The Scottish National Theatre is born this year but will this spell the end for experimental theatre? Words: Steve Cramer

ormally, at this time. I'd be recommending the must-see show of the coming year. And 2004's no exception. except the show isn’t so much a play as an event of historic significance. After years of debate and counter-debate. last year‘s parliamentary underspend has effectively created the conditions for a National Theatre. The official go- ahead has been given, and a chairman appointed in the person of Richard Findlay. the head of a Scottish media conglomerate. At some time in the spring. Findlay will announce the artistic director of this body, and though we are unlikely to see a full scale production in 2004. we’ll learn a great deal more about the scope and artistic vision of the new body.

Kenny Ireland. former artistic director of the Lyceum, who was appointed to that post by Findlay. looks the favourite to take over the new role. given his long term association with the chairman. The debate that takes place over the coming year will certainly shape the long term future of the theatre in general. Sh0uld the National be a heritage-oriented organisation, reviving Scottish classics. a facilitator of new writing. a theatre working on small or large scale. a facilitator of

shares with us his sensory Iongings and predictions for the year ahead

K Smell ‘o’ vision! This is the year, folks; it’s happening. I can feel it in me waters (I want me a good whiff of that Linda Barker lady).!

international work? All these questions need to be answered. Primarily, we might be concerned. though. about small scale and experimental theatre. Nationals. by their nature. tend to avoid this kind of work. instead seeking out so-called prestige projects. We might all be concerned about this. given the creativity of Scotland‘s vivid small scale experimental scene.

David Mark Thompson

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16 TH! LIST 8—22 Jan 2004

Beyond this. it looks like the year of John Byrne. The revival of the entire Slab Boys trilogy at the Traverse. ongoing as you read this, will be followed in March by Uncle Varick. his Scots version of Uncle Vanya. at the Lyceum in February. The planned fourth part of the Slab Boys is also due for delivery at the Traverse in the Spring. althOugh whether we'll actually see it on a Scottish stage in the coming year is yet to be confirmed. This will be followed by Des Dillon's Six Black Candles. a second new play at the Lyceum in David Mark Thompson's first season as artistic director an encouraging start for new writing.

Over at the Citizens'. there's also the promise of new work. Zinnie Harris. who has distinguished herself as a

director over the last couple of years. will return to the trade for which she won so much acclaim with her fringe 2000 hit Further Than the Furthest Thing. Her new play. Nightingale and Chase. is a drama of families separated by prison, but we're promised a few departures from the normal naturalist fare. so don't expect any Cell Block H. Along with the worthy revival of Caryl Churchill's Top Girls. one of the most powerful examinations of career women of the last quarter century. this looks a strong programme.

On the commercial side. late January sees the King‘s Edinburgh and Glasgow hosting the Boy George musical Taboo. with Mark Little among the leads. This piece has created enough of a stir in London to be worth a watch on its first tour. A more local tour will be the beleaguered 7:84 '5 Reasons to Be Cheerful. which will tour extensively in spring. This adaptation of Mark Steel's novel of the lives of left wing activists surviving the Thatcher/Blair years might have much to say to audiences in the Current political climate. Hopefully it will also speak volumes to the Scottish Arts Council. whose threat to this company's funding seems inappropriate at a time when political theatre is more needed than it has been for two decades.

Broadcaster Mark Cousins gives us a glimpse into his cinematic fantasies for the next 12 months

l hope that Ian Paisley doesn’t ruin Northern Ireland in 2004, that Khatami wins out over Khamenei in Iran and that Orson Welles comes back from the dead and asks me to travel the world with him, making films. Which is most likely?