Director Muriel Romanes, who has stood by a much pre-judged piece of theatre

Reel life Drama

After months of accusation and . counter-accusation, Stellar Quines' new 2 production THE REEL OF THE HANGED

MAN, which tackles the issues of incest

- and violence from a new angle, is

hitting the stage. Words: Steve Cramer

The theatre community is, like the society that ; surrounds it. one given to occasional bouts of

indignant self—righteousness, often mysterious of origin and persecutional of direction. The most recent

paroxysm to grip it is one surrounding Jeanne-Mance

Delisle's The Reel ()f The Hanged Man. Stellar

- Quines' new play, translated into English for the first

time by native Quebecan Martin Bowman and our

i own Bill Findlay.

3 director Muriel Romanes. now alone in her job after the " resignation of co-director Gerda Stevenson over this

Stellar Quines‘ artistic

production, has fought a solitary and courageous battle

: over the last six months as resignations, vilification

from outside and an atmosphere of general intolerance have assailed the company. Questions have been raised about the controversial subject matter of the play. as well as the appropriateness of its funding. and all of this about a drama which most

of its detractors haven’t read or seen performed. If the

stakes are not as high the issues are the same as those which have seen the petsecution ot Salman Rushdie for well over a decade.

But now that all the darts have been thrown,

i what's the play about? Bowman tells us that the

play‘s origins are in its author‘s personal experience. As a young girl, growing up in a repressive

environment in remote, small town Northern Quebec,

'The phrase used by critics in Quebec is "an eroticisation of the SOUl".' Martin Bowman

Delisle had a close friend whose family seemed quite joyous and uninhibited by comparison with those around them. After a long association, it was revealed by chance, that violence and incest had commonly occurred within the family, and the father was sent to prison. Only after the death by murder of her friend many years later did Delisle reveal her story, in the form of its presentation as drama, in 1978.

Now. plays on the subject of incest are common enough, but when the family at the centre are so ostensibly happy, and the usual social realist approach of victims and villains is eschewed, there’s bound to be disquiet. Bowman, though, makes a good case for the author, a personal friend. ‘She has an awareness that there are other societies where the things we see as taboo are celebrated,‘ he says. ‘The children of this family are full of humour and music. The fact of that existence within the harsh and puritanical background of the town fascinates her. She‘s trying to explore something about celebration, without condoning a situation she sees as tragic.‘

If this sounds a bit too much like the cold objectivity of anthropology, Bowman assures us of the passion beneath the text. ‘Delisle has a kind of grandeur about her writing,’ he says. ‘The phrase used by critics in Quebec is “an eroticisation of the soul" "he doesn’t pull any puncl ..,, or necessarily say what the audience wants to hear. The fundamental idea is about the quest for the individual‘s own self and freedom. and how there are so many things which prevent that quest. This happens not only at the level of family, but in society as a whole.’

In performance, the play promises a combination of naturalistic dialogue, converted from the colloquial idiom of its native tongue to central-belt Scots, and

action which mimics the anti-naturalistic structure of

i . I.


t i . i


the Uuebccuis fiddle tee] of the title. All this suggests a fascinating evening of theatre, which asks to be judged on its merits, not pre-judged on its subject matter.

Reel Of The Hanged Man, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Wed 29 Mar—Sun 2 Apr, then touring.

preview THEATRE

Stage whispers

Re: Treading the boards

OLD-TIME ATTENDERS of the Byre Theatre, St Andrews will recollect, with the kind of retrospective fondness which comes with forgetting past inconveniences, the days when the auditorium contained a sign requesting patrons not to place their feet on the stage while performances were in progress. Intimacy is an important aspect of the theatre, but clearly, this was over-egging the pudding. A few piecemeal improvements occurred over subsequent years, but there was plainly a need to go a little further.

Accordingly, in the mid‘905 the Byre hatched a laudable plan to refurbish the original 1933 building. On its approach to the Scottish Arts Council though, it was encouraged to much greater ambitions, and the new vision became one of overarching grandeur, which proposed the demolition of the old Byre, and the construction of an elaborate new £45 million complex. Further down the line, the inevitable chaos which such projects create has ensued, and after the

escalation of building costs to £53

million, the theatre's energetic attempts to raise the necessary finance seem doomed to failure, threatening the future of this splendid old company. The problem lies not with the Byre, but the SAC, which will take any opportunity to overfund some great monument of a building; idealistic proponents of a “portable” national theatre might

wish to take note. We wish the l theatre the best of luck in its current

troubles, and would encourage Fife theatre lovers to see what they might do, financially or otherwise, to help.

ADMIRERS OF PROMENADE theatre are in for a treat this month. Flexible Deadlock, whose nationspace will run from Thu 16—Sat 18, then Thu 23—Sat 25 Mar at the Loft Gallery, Glasgow, and will then tour, plan to

lead its audiences around some 5 pretty unorthodox spaces in the v next little while. Exploring ideas

about narrative through the resurrection of a folkloric storyteller in modern times, the show looks likely to please anyone interested in exploring alternative modes of performance.

Putting a cage on the stage: Flexible Deadlock

16-30 Mar 2000 THE LIST 59