Child at heart

Steve Cramer talks to Douglas Maxwell about Childhood, adolescence and his new

play The Mother Ship

t‘s a hit like heing at the controls ol' a iumho jet

alter l'our pints at lunchtime. It‘s e\hilarating httt

terril‘)ing.‘ Douglas .\la.\well is emplo}ing a t_\‘pica||_\ \‘ix'id metaphor for entering into fatherhood. With a child of three months recentl) arrixing ehe/ Maxwell. it might well he the time lot“ this l'requent commentator on themes ol‘ childhood and adolescence to return to familiar ground.

Maxwell‘s new pla}. hrought l'rom Birmingham Rep to his Scottish home territor}. returns to a l‘amiliar emotional heartland in mapping the iourne} tron] ho_\ to man (his adolescents are seldom l‘emalel. 'l‘his rite of passage is alluded to in a succession ol‘ his most warml} recei\ ed pla_\s. l‘rom ()ur lim/ .tltreiit'l. through Dec/tr How u Bronco and on to Helmet. His new piece l'ocuses on a _\oung man who is suddenl} confronted with the disappearance oi his kid hrother. who was disahled alter a near-drowning in earl} childhood.

.\la\well takes up the stor_\: 'lilliot. the central character knows how cruel other kids can he. so rather than heing seen as less than human. he tells his brother that he's not human at all. that while he was underwater. some aliens swapped him. and that he has special powers.‘

This tall tale takes on the status ot tn}th. with lilliot comincing his hrother that hell he picked up h_\ the mother ship later. .\la\well continues: "l‘ime passes. and the disabled hrother lea\ es a message with their stepmother saying the mother ship is coming hack. He then disappears.~ .-\dd to the ensuing search a pregnant stepmother. her partner and a d}sl‘unctional

policeman. and )ou lime a recipe tor a winning coined}.

Yet. the audience .\la\well‘s plat} is lacing can he demanding. Birmingham Rep commissioned this pla_\ as a slot} that would tour schools. Does he haxe trepidations ahotit this group'.’ '\\’ell. it‘s not a pla_\ that‘s/mi l'or teenagers. I'm thinking ol~ it as heing like a “l’(i" or a "II" in l'ilms: it‘s a plat} lor e\er_\one. httt teenagers can come along‘. he says. ‘.-\II the same. i was attracted to it. hecause it‘s a no hullshit audience. ill the} don‘t like it. that audience will shout out: "This is ruhhish." ll thevre not enjo)ing it. tlie_\'ll lidget. put the mohile on. and so on. lt‘\ not like till older audience. where ill tlte_\'t‘e not liking it. the} ‘II sit quietl} and think ahout se\. or wish the} were at home watching The Sopranos. ;\ teenage audience will e\pect to he entertained l'rom the kick-oil. Lilltl tllc)‘ll let )otl know iii the} thillil like it.'

But what is it ahotit Maxwell's work that hrings him hack again and again to the l'ormatixe )c'zti's of )oung

adults‘.’ ‘l think most writers ha\e their own Piece ol

turl that the} consider their own. and go hack to. With great writers. this can he a whole lield in in} case l'\e got a little tin_\ piece ol' real estate that I call in} own. You don't want to he there all _\our lil'e. \er} ol'ten )ou go aw a} l'rom it. In in} case l‘xe written a lot ol~ other work tltatK gone awa} li'om it. httt it‘s so nice to come hack.‘

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Tue 25-Sat 29 Mar.

LIST >l<


* The Wall Delightful entertainment with a thoughtful tinge is provided by DC Jackson‘s piece about growing up in Stewarton. In it, Barry endures the rigours of love. pain and the whole damn thing, and things aren't so easy for his sister, his rough mate or his putative girlfriend. either. See page 90. Thu 13 Mar, Falkirk Town Hall, then touring.

* The Mother Ship More of the growing pains of adolescence are promised in Douglas Maxwell's comedy/drama. In it, 18 year- old Elliot is faced with the disappearance of his disabled kid brother and a chase begins. See left. Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Tue 25-Sat 29 Mar * Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea The return of 1927's acclaimed fringe hit should pull a healthy audience. A bizarre fairy tale like piece of visual theatre for grown-ups. this piece has an intriguing gothic feel. See page 88. Arches, Glasgow. Tue

1 7 ~Thu 73 Mar

* Vanity Fair Declan Donnellan’s version of Thackeray's classic novel promises a night of strong drama and contrasting dark comedy. Tony Cownie’s production promises a night of thoughtful entertainment. See page 88. Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, Fri 14 Mar-Sat 72 Apr

* The Unconquered Stellar Quines’ production sees the return of the CATS Best New Writing Award winner for 2007. Torben Betts’ play is a challenging piece of Agit Prop with much to say about the politics of colonialism. See page 89. The Caves, Edinburgh, Wed 72-Sat 14 Mar.

‘1 ./ ' ’.‘v:' .” THE LIST 87