The poet laureate of the chemical generation has mutated into the Sondheim of the post-Ibiza chillout. But never fear, says IRVINE WELSH, his first venture into vaudeville is as twisted as ever. Words: Steve Cramer

rvine Welsli has written a tnusical. And inst when you thought

he couldn't shock you again. Yep. come to the cabar-li old

chum. for a conventional musical with an. admittedly. unorthodox subject matter.

The very idea sets your mind racing. Imagine those much loved Broadway songs of the 50s combined with Welsh‘s drugs. sex and booze generation. ‘l‘m (ionna Wash That Man Right Out Of My Hair" takes on ttew and disturbing sexual resonance and every other classic tnetatnorphoses before your eyes. Once I Had A Secret Staslf . . . ‘livery Time We Say (ioodbye l-bi/a A Little. . . . ‘I Feel Shitty. Oh So Shitty" . . .

Enough nervous reflection. it was time for the meeting of The King And [5. I mean. I.

As it turns out Welsh is as mild a natured man as youd wish to chat to. I‘d even call him. ahem. chilled. And underneath. there‘s a formidable intellect. Through a large cast of students from Edinburgh’s Queen Margaret l'niversity‘ (‘ollege acting academy. Welsh is set to change Soul/t I’m-{fir to north Atlantic. and not just through his plays seaside location and title. Black/mu].

‘The girls are very demure at first, but after a few pints it’s: getyourcocks outforthe Iassies’


The story of its gestation is as lascinating as the play itself. ‘I wrote B/(lt‘kpuu/ in three days at a hotel in Birmingham] he says. “fhe place was full of scientologists there for a convention: it was a total nightmare. I went on to Manchester. where I got totally drunk at the airport. I was going to a wedding in Win. and somewhere between Manchester and Ibiza I lost my laptop. with the musical on it. I had to do a new draft from memory and the memory isn‘t too good alter a week in lbi/a.~

But it came together and. in cotnbination with legendary composer Vic (ioddard the of Vic (ioddard And The Subway Sect. the kind of neglected new wave act that only a Welsh could champion) and director Harry (libson (Welsh’s long-term collaborator in such theatrical ventures as 'li'uins/mllmg. )im'l/ Hare Had Your [Io/v. l'f/I/I and tnost recently. (i/m'). it all looks very promising.

Welsh calls Black/mu] 'a twisted love story '. Set in IUSS. it's about a teenage couple on the run front Scotland meeting a footballer. a wastrel who is also Scotland's second best goalkeeper. It‘d be interesting. but sadly libellous to speculate about who this might be in real life. but whoever he is. he takes them on a boom and drugs orgy that includes two prostitutes. ()ne of these dies or seems to 7- and the remaining four are panicked into precipitous action with her body. The play then transforms into the present day. and we see the young girl as a Labour MP. the boy as a travelling salesman. the keeper as a wasted ne'er do well. and the surviving hooker as a Blackpool landlady. All are called back for a fateful meeting.

Within this. Welsh takes the opportunity for social comment. ‘The British see places like lbi/a and the (‘aribbean as vast lieshpots that corrupt our young people; you can see that through shows like Ibiza (,Vu'ut'crt'rl and ('m‘ri/n'mt I 'm-nwrwl But that's actually quite racist. We like to think that these foreigners are corrupting our young. but you only need to go to a high street in Britain. and especially Blackpool. to be in among it. It‘s a stags

16 THE LIST '-'- 9'", i M. ./ ..

and hens destination. 'l'here's the boys in their replica football shirts and the girls being very demure at first. but then after a few pints it's: "(let your cocks out for the lassies." liveryone turns into a drunken shagnieister.’

'l’he metaphor for a decadent Britain is clear and very much Welsh’s patch. lle's attracted by the resort‘s political ironies. ‘Well. Blackpool was not just a pleasure centre. it was also a political centre.‘ he says. "l’he Labour Party ttsed to have its conference there. though it considers itself as too up market for that these days. But the itttagc of these politicians inside the conference centre. making big decisions about the country. and the young people outside. not giving a fttck unless the duty is raised on cigarettes and boo/e. stays with me. It's instructive about what we call democracy.’

The lint/Iv l'iu'r eletnent is clear and Welsh imagines it on an epic scale. ‘I want to bring in big theatrical traditions like Brecht and vaudevillef he says. 'Musicals aren't real. they work iti caricatures and I want to take that to extremes. I've never been a realist and the eletnent of fantasy and the hypereal is important. Also. you've got to do it on a big scale and the (iateway. with a big student cast. allows us to do this on a scale we couldn't on any other stage in Scotland. And Vic (ioddard has given me the big. catnp. cheesy vaudeville style I want. I said to him that the title song could be released as a single.’

()n his next novel. Purim. he can’t be drawn. since he’s mid rewrites. but it. like Glue and Black/mm. draws on the innocence and experience of young people returning after many years to their youth. this time through the characters. a decade on. of ’li'uins/mlting. lts previously announced publication date of May is more likely to be August. By the end of our conversation. I surprised myself by feeling a kind of empathy with him.

Blackpool is at the Gateway Theatre, Edinburgh, Tue 19 Feb—Sat 2 Mar.