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Beset by threats to its funding, 7:84 has come back fighting with a promising new adaptation of Marxist comic Mark Steel’s book Reasons to be Cheerful.
Words: Steve Cramer
mad world. my masters. No sooner has politics become a hot subject for discussion. after 9/] l and a war fought on a spectacularly spurious pretext. than the Scottish Arts Council hangs a mighty threat over the core funding of the only
purpose-built political theatre company in Scotland. If
the famously left wing 7:84 should lose its core funding in 2005. there’s little chance that a bank will bail it out. so prospects for the company look grim.
After years of being forced to wade through a mire of postmodern relativity and absolute avoidance of
anything but the most oblique references to politics. 7:84 looks set to engage with cultural discourse with more relevance than at any time since the 80s. So is such a threat from the SAC ill—judged or something more sinister‘.’
Its current policy is to play Russian roulette with such quality touring companies as Grid Iron. TAG. 7:84 and Suspect Culture. promising the axe for one or more of these companies shortly. It‘s hard to guess the motives behind the declared desire to transfer a great wad of cash to children‘s theatre. for the Trollopian Bishop figures that play the labyrinthine politics of arts funding aren’t especially accessible. All the same. it seems strange to see such sudden interest in children by the SAC. which. tip until now. seems to have shown as much warmth to the little ankle biters as WC Fields. If the money does go to children‘s theatre. it‘ll be interesting to see how long it stays there. for I can‘t help but suspect that all
this is to do with saying a contingency fund for other
purposes. Technically. it surely couldn‘t be anything to do with the National Theatre. 'l‘echnically.
Mad politics. though. are the order of the day in the much underused Scottish writer Martin McArdie‘s adaptation of Mark Steel's recollectiye
64 THE LIST 19 Feb—A Mar 200/.
‘THERE'S NOTHING MORE FUNNY THAN PEOPLE TELLING “3'
book. This traces a group of left leaning people from their youthful idealism of the early 80s through the hardships of Thatcherism. via the poll tax. to the disappointments of a Blair government which appears to be made up of the militant right of the old Thatcher regime.
()K. we all know that (‘herie's got one and Tony is one. but Mark Steel‘s storytelling brings a liyeliness and humour to politics which should transfer well to the stage. The raconteurship of Steel is great fun to listen to. for he has a sure grasp of the humour of embarrassment. particularly when people tell lies. "There‘s nothing more funny than people telling lies. I was on Question Time on the day Saddam‘s statue came down. with the foreign office minister Mike 0’ Brien. who was asked by someone why. if Saddam had all these chemical weapons. hadn't he used them. The minister said “Well. he knew that if he had used them. the consequences would be very serious.’" We both laughed at the absurdity of this. yet the seriousness of such Through the Lookng Glass nonsense. its costs in life and liberty tends to pull one up a little short.
So are there reasons to be cheerful? Steel thinks so. ‘I hope people will find it a feelgood story. Not that it's that kind of saccharine sweetness of Hollywood feelgood stuff. I hate that sort of thing. But it's realistic about life. without getting you down.‘ And what expectations does he have of this version? ‘I don't mind. as long as they get the jokes right. They could all be in the Ku Klux Klan as far as I'm concerned. as long as it‘s funny.‘ We can be sure it will be.
Reasons to be Cheerful opens at the Paisley Arts Centre, Thu 5 Feb, then tours. See listings.
Retreaan the boards
There’s so much live performance on at the moment that Whispers must use his usual editorial space to let you know about even more theatre than is covered over the next few pages. For a start, there’s the exciting percussion of the Mugenkyo Taiko drummers. It’s not just the pounding rhythms of Europe’s only Taiko drummers that create excitement, but also their movement. You can see them at the Cottier in Glasgow on Friday 27th and Saturday 28th February. Further on in March, they’ll be reappearing at the Queens Hall in Edinburgh, with special guests the Hana Yui group, an acclaimed dance and voice trio, formerly of the world famous Kodo drummers. There is promised in these performers a blend of traditional Japanese forms and more contemporary influences. Look out for this event in our listings section.
At the Traverse, the excellent ATC returns with its production of Simon Stephens’ One Minute. You might have caught this show at the Tron last year. If not. you’re in for a treat. The unsensationalised but compelling story of a child who goes missing, and the stress this creates for both the family and surrounding community is well worth a look. Don't expect any of the cheap tabloid sentimentalism of something like the Soham case — this is a quietly compelling piece of character study. It examines the same tragic event from the different points of view of five characters. from parent, to policeman to witness, each with a share in the pain and confusion. You can see it from 3rd until 6th of March.
You can also catch a production of Caryl Churchill’s Mad Forest at the Gateway. This production, directed by seasoned professional Nick Bone and incorporating the skilled acting students of QMUC, brings a human dimension to the fall of the Ceausescu regime in Rumania of 1989. It’s a rare, far too rare, treat to see the work of Churchill on Scottish stages, so along with the Top Girls at the Citz, you can create your own mini-Churchill festival. It runs until 21 st February.
ATC’s One Minute