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FORGOITEN CI/«SSIC BURNING BRIGHT Tramway, Glasgow, Tue 13—Sat 24


this story (‘forgotten classic’) is

bound to set alarm bells ringing in an experienced theatregoer. We’ve all seen those plays trumpeted as the great forgotten work of some great writer or other, and Alison Peebles, artistic director of the new Scottish theatre company, V.amp, knows the dangers involved. ‘You hear of all these great plays, like largely unperformed Shakespeares,’ she says, ‘and when you see them, you go, “oh, so that’s why it’s unperformed, it’s rubbish”. But this play really is different. It’s rich and fascinating and very challenging, and it’ll play well.’

Peebles, an experienced and acclaimed actress and director, is starting out on this new venture with just such a neglected piece. John Steinbeck’s play, which he adapted from his short novel of the same name, remains unseen in this country, but for a short Fringe run about a decade ago. ‘In twenty years, I’ve only met eleven people who know about it,’ says Peebles. ‘I’ve even asked Americans, and they’ve never heard of it.

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Alison Peebles with a new company and a lost Steinbeck

and something rather different. In it, four characters are

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So if it’s not a load of pony and trap (and it isn't, I saw the Fringe production) why is it so neglected? ‘It was a play out of its time,’ says Peebles. ‘It was completed in 1950, and at that time, its subject matter, male sterility, was something people didn’t want to deal with either here or in America. Also, at the time, the intelligentsia, who’d admired him before, were quite miffed with him.

‘In twenty years, I’ve only met eleven people who know about it.’

They wanted him to produce another Grapes Of Wrath, but he was producing novels they saw as trivial. He wasn’t left wing enough for the left, and was too left wing for the right of the chattering classes. He actually went into depression about this.’

This drama presents a fascinating mix of naturalism

faced with dilemmas of the bloodline. A husband is infertile, so his wife seeks a child from another man. ‘She does this to save her marriage and their love,’ Peebles comments. ‘There’s nothing selfish or cynical about what she does.’

In seeking a father for the child, she has the choice of a conventionally virile friend of her husband or a drifter

who doesn’t seem to seek children and is not interested in bloodlines. She chooses the latter in the expectation that there will be few consequences to the act, but the emotional repercussions for all four characters inevitably lead to trauma.

With four archetypal characters, the play shifts in location from a circus, to a farm and finally to a ship, adding a kind of universality to their dilemmas. Peebles promises physicality and spectacle in addition to the human drama of the piece, which in the wide expanses of Tramway is a promising prospect. (Steve Cramer)

lain Macrae in sectarian Canada

56 THE LIST 1—15 Mar 2001



Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Fri 2—Sat 17 Mar, in repertory with The Trestle At Pope Lick Creek. See listings for details.

The age old potency of sectarianism and the Vital role that national identity still plays in many lives is an issue that goes far beyond the boundaries of Northern Ireland. In Heritage. here revived after a full production a couple of years back. author Nicola McCartney delves into new historical and geographic territOry. exploring the little—known Issues of sectarianism in the farthest reaches of the Canadian Wilderness.

‘l'd always said I wasn‘t gOing to write a play to do with NOrthern Ireland: I didn't want it to define me as a writer.’ explains Ulster-born McCartney. “But I suppose I was still looking for a way to communicate certain things.‘

Set in the early 1900s. Heritage follows the story of Sarah. a young Protestant

immigrant and her third-generation Irish- Catholic lover. Michael. As well as telling the tale of two lovers torn apart by sectarian diVide. the play explores themes of personal identity and mythology. Michael's obsessed With all the stories his Irish grandmother's told him.‘ she says. ‘In Michael's imagination. histOry and myth get confused. He wants to go off and save Ireland. even thOugh he's a Canadian farmer IiVing miles away. he's looking for a cause.‘

McCartney is keen to explore sectarianism in a fresh context. breaking new artistic ground With the histOry of Irish-Canadian immigrants. ‘It began when a friend of mine told me a stOry aboot the barn-burnings in Ontario in the 1930s: at that time in Canada there were lots of feuds and a vague kind of movement. The barn-burnings were in fact sectarian. and I thought. there's a way of distanCing this situation through time and place and getting a whole new perspective' (Olly Lassmani


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Stage Whispers

Talk of the green room

THOSE INTERESTED IN launching into writing careers among you might want to drag yourselves along to the Nethertiow in Edinburgh mm the next tew weeks. Wrrter and academic Donald Campbell wall tit? lmtliiig a SUCCUSSIOI‘ of work shops on Writing for the theatre. Starting from basics weth a workshop titled Beginnings; on Friday ’2 March. Campbell Will discuss the genres and basic structures; of the theatre. On Iridays; for three weeks; after he WI” deliver a succession of further lectures on the subject. Opening up for disc‘i SSIOIT a succession of other subjects related to the creation of theatre serints. t‘lKlLlllIUS about the series. Wltll admis SIOIT of fit) ISVI corices SIOITSI. can be answered at the NCtllOlt)()W on 0131 556 95/9.

NO OFFICIAL CONFIRMATION has been received at the time of writing of the future of the Brunton Theatre Company. The company, which has produced some first- rate theatre over the last three years still has the threat of withdrawal of funding hanging over it. Rumour has it that the SAC will not step in if funding is withdrawn by the company's current financing body, East Lothian Council. This is surely an appalling state of affairs, given the shoestring budget of the company, and the SAC's capacity to fund projects of much less immediate worth outwith the theatre. We await a final announcement.