off-course by the autonomous demands of his creations . . . always I prefer the unreliable. the
contradictory. Why did theatre come to think of itself
as a tool of the enlightenment'.’ It’s been disastrousf
You have frequently used historical events as metaphors for contemporary society. How important is historical metaphor to your work? Do you think that our society today is more ahistorical than past society?
Theatre is always best as metaphor. lts claims to truth are pitiful and nauseating. and the social-realist inclinations of so much of it seem to me ttgly habits. indeed decadent. The historical or mythical situation protects the drama from constant referencing to
contemporary events. it removes it from the idea of ‘relevance’. which is a kind of dramaturg‘s spasm. as if
theatre needed justifying by its social responsibility. But the linglish are moralists. they can‘t help themselves. moralists and utilitarians. To hear an artist bleating that his efforts ‘help society~ always seems to me simultaneously dishonest and grovelling. But I‘m getting off the point. Yes. history whatever that is provides a critical alteration. it frees the mind from its obsession with the news and worst of all. opinion . . .
Some critics have accused you of nihilism, in that your work identifies social evils, but offers little hope of an agenda with which to combat the issues raised. How do you react?
We have to get the social workers out of the theatre. and liberate it from the politicians. with their vapid agendas. The greatest drama is tragedy tragedy is immune from social work ideology despite what I hear coming out of the RS(‘. it is not about morality. only the linglish could humiliate a great art form by calling it moral. lt defies morality and invites pain. insoluble pain. From this pain the human spirit grows. It does not require infantile therapies. As for these charges of ‘nihilism‘ and ‘pessirnism'. they seem to me critical reflexes which simply have no place in theatre. btit the enlighteners always want to annexe art to their moral programmes. For me theatre is a dark place. full of illegality. where the dramatist. the actor and the public expose their sensibilities to dangerous revelation. l.et tne say that .S't't’m's‘ is not one of my tragic works. It costs the public rather little to see it. spiritually . . .
In much of your work issues of sexuality are closely linked to the political context in which characters find themselves. Is there an inevitable connection?
Yes. I write a great deal of the sexual encounter. between men and women. which I think of as the tnost terrible form of it. awesome. destructive. religious. It is there that my characters find both definition and death. (it'rll'llt/c Hum/('1. so far best expresses the fatal conclusion to the philosophic struggle that passion excites. And the ideological ('ascan. the servant. says in (icrlrmlt': 'Those who rttle tis hate one woman‘s womb even to be beyond their dispensation. The police are posted even there.‘ The state’s supervision of sexuality is no less intense now that it was a hundred years ago. So we are all promiscuous. That suits the contemporary system
The ('rv which is my appropriation of
‘THEATRE IS BEST AS A METAPHOR. ITS CLAIMS T0 TRUTH ARE PITIF UL AND NAUSEATING'
well. They are afraid of the power of the body. and commoditise it. making fucking casual. What is more. sex is deemed ridiculous. as pornography humiliates the body and above all. the secret of the body. (‘ontemporar'y morals and politics is about transparency. why'.’ Pornography is a metaphor for .vti/n'i't'ist'mi . . .
Your work has many admirers in this country, but it seems only infrequently staged. Why do you think it is so much more warmly received outside Britain? I’m also an admirer of Edward Bond’s work, and he, too seems to suffer from this form of exile from the British theatre mainstream. Are the issues with your work similar to those that Bond’s work presents?
The entire linglish tradition (not the Scottish tradition) is utilitarian and moralistic. There is no speculative character in linglish philosophy. for example. liverything is empirical. and has been since the Reformation. I am a speculative writer. and resist moral instruction. which I think humiliates the public. But it‘s what they like in lingland. .»\nd we mustn’t excuse the audience. either. They for the most part -r like to know where they are in a society which has such a suffocating consensus. they also have their vanity. just
opinions endorsed. It‘s narcissistic. unhealthily so . . . and I don‘t claim to want to alter all this. I only write what I have to. I don‘t crave a role in their lives. l‘ve nothing in common with Bond.
The most frequent complaint that I hear, when I raise your name to such people as theatre directors, is that it is uncommercial. Is it, or is the British theatre too limited in the kinds of audience it seeks to attract?
My work is uncommercial . . . why should it be commercial. it‘s art. il‘s ttol household goods. I’et'ltaps these directors who worry so rnttch about the audience should start worrying about the productions. think of the beauty of a thing first and its prolitablility second. Besides. don‘t they do sufficient ‘commercial’ theatre to indulge the ‘uncommercial’ once in a season'.’ It‘s an alibi. of course. But we mustn‘t generalisel There are those who honour theatre for itself who don‘t want to use it for something else who understand it is a necessity. who detect the sickness in the whole notion of entertainment.‘
What kinds of feelings and thoughts do you wish to have instilled in audiences when they leave productions of your plays?
Because I never ‘say‘ things in my drama. I don't want people to feel I have said something. and go away satisfied with the deal. But I don‘t intend to alienate or offend if that happens it‘s incidental. listen. you ask an artist to re-write the world. not to report it. that‘s a
job for journalists and Out of .loint Theatre. and what he
gives you is a vision. perhaps a painful one. without resolutions. 1 thank artists who do that. I trust only those. because they don't harp on about the truth.
I .S't't'm's/i'nnl um/ litt'i'ulinn is showing at Hum/cc Rep
from Tue .37xl/H' Sat 8 May. l’n't'it'uiv Sat 24 um/ Mon
as the actors do. they like their
Re: Tread/n9 the Boards
You can say what you like about theatre critics (and what a lot of people say is in no way repeatable here) but to say they aren’t passionately committed to the theatre is fighting talk to Whispers. The proof lies in the lively debate that preceded the award of last year’s presentation of the Critics Awards for Theatre in Scotland. You could’ve cut the air with a knife as threats of everything from resignation to strangulation, via an old- fashioned punch up the bracket, filled the air. And when the male critics got involved it was worse. Well, perhaps Whispers exaggerates, and he’s in no way permitted to divulge goings on at the awards lunch itself, but suffice to say, no one was just along for the tucker.
All of which leads me to this year’s CATS awards. The nominations lunch will be held on 8 May, and there have already been months of debate about what should win which award. Critics are not permitted to discuss shows before they’ve written, but in the weeks and months following significant openings, a wide range of ideological, aesthetic and technical opinions have been expressed in theatre foyers, bars and trains. Nominations for awards have not been finalised, so Whispers is in no position to drop you hints before their announcement, but I suppose it does no harm to speculate.
Such fringe hits as Those Eyes, That Mouth which boasted a splendid performance from Cait Davies, must stand a chance, while it’s hard to forget Fraser Ayres’ superb rendering of Nigel in Henry Adam’s The People Next Door. After the festival, we saw a splendid performance from Selina Boyack in 8,000m, while Dundee Rep produced a couple of brilliant designs, by Tom Piper and Neil Warmington respectively, for Twelfth Night and Dumbstruck. We’ve seen a grand adaptation of Louise Welsh’s The Cutting Room at the Citz and some superb ensemble acting from casts as varied as the Lyceum’s Six Black Candles and Top Giﬂs, also at the Citz. It’s all up for grabs. Watch this space.
15> .‘ti Apt 1%“: THE LIST 71