Is national rational?
In the same week, we’re being visited by the NATIONAL THEATRE and the RSC. Is that good enough or does Scotland need a national theatre of its own? ism». Steve Cramer
couldn't help but grin a little cynically. .-\s a l‘aceless underling of .Mike Watson. the Scottiin parliament‘s arts minister. mumbled her way through the Scottish Labour Party's long term and passionate commitment to the idea of a
Scottish national theatre. she seemed to stop just short ot‘
adding: ‘. . . it says here'. The statement. read out a lew weeks ago to a pretty empty Scottish parliament by Dr lilaine Murray. subbing for Watson who seemed disinclined to speak about the national theatre himself 7 had those ol' us Viewing from the public gallery rolling our eyes at each other. The debate. instigated by Robin Harper MSl’. leaturcd a succession of all-party Ml’s displaying an amusing ignorance with only the odd e\ception - of any notion ol' the theatre in Scotland at all.
.-\ slightly hysterical middle aged lady leapt up early on to defend the work of 7:84. which was touring Him 'I l’uy'.’ ('un'l l’uy'f’. apparently. by someone called l)ai‘ius l)el'oe tl think she meant (1m 'I Pay." ll'nn'l l’uy‘.’ by l)ario l-‘oi. .-\ lat \Veegie gee/er showed tip between pics to state that he had an iny‘oly'ement with youth theatre that seemed so yague I got the impression he passed the rehearsal room on the way to the boo/er ey'ery day. The roll call ol- passionate commitment by this crowd of blind careerists and timeseryers went on. one MSP after another claiming tojoin a jihad for a holy war they knew nothing of. for a yery local cause that might just as well have been on Mars. The depressing thing was how little homework thele bothered to do on it.
:\t the end of it all. Murray read out the statement of
20 THE LIST .‘ ’ '.lb:' ‘ »"~t'
commitment. which sounded aw l'ully like one ol those media comments by lootball boards proclaiming their lidclity to the manager on a losing streak btit who they ‘rc abotit to sack. Was I disappointed? .\'ot about the national theatre. Who needs it'.’ About the general lack ol' knowledge ol' the \aluable work. produced on a shoestring because ol' standstill binding by theatre companies all m er Scotland‘.’ ('ertainly.
.-\l‘ter long debate and much \ iolent disagreement. the idea of a Scottish national theatre appears to be. at best. on hold. Maybe that's a good thing. l~‘or a long time now. the slow strangling ol theatre in Scotland by its lunding bodies has gone on apace. Wildcat. (‘ommunicado. Raindog. the Hrunton 'l’heatre. l.ook()ut . . . the list ol closures goes on and on. .-\t a time when resources allocated to local companies were so limited as to make it impossible to produce real quality with any degree ol' frequency. the proposal to build a beautilul head on this w ithercd body seemed. l'rankly. to be taking the piss.
It's not that the idea. as proposed by the l-‘ST. wasn't the best model iii a bad bunch. The idea ol' a body with only a do/en or so employees that would commission out work to \arious Scottish companies. holding them lor premieres. touring shows and educational programmes. utilising such ideas as giant tents tor performances in places where there were no theatres. seemed lair enough. But ey en this was going to be funded to roughly the equal leyel ol' the rest of the Scottish theatre. It the money can be lound for such adventures. why not giye it directly to eyisting companies and start tip a l‘ew new ones'.’