MAYFESTO Quiet revolu
The Tron’s brand new celebration of drama born out of world events may bring to mind a late lamented Glasgow theatre festival but, as Kelly Apter discovers, there’s so much more to Mayfesto than nostalgia
A ndy Arnold was on the bus when it came to him. That clever use of the letter ‘o’ could buy him two things at once: remind people of a late lamented Glasgow theatre festival, and inject a political edge to the new event he had planned. And so, Mayfesto was born.
Two weeks of quality playwriting, both old and new, Mayfesto starts 24 hours after Britain goes to the polls. Which, at first glance, seems like perfect timing. But as Arnold says, his new baby is not so much a political animal as a people person. ‘None of the plays are didactic flag-waving pieces,’ he explains. ‘They’re all human stories looking at the casualties of world events or war – and because they’re set in extremely tense environments, drama comes out of that.’ Those stories couldn’t be more diverse. Iraqi translators let down by the American government, a hill-walking Palestinian unable to roam freely, a German Jew during World War II and a Scottish mother coping with her daughter’s civil partnership, to name but a few. Some performed by the Tron Theatre Company, others brought in for the occasion, but according to Arnold all the plays in Mayfesto have one thing in common.
‘They’re all beautifully written,’ he says. ‘Because for me, the text has always been the most fundamental element of theatre. Sometimes you require a more theatrical staging, and sometimes you just want to let the people speak. All these pieces are very much individual stories and very gripping as well.’ Arnold himself will be directing Address Unknown, a two-hander based on the postal correspondence of two old friends – one living in America, the other in Germany. ‘It’s a very clever piece because it seems so gentle,’ says Arnold. ‘As the letters go back and forth, one of the old pals is totally enthused by Hitler as he comes to power. But the other guy in America is Jewish and when his sister goes to Germany, she’s very badly let down by the friend so there’s a revenge element. It’s an extraordinary story, almost like a thriller.’
Mayfesto’s centrepiece is Betrayed, written
N L L O C L E A H C M I
I S N O T A R T S U L L
24 THE LIST 29 Apr–13 May 2010