Beyond his iconic movie roles, Al Pacino is a consummate man of the theatre. His 1996 documentary, Looking For Richard, explored Shakespeare's Richard III, a role Pacino played on Broadway in 1979. Pacino had already won a Tony award a decade earlier for his career-launching performance in Don Peterson's play, Does A Tiger Wear A Necktie?
More recently Pacino played Shylock in The Merchant of Venice and appeared in a revival of David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross. Mamet wrote China Doll, which has just been on Broadway, especially for Pacino. It was while appearing in a 1983 revival of Mamet's American Buffalo that Pacino first thought about filming a play that had lived with him since his early days at New York's legendary Actor's Studio.
The Local Stigmatic was an early work by poet and doyen of London's 1960s counter-cultural underground, Heathcote Williams, and was first performed at Edinburgh's Traverse Theatre in 1966 in a double bill with The Dwarves, a short work by Harold Pinter.
Williams' play focuses on two men, Graham and Ray, who spend their time at the greyhound track or in the pub. It is in the latter they spot a well-known actor whose image appears in one of the celebrity magazines that Graham laps up. Fan-boy fawning turns to vicious retribution, however, as they walk the actor home.
Pacino first acted in The Local Stigmatic in 1968, and eventually appeared in an Off-Broadway production that looked set to close after one night before Jon Voight stepped up to fund a week-long run. Pacino returned to The Local Stigmatic six years later with his Godfather co-star John Cazale, and he eventually produced David Wheeler's 1990 film version, playing Graham opposite Paul Guilfoyle as Ray. While never commercially released, it appeared on DVD as part of an Al Pacino box set released in 2007.
Given both Pacino and Williams' ambivalence towards fame, Graham's defining statement to Ray becomes a manifesto for both men.
"Fame is the first disgrace,” says Graham, “because God knows who you are. God knows who YOU are.”
The Herald, May 16th 2015ends