visits over to Scotland.’

Highlights include Alone It Stands, a comedy about Ireland's 1978 rugby victory over the All Blacks; Xaviers, the club culture Dublin Fringe hit, and The Good Thief by Conor McPherson, the award winning writer of West End hit, The Weir. More established texts include Ron Hutchison’s political drama, A Rat In The Skull. The line- up includes many new companies like Common Currency Theatre and Chambermaid Productions, alongside the older hands such as The Yew Tree Theatre

Celtic collection: Andy Arnold presents a cluster of Irish theatre


So, with such an eclectic range of styles and subjects being covered, is there still some elusive factor that makes a production intrinsically Irish? 'It's a particular style of writing that travels from one generation to the next,‘ explains Arnold. ‘Irish writers both the established ones, through to the more contemporary ones - are all brilliant storytellers. Rather than dramatic action pieces, it's pure storytelling, very lyrical writing. There's a tradition of Irish theatre companies producing only work by new writers. Such a small country seems to constantly produce new writers that are being picked up all over the world, which is something that is very particular to Ireland; fresh shows which are often also extremely successful.’ (Olly Lassman)

through their own separate monologues. In the second part we go back in time to 1919 and enter the world of Agnes and Rab, as the latter arrives home after the war to discover an unknown child playing outside the house.

Highlighting the stylistic differences

artistic director David Mark Thomson will direct the companion piece and Fiona Walton, the original play. 'It’s about the secrets and truths in people’s relationships and how these gradually unravel in the characters' separate monologues,’ states Walton of the original.

While both plays are about the breakdown in communication between the male and female characters, played


Musselburgh: Brunton Theatre, Fri IO—Sat 25 Mar, then touring.

Fresh from the success of her recent adaptation of Chekov’s Three Sisters at The Lyceum, Liz Lochhead is to breathe new life into one of her own plays, a comedy about the relationship

58 THE "ST 2-16 Mar 2000

Heavy petal: Quelques Fleurs

between a man and a woman.

The popular Scottish playwright was approached by the Brunton Theatre to write a companion piece to both extend and complement the original format of Quelques F/eurs. Now in two parts, the original written, performed and set in the early 905 - introduces Derek and his chatty wife Verena

in both parts by Stewart Porter and Gayanne Potter, Walton is keen to stress the contrast between the two pieces. 'The first part is very funny whereas the second is more tragic and a lot more direct in its approach,’ she notes. ’I feel the audience will empathise with the characters and, even though there is comedy, there's also a lot of human emotion and pain.’ (Catherine Bromley)

i l i l l l

between the segments, The Brunton's ;


Edinburgh: Royal Lyceum, Thu 9 Mar—Sat I Apr.

Speaking on a particularly jam-packed day at the height of his career, prolific playwright, actor, director and producer Dion Boucicault suggested ’his first holiday’ as his own epitaph. Ironically, the Irishman died in 1890, exiled in New York, unemployed, poor and obscure, his epic melodramas having passed out of fashion.

Now Irish actor/director and self- confessed Boucicault fanatic Mark Lambert is hoping that his production of The Shaughraun for the Royal Lyceum will rekindle interest in the work of this theatrical innovator. 'Boucicault's plays are an antidote to the ongoing obsession in theatre with naturalism and "holding up the mirror to society“,' explains the director. ’He was unashamedly extravagant and sensationalist, but he was also a trailblazer, influencing everything in cinema from the disaster movie to the Hollywood blockbuster. There's also a sense of humour and poetry to Boucicault’s writing which is echoed in Synge, O’Casey and Behan.’

Lambert’s passion can be traced to a youthful viewing of Boucicault's London Assurance, an experience which transformed the sixteen-year-old aspirant rugby player’s career ambitions. The Shaughraun (a loveable rogue with pronunciation dependent on maximum phlegm retention) is Lambert’s third collaboration with the Lyceum’s usual suspects ensemble.

Fellow countryman Aidan Kelly has been brought on board to play Conn, the heroic outsider of the title, who

' leads the people of an Irish village in a

daring revolt against their evil landlord and the occupying English, It’s a simple enough premise, counterbalanced by the elaborate technical demands of the play.

With fourteen scenes, including a house fire, a prison breakout and a thrilling clifftop chase, Boucicault was clearly a special effects Visionary, long before James Cameron re-sunk the Titanic. 'We’ve pared down the more excessive effects and crowd scenes so as not to bankrupt The Lyceum,’ admits Lambert. ’But it's still a rattling

good story, and the production doesn’t

deny the fun and theatricality of the play.‘ (Allan Radcliffe)

Conn artist: Aidan Kelly in The Shaughraun