Kenny’s ire land
He’s in his last year at the Royal Lyceum, is about to stage Howard Barker’s Victory and is passionate about a Scottish national theatre. But most of all, KENNY IRELAND enjoys a good rammy.
Words: Steve Cramer
’ m watching his right hand. It is bailed and I can‘t see if it has rings on it. We are in a tight
corner of the Blue Blazer near the Royal Lyceum. I ﬁgure if he swings for me he‘ll never get a clean shot. but I can land a straightish right uppercut on his chin without much backlift. I look at the table. taking my eyes off him. perhaps unw'isely. for a second. From this angle the table will have to go, but I ﬁgure I might just catch my tape recorder as the two pint glasses. half full ashtray and Kenny Ireland go down.
‘Who cares what you think‘?’. he snarls truculently. as his face purples with rage. I sense the pub quieten around us as eyes shift to the two big blokes crammed into the corner table by the door. There is a pause, as I wonder if he can tag with his left. then we keep talking, and the crisis passes.
Another day in the life of a theatre critic? Hardly. but Ireland is not just another artistic director. Strangely. I don‘t resent him at all for this Chandleresque encounter. He’s put a lot of energy and emotion into the idea of a Scottish national theatre and the sceptical critic before him is clearly pissing against his front door. Having announced that he won’t be renewing his contract with the Royal
Kenny Ireland: Passionately committed to the National Theatre
‘I don’t want to batter my head against a brick wall for something people don’t want’
Lyceum. it seemed natural to ask if he would accept the post of artistic director of a national. if offered.
His first answer is intriguing. but not really an answer. ‘One of the reasons I‘m leaving the job here. which I love. is that in an underfunded culture you find yourself guarding your territory and fighting for every inch in a way that is very debilitating to artists.‘ he says. ‘As to the national theatre. I've done my bit about putting it on the agenda. I‘ve done my bit about giving them a model that would work. but I‘m afraid there has to be a little bit of movement to make me believe people want it. There‘s a lot of resentment about it even within the profession. I don‘t want to batter my head against a brick wall for something people don't want.‘
At this point I voice my own reservations and things go a bit Jim McLean. After the crisis passes. we have rather a laugh and I have the peculiar feeling that you can feel both hostility and fraternity in your heart for Ireland in the course of a single evening.
He‘s with me to talk about Victory. Howard Barker‘s deeply metaphorical drama. set immediately after the English restoration. In it. a widow seeks the pieces of her husband's executed body in an atmosphere of fear. score- settling and rampant ideology. Barker‘s work is often seen as difficult. but Ireland‘s experience in the author‘s own company. the Wrestling School. with which he was involved for two acclaimed productions. stands him in good stead. ‘We found ways through music. and movement to make the language work.‘ he says. ‘It‘s really a terrific play.’ And on that. we both agree.
I return to the question of whether he'd accept the job at the national. if offered. and he eyes the tape recorder on the table as if it were a coiled snake. Finally. he replies quietly and carefully. ‘I’d think about it. But I'm not conceited enough to think anyone would offer it to me.‘
We both grin. And that. as we say in journalism. is Not A Denial.
Victory is at the Royal Lyceum from Fri 25 Apr until Sat 18 May.
SO PACKED WITH goodies is the current season that Whispers can’t help but add a couple of previews in our editorial space. From Ireland comes Guna Nua’s Scenes From A Watercooler, a big success on last year’s Dublin fringe. Subtitled ‘A play about men and the shite they talk’, the piece, co-written and directed by David Parnell and Paul Meade, looks at the factional rivalries between three men sharing an office, any one of whom might be promoted. The play comes from Dublin with a reputation for biting satirical comedy and sharp observation of modern male manners. If the critical and audience response from Ireland is anything to go by, you’ll need to be getting yourself out for a ticket in advance, to be sure, to be sure. It goes up at the Tron on Tuesday 30 April and runs until Saturday 4 May.
Boy Gets Girl
ALSO IN GLASGOW. the fast- improving Rapture Theatre will be presenting another Scottish premiere of a recent American play. Rebecca Gillman‘s Boy Gets Girl tells the stOry of a New York jOurnaIist who finds that a blind date is a dodgy proposition. She becomes the victim of a stalker, who makes her life a hell on earth. Its English premiere saw it nominated for an Olivier award last year. so there's plenty of promise attached to this taut thriller. Michael Emans will direct. and the play opens on Saturday 4 May. and runs until Saturday 1 1 May at the Cottier.
2:3 Apr—9 May 2002 THE LIST 61