GOD’S NEW FROCK Tron Theatre. Glasgow, Wed 12—Sat 15 Mar, then touring

When I meet my colleague John Clifford over a swift lager at the Traverse, he’s wearing big earrings and the hint of perfume. More of that later. The author of the legendary Losing Venice, and a succession of hits from the mid-80$ onwards, Clifford was, as so many writers of talent have been, abruptly abandoned by the Scottish theatre a decade ago for no discernible reason. Among the top rank of Scottish writers, he has continued to work outside Scotland, with such memorable productions as Life is a Dream and the opera Ines de Castro occasionally resurfacing at Edinburgh International Festivals over the last decade.

What’s his explanation? ‘So much of recent theatre is about the author's own distress, impotence, and helplessness, and that makes the audience feel helpless,‘ he says. ‘That kind of despair is profoundly reactionary, and artists who perpetuate that tend to be praised by the establishment, because that is what‘s in the establishment’s interest. I say the artist has a moral responsibility to produce drama that is good for people, not bad for them. That’s a very old fashioned view.‘

Our immediate purpose is to discuss his latest one-man show, God’s New Frock, which is about to enjoy a full-scale production at the Tron and the Traverse. Its discussion of male gender and identity suggests biographical content - not least because Clifford is in the starring role. ‘I went to a particularly brutal boarding school and the only thing I really enjoyed was acting in school plays,’ he says. ‘It was an all- boy school, and l invariably got a girl's part, which I really enjoyed doing. When I thought about this after, I felt really frightened and ashamed. It kept me away from the theatre

until I was in my mid-30$} , Now, Clifford can see a bigger, political purpose. ‘Everyone I i

is a mixture of genders,’ he says. ‘We all, men and women, , I, .. have male and female sides. Boys particularly, are brought up 1 .' 7

to repress a crucial side of themselves. If you look at what 2

outdated views of manhood are doing now, you only need to V

see Blair and Bush. Blair went to a public school like mine, /" and that has a lot to do with the crisis we're in.’ As well as God’s New Frock, on 25 March at the Traverse, . there will also be a reading of Losing Venice, Clifford's " I exuberant anti-naturalistic attack on British post-imperial ‘, delusions, which used the decline of the Spanish empire as a political metaphor. He maintains that the imperial delusion is

at the heart of Britain’s contemporary reputation as Europe‘s

chief warmonger. Clifford, former Traverse artistic director

Ian Brown and I will participate in a post-show discussion.

(Steve Cramer)



Tron Theatre, Glasgow, Tue 11~Sat 15 Mar, then touring.

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52 THE LIST Fee '5 .".':.l' .‘

Stage Whispers

Re: Tread/rig the boards


James Brining, now at Dundee Rep

IT’S NICE TO THINK that folk find The List compelling reading, though a young woman at the Citizens’ theatre last weekend seems to have taken her admiration too far. A little bird tells me that the lady found Stewart Porter’s dynamic performance in The Fever less compelling than either Whispers or most of the show‘s public. In the small stalls studio, she persisted in reading a copy of The List, even after Porter began directing long sections of his monologue directly at her. Eventually, his patience snapped and he walked across the space, removed the magazine from her and hurled it at the exit, instructing the woman to follow it. Quite right, says Whispers. It’s a fine show performed by a fine actor, and that sort of ostentatious rudeness indicates that the perpetrator might well have frustrated theatrical ambitions of her own. Well done, Mr Porter.