After his meeting with Daniela Nardini, leading in a revival of Caryl Churchill’s modern classic about women in power, we wonder whether our theatre editor should be tethered to his desk.
Words: Steve Cramer
he was ﬂirting. ()r I think she was. it was great! There's nothing like a good flirt with someone. You just have to acknowledge something between you. Nothing need happen. no promises are made. it‘s affirmation without obligation. All the same. it tends to shift the power balance a bit in the classic interviewer/interviewec situation. Daniela Nardini and I had been discussing her performance in Camille. which toured to Scotland from London last year. Nardini related that she felt criticised for her physical appearance in the role. 1 wondered how many women. or gay men. had written such reviews. but kept this to myself. and volunteered. shyly but honestly. that I‘d thought she'd looked pretty damn good. She iggled. then stopped. then her yes and her smile widened. Thank you.’ she said in that cool velvet voice. very simply. but with a look of unmistakable appreciation. i tried to look collected. difficult in the circumstances. as I felt as if I’d been very pleasantly goosed. But as I leaned back in my chair it gave a mighty cracking sound under my weight. l‘m not sure if the feeling of my life passing before me came from the imminent danger of crashing to the floor. or that look. Whatever the reason. I confess I felt pleasantly flustered. and the interview was Nardini's. not mine. from then on.
lronic. I suppose. that we’d met in the upstairs bar of
the Citizens‘ theatre to discuss a seminal feminist test. Caryl Churchill‘s 'I’up (iir/s. But Nardini contends that the term feminist is no longer as relevant to the play. if it ever was. (‘hurchill's
several great women from history. and goes on to explore the life of a modern woman. Marlene. a successful career woman of ruthless ambition. who has family secrets of her own. Written in NM. the play is often seen as an attempt by (‘hurchill to come to terms with Margaret Thatcher.
‘Margarct Thatcher is almost one of the characters] says Nardini. "l‘he idea of powerful women who could beat men to the top jobs was very much of that time. but it‘s interesting how very little has changed over the last 2() years or so. It‘s almost as if the difference is that these days people won‘t accept what’s obvious. that for a woman to make it
into these places. she has to make sacrifices with her
children. her partner and so on. In this way. it has more to say..
64 THE LIST 55- TE? F (El) 21):):
'MARGARET THATCHER IS
text sees a fantasy meeting of THE CHARACTERS'
But how has the so-called ‘girl power~ revolution affected these attitudes? Nardini has her own reflections. relating them to the time when she played Anna in This Lilia ‘When I started doing publicity. l was careful what I did. I had magazines like (:‘Q asking me. quite literally. to get my kit off. I held back from that [just don‘t think you have to do that to be appreciated as an actress. These days. I see (‘hristina Aguilera in a mini skirt where you can see her knickers. and when men whistle at her from a building site. she says "l’uck You”. Well what exactly does she expect‘.’ It‘s like taking your clothes off. but saying "don‘t look at me like a sexual object". I know perfectly well if I wear a low top and a plunging bra the effect I'm going to have. i choose when I do it. and I can get the looks when I want them.’
I can well believe it. i say my goodbyes and walk off into the cold of the (iorbals. I put on my walkman. finding it in the middle of (‘het Baker's trumpet solo in ‘lsn‘t it Romantic". I notice l‘m getting some odd looks from passers by as l cross the (‘Iyde. Only then do i realise I‘m still smiling. (iod bless flirting.
Top Girls is at the Citizens’ theatre, Glasgow from Thu 5 to Sat 28 Feb
Re Tread/‘ng the Boards
80. WHAT‘S THE DIFFERENCE between children and young people? Difficult to say. Whispers supposes. though the government. if the experience of TAG is anything to go by. has its own Opinions. Recent announcements by the SAC seem to have imbibed the government line in a quite specific manner. Theatre. it tells us. should be for children too. This wondrous statement of the obvious was followed with the usual threat to the funding of some of Scotland's leading core-funded companies. With the talents of such companies as Grid Iron, Suspect Culture and 7:84 now threatened by a reOrientation of funding toward children's theatre. Whispers is made to look like Thatcher the milk snafcher if he complains. yet complain he will. For there are clearly other agendas below this decision. Whispers might seem to be always moaning on about the SAC. but it's really against his nature. If only it'd attempt to safeguard our better companies. Whispers would be as pliant and supine as a Hutton.
Can‘t existing companies. with strong skills bases. be trusted to move toward children's theatre? Certainly Grid lron's next piece looks geared to younger audiences. while Suspect Culture and 7:84 are both companies with extensive Outreach programmes on record. so why threaten them? Maybe TAG. whose artistic director. Emily Gray. lasted only a few weeks in her new post before the attack on this noted y0ung peOpIe’s company caused her resignation. c0uld provide the answer.
For TAG. a company with decades of experience of bringing accessible and engaging work to younger audiences. has obviously been doing the wrong thing. At some point. we really must ask the first minister when children become young people. and then become part of the dreaded 'ned culture‘. Presumably these are the people who need to be deprived of theatre. not that that will do anything but encourage the combination of idleness and raging hormones that's at the heart of this alleged problem. but still . . . Whispers will be hanging out at the corner by the Traverse. with a bunch of other middle-aged theatre critics in Burberry hats. until an answer is provided.
Molly lnnes in TAG’s Good Woman of Sechzuan