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Steve Cramer talks to LOUISE WELSH about her new play, which parallels our

own times with those of World War I.

ony Blair. if the Labour Party conference is to

be believed. intends to go on and on.

ostensibly to ‘secure his place in history‘. He seems to feel that the longer he continues. the less likely we are to remember Iraq. a paradox. since the situation there is ongoing. and becoming worse by the day. For all the misfortune of having to abide this right wing fanatic for yet longer. it does tell us something about history. and not just the old truism about the history of wars being written by their winners. There are also aspects of history that the authorities want to gloss over or obfuscate.

One such hidden history. of considerable relevance to our own time. is explored in Louise Welsh's new lunchtime play at ()ran Mor. Welsh's propensity for uncovering histories that those in power would prefer to remain beyond our ken has been demonstrated in The Cutting Room and 'liunln'rluinc Must Die. and this new piece looks set to expose another forgotten episode. In the latter part of World War I. a Conservative MP with an eye for the main chance. Hugh Pemberton Billings. 'revealed‘ to parliament a plot to undermine the British war effort through the spread of homosexuality through the ranks of the army. lle pinned much of the blame on an obscure theatre actress. and enlisted the assistance of Lord Alfred Douglas. the former lover of Oscar Wilde. now a pillar of the reactionary establishment. in publicising his cause.

It was a time when paranoia and fear among the public was very much to the advantage of the powers that be. and Welsh sees a striking parallel to contemporary times. ‘I was concerned by our being constantly directed to this enemy within. You know.

that idea that if you see a dark complexioned young man with a rucksack. do keep your eye on him.‘ she explains. ‘There‘s this message under the text that there are these people among us who are no good. and they‘re undermining society and our war effort. There‘s also this idea of war being good for people. that we‘ll come out better for it. In these situations. you create the circumstances where you can put through all sorts of unhealthy legislation. In the First World War. parliament put through the Defence of the Realm act. which has been in place ever since. You can see the same thing happening now. The generals and politicians who say we‘ll light to the bitter end are always a distance away from the action. tip on some hill watching. I think people will recognise this history today in their own lives.‘

But her story. which represents Douglas. Billings and a third. younger man whose significance will emerge to the audience later. is as much about humour as historical commentary. ‘When you’re doing historical subject. you want to intrigue and

entertain: I want it to be funny. There‘s even a bit of

singing.. Technically. there‘s something intelligent but inclusive about Welsh‘s work. and she explains that much of this emerges from her simple desire not to patronise audiences. 'lt's a combination of gritty realism and the fantastical. I think Scottish readers are very aware of that. We‘ve got very intelligent readers and audiences in Scotland. there‘s no need to talk down to them.. History with songs'.’ (‘ould you want for more'.’

The Importance of Being Afred, Oran Mor, Glasgow, Mon 17—Sat 22 Oct





3|! My Old Man Tom McGrath’s new play questions attitudes to the elderly without positing easy answers. The deep mythic resonances and humour of this story of an old man who foists himself on the household of his long since abandoned daughter are both moving and ironic. Brunton, Edinburgh, Sat 8 Oct; touring. 3|: The Importance of Being Alfred Louise Welsh’s new lunchtime play looks set to both entertain and provide plenty of insight into contemporary sources of public paranoia. Set in the latter days of World War l, the play examines an “enemy within' myth put about by a Conservative MP and the ageing Lord Alfred Douglas. Oran Mor, Glasgow, Mon 17—Sat 22 Oct.

* Big Baby Visible Fictions' new piece creates an outlandish scenario ahead of what looks like an intriguing metaphor about our social culture. Featuring the world’s most gifted baby. who reaches the stage of genius within a few days. Brendan Murray’s new play looks like an allegory for our times. Gilmorehill, Glasgow, Tue ll—Wed 72 Oct; touring. * Half Llfe John Mighton's piece, a follow up at the Tron to Possible Worlds, shows the alarming effect on their middle- aged children of two octogenarian people starting a romance in their nursing home. Mighton’s work is much acclaimed in his native Canada, so this could be one to watch. Tron, Glasgow, Fri 14— Sat 22 Oct.

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