It’s ribald and racy, rampant and rude, rip-roaring and raring to go. Which is why IAIN HEGGIE’S Love Freaks is set to be the comedy hit of the summer. Words: Mark Fisher
be last play lain Heggie wrote was called Wiping My
Mother's Arse. It was staged at the Traverse in the
Edinburgh Fringe and it was one of those titles that ticket buyers would avoid repeating in full. [I had perfect shock value.
Imagine that kind of shock. not in the title. but in every line of a play. That‘s what Love Freaks is like. It‘s Heggie's new one and it‘s filthy. Not just filthy. but rude. crude. base. degenerate. foul. rank and obscene. And very. very funny. A typical exchange:
Jarvis: ‘Wee slag’s been totally trying to kiss my nob.‘
Britney: ‘No way would I kiss your cheesy wee nob. That's disgusting. Mean if your nob was a half decent size I’d just wipe yer cheese off first. then kiss it.’
What‘s thrilling about the script of Love Freaks. for all us seasoned Heggie watchers. is that it captures the linguistic drive that so marked out his early plays. He hit the scene in 1987 with A Wholly Healthy Glasgow. a comedy set in a seedy health club. Like the two plays that followed. Ameriean Bagpipes and Clyde N()l(\'(’(lll. it was characterised by language that was as fragmented as it was intense. a fearsome challenge to actors and a joy to audiences when the actors got it right.
In his subsequent plays and translations — among them An Et‘perienr'ed Woman Gives Arlt'iee. The King ()fS‘em/am/ and Don Juan — he's pushed his writing in a variety of entertaining directions. but none has had quite the swagger and vulgar pizzazz of Love Freaks.
My first encounter with the play was at a rehearsed reading last year at Glasgow‘s Tron Theatre performed by RSAMD students under Heggie‘s own direction. Technically. it‘s an adaptation of Double lneonstaney by Pierre Marivaux. but there’s little the 18th century French playwright would recognise in this ribald sex comedy set in the Ayrshire training centre of a coffee shop empire beset by anti-globalisation protestors and scheming schemies. Heggie has minted it afresh as only Heggie can.
The reading was a dazzling success: fast. ferocious and funny.
In the same audience was Graham liatough. artistic director of
Suspect Culture. who was equally smitten by the play. So smitten that he persuaded the Tron to let him direct it. ‘lt‘s a perfect script for me.‘ says Eatough. ‘l liken what lain does textually to what I try to achieve physically. We both take elements of the everyday — real movements. real ways that people speak — and heighten them. So I‘m very excited about it. The energy in the writing is quintessentially Heggie and it‘s so nide.‘
Heggie. in return. enthuses about Eatough: ‘He‘s got this fantastic creative energy that pours out of him constantly.‘ he says. All the same. Eatough is an unexpected choice. He‘s made his name directing the plays of David Greig in shows concerned with the elliptical. the vague. the ambiguous: quite unlike the in-your—face certainties of Heggie. 'It’s the opposite of David. actually.‘ says Eatough. ‘Because all lain‘s thinking is on the line. and all David‘s thinking is off the line. In David’s writing it‘s about what you don't say. I think it‘s great to have that kind of variety.‘
Sitting in a coffee shop round the corner from the RSAMD where he teaches. lleggic is analysing his own writing. ‘l'm rationalising my work here. but it's not created like that.‘ he
10 THE LIST 9—23 May 2002
Sheﬁdanthe capitalist and Helen Liddell the nationalist’
says. in person the picture of careful consideration. his answers meditative. precise and opinionated. nothing like the vulgar spontaneity of his characters ( ‘I can say the first thing that comes into my head and get away with it.‘ says one of them with pride).
So is there no level of depravity to which this clean—cut former gym instructor will not stoop‘.’ Did he not shock himself as he wrote it‘.’ ‘No.’ says Heggie without hesitation. “Being shocking is not hard for me to do. I just feel uncomfortable with myself when I‘m not doing that. I could be high-minded about it and say that‘s your job as an anist. You have a need to play with fire. so you play with it in the way you think is going to make an impact. You don’t think it. you just do it.‘
Really no qualms? Not even the gags about being shagged by your dad? ‘You walk about the streets of Glasgow and you hear all that and much more. so that just feeds your raw material.‘ he says. ‘I used to live in Dennistoun and you’d hear it coming in your window: “l‘ve shagged your mother." "Fuck" and "cunt" are not shocking to very many people any more. The boundary territory is moving into incest and underage sex. And if the audience feels it's coming from the character‘s own logic then it's much more acceptable.‘
The logic in this play is the ruthless impulse of sexual desire and capitalist gain. The heir to the Costly Coffee chain wants to get one of the assistant managers into bed. That means he has to lure her away from her cco-warrior boyfriend. persuade her out of her anti-capitalist principles and distract the boyfriend with another young woman. Much plotting. compromising and shagging ensues.
But isn't it unusual for a gay man such as Heggie to be so occupied with all this heterosexual carrying on‘.’ ‘Well. I‘m not.’ he says. ‘1 find sex funny. Desire takes people into amazing places. It takes them away from the rational. But the thing about gayness as a subject is that there‘s something inherently limiting about it. I don't like the idea of the gay play as a genre. I‘ve never been able to write like that. If I was to write a wholly gay play. I‘d have to ask myself. well. why would I be doing that'.’ Theatre that is only about that is ephemeral.‘
Rather. Heggie is concerned with the motivating forces that drive his characters to their actions. It‘s the contradictions and the conflicts that amuse him (‘I‘m interested in Tommy Sheridan the capitalist and Helen Liddell the nationalist: the hidden part of them.‘ he says) and if that makes his characters look stupid. then that‘s the way of the world. ‘I think we're all stupid.’ he says. ‘At a certain point in our lives we‘re all blind. Everybody uses their brains — some people have an intellectual face and some people don't — but we’re all blind to ourselves at different parts of our life. We have to be because we couldn't live with the truth about ourselves: potentially we'd rnoralise ourselves out of cxistence.‘
And that'd be totally freaky.
Love Freaks is at the Tron Theatre, Glasgow, Thu 16 May-Sat 1 Jun.