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Returning hero

Playwright Simon Macallum tells Mark Fisher how Billy Mackenzie opened up a world of possibility with The Associates

oday we associate Dundee with the

enterprising work of Dundee Rep's ensemble.

the world-class art at [)(‘A and the tourist attractions of the (‘ity of Discovery. It‘s a place the Victoria and Albert Museum can consider setting tip a northerly outpost without fear of ridicule. But not so long ago such ideas would have been preposteroUs in this town of jute. jam and journalism.

This is the Dundee that Simon Macallum recalls lrom his childhood. The actor-turned-p|aywright remembers it as a hit of a ‘joke tow'n'. liven now. he points out. Stirling has a monument to William Wallace where Dundee has a statue ol‘ Desperate Dan. ‘\\'hen l was growing tip there were no heroes l‘rom Dundee.‘ he says. admitting to having l'elt ashamed when people asked him where he was from. ‘lispecially in the l‘)t\’l)s. it seemed such a godt‘orsaken place.‘

Against this backdrop. the figure of Billy Macken/ie. lead singer of The Associates. seemed all the more extraordinary. This is the whippet-loy'ing pop star who made his Til/i oft/iv Pops debut in I982 putting heart and histrionic soul into 'Party Fears Two'. All trench coat. beret and cheekbones. he was impossibly glamorous. It wasn't like Dundee at all.

For the young Macallum. Macken/ie was vital not just for his music but. more importantly. for what he represented. ‘I remember how strange it was having someone from your city who was a strange celebrity.~ he says. ‘I never met Billy. but he made me think you could do something more. Just from being an ordinary guy from Dundee. you could actually do something. He opened these doors.‘

It is something ol‘ this sense ol‘ new possibilities that Macallum aims to capture in [fa/em Ill/l l‘or Dundee Rep. Named alter the cemetery where Macken/ic is buried. it l'eatures songs and video footage by The Associates as well as music performed live by the cast. Btit don‘t expect another jukebox musical. even one as smart as the Rep‘s Proclaimers celebration. .S'unx/tim' on [ml/1.

Rather. it is an attempt to look at the impact

Macken/ie had on Dundee by means of a story ol~

l'our lictional characters. ‘lt‘s about their experiences of Billy and of growing tip in Dundeef says Macallum. glowing with pride having just become a father for the first time. ‘()ne character‘s take is maybe not the right story it‘s up to you to decide the truth. We‘ve also used Billy 's words to counterbalance the fictional view.‘

The fact of Mackenzie‘s suicide he oyerdosed on prescription pills in l‘)‘)7 adds a plangent note to the show which. says the playwright. encompasses the comic and the tragic. He sees the singer as torn between his humble beginnings on a scheme in Dundee and the world of stardom: a man. who despite his great imagination and mtisical ability. always l‘elt an impostor. ”I think a mixture ol‘ dark and light in theatre is great.‘ he says. ‘There is comedy in the play. but obviously the mood does change becatise of what the characters go through and what happened to Billy. Btit my aim is for it to have an element of hope as well. Billy's story lives on through the characters.‘

Balgay Hill, Dundee Rep, Tue 9—Sat 27 Jun.

“H.371; EAW‘I‘A M LU: I ()5)

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=i< Ghosts Powerful

interpretation of lbsen's classic drama of incest. venereal disease and death. featuring a stormer of a performance from Maureen Beattie in the lead role. See review, page 91. Citizens' Theatre, Glasgow, until Sat 30 May.

* Peer Gynt Another chance to catch the Dundee Rep Ensemble and National Theatre of Scotland's irreverent. multi- award-winning take on lbsen's satirical fairytale. Dundee Fiep, until Sat 30 May.

* The Ducky Borderline's triumphant production of DC Jackson's follow-up to The Wall catches up with that play's youthful characters two years down the line. Macrobert, Stirling, Thu 28 May; Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Wed 10—83! 13 Jun.

* A View from the Bridge New touring version of Arthur Miller’s tragedy, starring Ken Stott and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio. See preview, page 90. Theatre Royal, Glasgow, Mon 7—Sat 6 Jun.

* Maria-Magdalene Wayn Traub unveils the long-awaited third instalment in his Wayn Wash trilogy, merging film, music and dance to create a typically powerful ‘cinema-opera'. See preview, page 90. Tramway, Glasgow, Thu 4—Sat 6 Jun.

* Errol White Dance: Three Works The debut trilogy by the company helmed by acclaimed choreographer Errol White. featuring music by Portuguese composer Tiago Cerqueria. See preview, page 91. Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Fri 5 8 Sat 6 Jun.

* Balgey I'liil Playwright Simon Macallum explores the importance of Billy Mackenzie as a Dundonian cultural icon. with songs and video footage by Mackenzie's band. The Associates. See preview, left. Dundee Rep, Tue Q-Sat 27 Jun.

2:1 'fléy—H'

Mr: 27/; THE LIST 89