Back in the 1980s, Scottish theatre audiences could count on the likes of Communicado, Wildcat and 7:84 to maintain a live, lively commentary on contemporary events, often by drawing analogies sourced from Scottish history. It’s perhaps a force that’s been missing of late, as the years mount up between Communicado productions (their last was a brilliant adaptation of Fergus Lamont, Robin Jenkins’ pointed look at Scottish Tories, in 2007). However, in the wake of the rich satirical pickings of the MPs’ expenses scandal, artistic director Gerry Mulgrew evidently feels the time is ripe for a revival of Nikolai Gogol’s 1836 play The Government Inspector.

‘I think the time has come for a bit more theatre with teeth: there’s been a lot of gumsy theatre going on in the last ten or 15 years,’ he says. ‘Unfortunately a play like this is always relevant because there’s

always corruption, but especially so at the moment, with expenses scandals and the banks and who knows what is going on. I don’t think we’ll find out the half of it, because the automatic response of human beings is to cover everything up.’

Gogol’s play (Communicado are using the late Adrian Mitchell’s 1986 adaptation for the National Theatre) is set in a small Russian town where the corrupt local officials are informed an anonymous government inspector will be reviewing them. There’s a case of mistaken identity, bribes are thrown and a very savage, furious satire of bureaucracy ensues.

‘It’s about human nature,’ says Mulgrew. ‘These characters come from 1834 but the story could be taken from any newspaper today. They’re exactly the same they’ve not been doing their jobs, they take the odd bribe. It seems to be something intrinsic to us: I can think of very few people who haven’t fiddled the odd expense.’ (Kirstin Innes)


PREVIEW TRILOGY NEIL LABUTE TRIPLE BILL Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, Tue 16–Sat 20 Feb

‘Like a long distance runner who is asked to fill in for a sprinter at the last minute, you find yourself using a whole different set of muscles that you didn’t know you had.’ Neil LaBute regards short play writing, it seems, as a sort of artistic exercise, one that he returns to with ‘alarming regularity’. It also happens that these little exercises in dramatic control are extremely popular with audiences. Having attracted huge critical and audience acclaim for the double bill of Land of the Dead and Helter Skelter at London’s Bush Theatre in 2008, Dialogue Productions’ director Patricia Benecke contacted LaBute to discuss taking the shows on tour, only to be offered a third, brand new play, The Furies.

The three now form a trilogy of one- act dramas, each centring on a couple at a pivotal moment in their relationship, and together offering what Benecke terms ‘a beautiful study on psychological warfare and how people hurt each other’. But amid the violence is LaBute’s customary recognition of how humour can surface in these tense situations between people who know too well how to make each other laugh as well as cry.

Expressed with characteristic bluntness by the man himself, LaBute’s artistic credo is this: ‘Get people laughing, then make that laugh stick in their throats. If that doesn’t work, immediately kick them in the stomach. Enjoy. Repeat.’ (Laura Ennor)

PREVIEW NEW WORK THE ZEROS KEEP GOING Tron Theatre, Glasgow, Thu 11–Sat 13 Feb

The numbers speak for themselves: worldwide, pornography is estimated to earn $3075.65 per second. The sexualisation of culture and the media is a burning issue, and one that has inspired the latest production by Glasgow-based theatre company Flatrate. The Zeros Keep Going was set in motion when Flatrate’s founding member Stephen Redman

picked up a copy of Sarah Daniels’ 1983 radical feminist exploration of pornography, violence and sexual abuse, Masterpieces. ‘It was an area I knew little about,’ says Redman. ‘That play was part of a debate on ‘snuff’ films [which represent the murder of women for sexual gratification] in England in the 1980s. We’ve taken those themes as a starting point from which to jump off into the modern day. While we were developing the piece all sorts of fresh issues emerged is it acceptable for a man to watch porn if he’s in a relationship, for instance.’ The Zeros Keep Going explores how pornography impacts on lives, not just from a feminist point of

view, but from the male perspective too. ‘It’s not a heavy play,’ insists Redman. ‘It’s quite light- hearted. But there will be moments when the audience will be pulled up by the balls.’

Flatrate, whose previous productions include a staging of David Mamet’s Reunion in a Glasgow flat, as well as the monthly cabaret night Initial Itch, aims to attract a new breed of audience member into the theatre. ‘My target audience is the kind of person who would go to see an indie film but wouldn’t necessarily go to the theatre because they’ve had a bad experience in the past,’ says Redman. ‘Audiences’ cynicism has risen and you have to find a new way of communicating with them that’s not too dogmatic.’ (Allan Radcliffe)

84 THE LIST 4–18 Feb 2010