Catherine-Ann MacPhee and Elizabeth MacLennan in .. aid Mhor from
In the year of John McGrath’s death, has the time for 7:84 passed? Words: Mary McKay
be news is that the artistic director and board of 7:84 Theatre (‘ompany have 'parted company". The difficulty for 7:84 is that it‘s no longer clear what it is for. The company was founded in the 7()s with a pioneering aim to present political theatre to a popular audience. liamously it toured 77W ('lit'i'inr. the Stag and the Blur/v. B/(lt'k ()i/ to the far-llung parts of Scotland. playing village halls. bars and barns with a play based on the ceilidh and tottching the heart of Scotland. But the single track roads that 7:84 explored have become highways carrying not only trucks delivering fresh croissants to villages that once never saw fresh milk. but also the vans of the 'l‘ravers‘e. TAG and Borderline. 7284's footprints have been trod by so many that the paths have had to be reinforced like the route up Ben l.awers. Similarly the popular theatre that 7:84 pioneered has become part of the standard Scottish repertoire. Plays written in various Scots dialects abound. The voices of Scottish playwrights are sought out by so many companies that they face a shortage of new writers. Surveys tell us that rural audiences are fed up with new work and long for a decent Shakespeare. Arthur Miller or Ayckbourn. ‘ , Political theatre has changed with the s a sad cultural landscape. The long but enjoyable for a
evening for John McGrath earlier this vear
reminded us why we admired 7:84’s earlier company work. but also why we stopped attending. used to L'nfortunately this seems to have affected tours in 7284‘s current work too: a recent survey response by a large theatre indicated that an 728-1 might expect to sell 220 tickets over a
two-night run. This is a sad position for a
company that used to sell whole tours in an afternoon.
An area where 7:84 might score is grassroots work in (ilasgow. where the company is based. It does good community work. such as a current project looking at mental health and a recent one focusing on domestic abuse. But these are social issues rather than political. and areas of work that many non- theatre organisations undertake. Last year it was left to the MacRobert from Stirling to do work with (ilasgow‘s young refugees 7 resulting in ('lu/i Asylum. Hanna/1 um! Ila/mu and lit/[ml l’ulun's. This was a real theatrical response to a political issue of the moment. Yet when we are facing a war with Iraq. 7284‘s present touring show. l'iu'rmjv (iir/s. and the planned production of Dario l‘o‘s (hit '1 Pay. Him 'I Pay are hardly tackling current issues head on.
Scotland needs political theatre as much as ever. and good political theatre springs. often oppositionally. from the circumstances of the day. Maybe the difficulty for 7:84 is that the weight of its past prevents it from being a vital expression of the present. It is difficult for a political theatre company to be a part of the establishment. .‘Vlany touring theatre companies have a finite life span. With the news about the company‘s artistic director coming soon after the death of the company‘s charismatic founder. John .\lc(irath. is it time for the board to call it a day and bring the company to a dignified end'.’
10 THE LIST (,2?
1 Game On
Art/Games The chance to play 120 games for a fiver should be enough to entice lovers of Pac-Man, Lara. Mario and Sonic into this videogame heaven. See feature. page 16. Royal Museum, Edinburgh.
2 All or Nothing
Film Mike Leigh returns to home territory after his G&S japes with this tragi-comic look at working class life in London starring Timothy Spall. See feature and review, pages 20 and 26. Selected release.
3 Queens of the Stone Age Music Dripping rock attitude. QOTSA are Black Sabbath hanging loose with the Stooges. Satanic rock made flesh for those bold enough to sample it. See preview. page 46. Barrow/and, Glasgow.
4 The Sopranos
TV Last we saw. Meadow mourned Jackie Aprile’s death by throwing bread rolls at Junior’s head. What lies ahead for the Soprano crew in series four? See review, page 101. E4.
5 Donnie Darko
Film Richard Kelly's enigmatic genre- bending cult movie mixes social satire of Reagan—era America with time travel. teen angst and an evil rabbit. See preview and review. pages 24 and 27. Selected release.
6 Metro Area
Clubs House heads the length and breadth of the country will flock to these nights from the electro collective who hate to be classified. See preview, page 75. CCA, Glasgow; Beat Jazz Basement, Edinburgh.
7 Al Murray
Comedy He won the Perrier in 99 with the Pub Landlord and appeared to call time on the live circuit. Murray's back to raise our comedy spirits. See preview. page 70. Pavilion, Glasgow.
8 Big Big World
Music Cuba, Israel and Senegal are among the countries represented in this year’s feast of international sounds. See preview, page 47. Various venues, Glasgow.
9 Umberto Eco
Books More medieval mayhem from the Name of the Rose scribe. Baudo/ino is his latest postmodernist epic. See review. page 104. Seeker & Warburg.
10 John Deakin
Art Deakin’s stark and uncompromising portraits of celebrities, writers and artists were ahead of their time as this exhibition of vintage prints proves. See preview, page 87. Dean Gallery, Edinburgh.