Skip to main content

Vicky Featherstone and Chris Goode - Men in the Cities

If Vicky Featherstone hadn't come to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe when
a student at Manchester University, it's unlikely that the National
Theatre of Scotland would exist as it does. Featherstone, after all,
was the company's first artistic director of a company which had already opted
for a radical 'theatre without walls' initiative, programming a body of
work that drew from all aspects of Scottish theatre.

During Featherstone's tenure, the NTS developed more left-field artists
alongside big main stage plays, a tradition which Featherstone took
over as artistic director of the Royal Court Theatre in London. Despite
heading up such august institutions, it feels as though Featherstone
has retained a Fringe sensibility sired during the 1980s and  early
1990s era of politically driven grassroots shoestring companies and
alternative cabaret.

Featherstone's first Edinburgh show in her own right was an adaptation
of Gogol's short story, The Nose.

“The then literary manager at the Royal Court came to see it,”
Featherstone remembers, “and everything that's happened since came from
that.”

The latest recipient of Featherstone's open-minded approach to what
theatre can be is Edinburgh regular Chris Goode, whose latest solo
show, Men In The Cities, is currently running at the Traverse Theatre.
The play was born out of Goode's response to the murder of Drummer Lee
Rigby, and to the suicide of a young gay man around the same time. Out
of this, Goode explores the fear and loathing behind being a man in
twenty-first century society.

“Chris was on attachment with the Royal Court,” Featherstone explains,
“and he came up with this idea that sounded amazing, and which he
wanted to bring to Edinburgh. Anything by Chris Goode appeals to me, so
whatever he was going to do was probably going to be amazing. I think
Chris is one of the most thrilling and honest performers ever, and when
he did a reading of Me in the Cities, it was so raw and so honest about
what it is to be male that it just made me feel really happy as a
woman.”

For Goode, although Men in the Cities is a fiction, it also comes from
a pretty personal place.

“It's a pretty angry piece,” he says. “I'm really interested in the
ways in which we see men struggling to talk about certain things that
are going on, and the ways in which men consciously hurt themselves and
the people around them through a set of conversations that they're not
having, and which aren't doing them any favours.

“There are conversations which I'm not having with my friends, let
alone with the people I sit next to on the bus, but there are
unpalatable things that need to be spoken. If there's one thing I've
learnt over the last fifteen years, it's that theatre is a place where
you can say those unpalatable things and know that the sky isn't going
to fall in.”

Goode's attitude fits in with Featherstone's ethos, both for what the
Fringe should and could be and at the Royal Court.

“For me the Royal Court has changed immeasurably since Vicky arrived,”
Goode observes. “For me it's really good to be in a conversation with
Vicky and everyone else there, and know that you can make something
adventurous, even though you don't know what it's going to be, and that
inspires you to push yourself to try things you might not have
otherwise thought of.”

Again, the umbilical links of this approach go way back, as was
demonstrated by Featherstone's most recent visit to Scotland for the
funeral of David MacLennan, he producer, director, writer and performer
who co-founded Wildcat Theatre in the 1970s after a stint working with
John McGrath's 7:84 company. For the last decade, MacLennan pioneered
the A Play, A Pie and A Pint lunchtime theatre phenomenon at Oran Mor
in Glasgow.

“David was such a great, generous man,” says Featherstone, “and just to
be part of that community that was around him was a real privilege.”

It is telling that Featherstone forged links, not just with pioneers
like MacLennan, but with a newer generation of theatre-makers such as
Goode, who continue to say important things with their work. In
Featherstone's view, Men in the Cities is crucial in this respect.

“I think it's what the Fringe is for,” she says. “It's about great
artists like Chris taking a risk, challenging what entertainment means,
and really surprising people in their honesty.”

Men in the Cities, Traverse Theatre until August 24, various times.
www.traverse.co.uk

The Herald, August 12th 2014


ends

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Clybourne Park

Adam Smith Theatre, Kirkcaldy Four Stars
It’s a case of whoops, there goes the neighbourhood twice over in Rapture Theatre’s revival of Bruce Norris’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play, which opens in 1959 in the same Chicago suburb where Lorraine Hansberry’s drama, A Raisin in the Sun, which appeared that year, is set. Here, Robin Kingsland’s Russ and his wife Bev, played by Jackie Morrison, are preparing to move out of their now almost empty des-res following a family tragedy.
Unknown to them, the bargain basement price tag has enabled a black family to move in, with Jack Lord’s uptight Karl a self-appointed spokesperson for the entire ‘hood. Russ and Bev’s black maid Francine (Adelaide Obeng) and her husband Albert (Vinta Morgan), meanwhile, bear witness to a barrage of everyday racism. Fast forward half a century, and a white family are trying to buy the same house, albeit with a heap of proposed changes which the black couple representing the block’s now much more diverse community aren’t…

Michael Rother - Sterntaler at 40

"There's so much to do," says an uncharacteristically flustered Michael Rother. The normally unflappably beatific German guitarist, composer and former member of Neu! and Harmonia, who also had a stint in a nascent Kraftwerk, is packing for live dates in Russia and the UK, including this weekend's show at the Queen Margaret Union in Glasgow.
"It has always been my choice to take care of these things myself and not have a manager," he says. "Somehow for me the independent aspect of doing things is really important, but it has its disadvantages."
As well as playing selections from Neu! and Harmonia, the trio he formed with Dieter Moebius and Hans Joachim Roedelius of Cluster, Rother's Glasgow date will see him play a fortieth anniversary rendering of his second solo album, Sterntaler, in full. Rother will be accompanied by guitarist Franz Bargmann and drummer Hans Lampe, the latter of whose musical involvement with Rother dates back to Neu! days, …

Kieran Hurley – Mouthpiece

Things have changed since Kieran Hurley first began writing the play that would become Mouthpiece, which opens at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh this weekend. At the time, Hurley was, in his own words, “quite new on the scene.” As a writer and performer, he had already scored hits with Beats and Chalk Farm, two pieces that put him on the map with a new generation of theatre-makers steeped in an equally new wave of grassroots opposition that drew from the iconography of revolutions past. Where Beats looked at the politicisation of 1990s club culture, Chalk Farm, co-written with AJ Taudevin, focused on a teenage boy caught up in the 2011 London riots.
More plays followed. Some, like Heads Up used the same solo story-telling aesthetic to look at an everyday apocalypse. More recently, Square Go, written with Gary McNair, dissected toxic masculinity through a school playground fight.
All the while as Hurley developed as a writer, from new kid on the block to established provocateur, this…