Stage Whispers

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KENNY IRELAND is leaving the Royal Lyceum with a bang, not a whimper. His parting shots at the kingpins of Scottish theatre will reverberate for months.

Words: Steve Cramer

he last time I interviewed Kenny Ireland. our

disagreement over Scotland's proposed

national theatre nearly ended in a brawl. I wonder. as he saunters into our old sparring ring. the Bltte Blazer pub. whether any interview could be so sensational again. Astonishingly. he tops it. This time Ireland is with me to talk about his last production as artistic director of the Royal Lyceum. Peter Arnott's The [frail/ring House. but our conversation moves on to the Scottish theatre and his cause celebre. the national. And this time. he doesn’t pull his punches.

First the play. The Bn'ullting House is a sprawling gothic epic. incorporating a panoply of Iidinburgh's Victorian history. A multifaceted story. it‘s partly about an arty early photographer who specialises in representations of working class women and whose experiences bring him to question illusion and reality. It refers to the notorious Stockbridge baby farm. and features two parallel love stories centring on a pair of working class women who must make careful choices in a repressive society. (‘ompleted last October. the play also includes. with uncanny prescience. a mighty conflagration in the (‘owgate. on the site of the (iilded Balloon.

I reach uneasily for my cigarettes as I go on to ask Ireland about the postponing of the national theatre. and we start into a nothing-to-Iose conversation which has me finishing the pack (with apologies to the lady who in last issue wrote a letter concerned about my health) within a half hour. "The two people who probably have the tnost power in Scottish theatre are Brian McMaster and Giles Havergal.’ says Ireland. referring to the artistic directors of the

62 TNE LIST 2-1 Ai‘!-—S Md, ALAS

‘I might just come back’

Never Kenny say goodbye

Iidinburgh International Festival and the (‘iti/ens' Theatre. Glasgow. ‘Both of them whether they did it together or not. I don't know —- came out violently in opposition to the Scottish national theatre. These were the people who were listened to. When Jack McConnell spoke about it. he wouldn't have used the phrase “infrastructure". unless he‘s been told.’

I’m about to put him back on the record. when he says. quite comfortably: ‘you can quote me if you want. Steve.‘ I light another cigarette. Lfnless I tell you otherwise. I’m always lighting another cigarette from this point on.

I ask him why he feels that McMaster would block a national theatre. ‘Why wouldn’t he want it'.’ Well. because the International Festival would have to deal with it. I can‘t get a serious debate. All I get from Brian McMaster is: “Well that's a bloody stupid idea."'

I point otit that McMaster and Ilavergal are not the only people opposed to a national theatre. and that many smaller-scale theatre people are equally sceptical. "I'here are people who have taken an anti-

establishment position for the sake of

it.‘ he says. ‘I hate people who do that it takes thought. and they're not

people are just protecting their own little patch.’

It's all got so heated. that I change the subject. and ask him how he‘d like his decade at the Lyceum to be remembered. ‘I want to be remembered as the king across the water. Bonnie Prince Charlie. And I might just come back.‘

At this point the big fellow's grin turns to a mighty chortle. and when Kenny Ireland laughs. there‘s a lot of him to have a good time. He settles. and continues. ‘No. I’d like to be remembered as someone who gave a lot of actors and directors a chance. And they made a good job of it! I‘ll miss the place like hell. but I‘m proud of what I‘ve done to turn the theatre round. and going now is the right thing to do.‘

The Breathing House, Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, Sat 26 Apr-Sat 17 May.

applying their brains to it. A lot of

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‘0' rewrtr, MEANWHILE, IF YOU WANT to see things from the other side of the footlights, the influential English company

Forced Entertainment is looking for ten volunteer


performers to help out with its latest piece, Voices by Tim Etchells. An epic

account, through many

narrative strands, of contemporary British experience. the piece looks potentially fascinating. Etchells will hold an

introductory session at

Tramway at 7pm on Monday 12 May. Enquiries can be

made to Steve Howie on

07812 145884.

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