Theatre and Culture from Scotland, starring The List's Theatre Editor, his performance persona and occasional guest stars. Experimental writings, cod-academic critiques and all his opinions, stolen or original.
Sunday, 18 September 2011
Johnny Bites at Random, Making Love Hurt all the Sweeter
Given that their famous trilogy exploring Little Johnny's emotional and romantic adventures - culminating in the National Theatre of Scotland co-production of their Big Gay Wedding - was originally supported by Glasgay, it's no surprise that Random Accomplice have collaborated with the festival for their latest new direction. Love Hurts - a monologue that follows the dark paths of sexual awakening - is the second in RA's Random Bites series.
"Random Bites is a relatively new umbrella for the company," explains Johhny McKnight, one of the duo that make up RA. "Julie Brown (my better half - aka the brains of Random Accomplice!) and myself had a recent meeting where we talked about the importance of us, as artists, being able to take risks and develop ourselves further. And sometimes that means without the emotional crutch or barrier depending on what day it is, of each other."
Rather than challenge themselves to make the same scale of shows that made their name - McKnight is the notorious director of The Macrobert pantomime, which has rewritten the rules of Scottish Christmas entertainment, while their recent successes Small Town and Promises Promises were staged in the Ton's main theatre - they evolved Random Bites as "small-scale, easy to manage and tour, projects that cost relatively little to make but give us vehicles to try out new ideas or formats."
"We did our National Theatre of Scotland Five Minute Theatre under this banner and now Love Hurts is the first true pilot exercise," McKnight continues. "It's a new project that I have written and directed on a very minuscule budget but that all the artists are doing for either the love of or because I've twisted their arm."
Random Bites is very much in the mood of the times - as is Love Hurts, with its brooding main character and sense of anxiety. In a time when the arts are under threat, sensible companies are looking for new ways to experiment, without undermining their reputation or possible funding. After a decade of growth, RA are still seeking out new possibilities.
"I think for me as a writer its probably a new step for me. Its much more a straight forward play (which I don't think I've ever really done before Smalltown) but, hopefully, still contains a sense of storytelling, comedy and excitement for an audience," he continues. "It's still, like most RA shows, got a real relationship with its audience and - hopefully - taps into those feelings of identification of the thirty- something audience. Only perhaps this show has a more melodramatic climax."
"I do feel as we start to get older at RA, there is an even more urgent and important need to throw ourselves curve balls, test out other forms, work with new artists, create work for different audiences. I think if we don't then we become stale and, even more importantly, uninteresting."
This willingness to experiment has always been a feature of RA: whether it is the zombie horror comedy of Smalltown, the serious moral meditation of The Promise or the melancholy haunted hilarity of the Big Gay Trilogy, McKnight and Brown have always demonstrated their roots in the Young Glasgow Live Art Tradition - both are graduates from the Conservatoire Formerly Known as the RSAMD - need not mean inaccessibility. It might signal a new format, but Love Hurts follows in the open, witty and searching tradition that they have developed over the past ten years.