EIFF Features McGrath

Apr 29 2017 | By More

Theatre element to Film Festival

The Edinburgh International Film Festival will contain a strong theatre element as one of its Future is History strands looks at the work of poet, playwright and all-round maverick, Tom McGrath.

There will be films about McGrath’s background in beat poetry in the Sixties, a screening of a play for the BBC, script-in-hand performances of his work and a live jazz tribute from saxophonist Tommy Smith.

Tom McGrath

Conceived and curated by EIFF senior programmer Niall Greig Fulton, the Future is History retrospective consists of three strands: Great Britain, The Western World of the Future and Scotland.

Fulton said: “Inspired by Britain’s decision to depart from the EU during our last edition, and touching on the Festival’s long held passion for debate and discovery, The Future is History turns the clock back to the 1970s/1980s to explore the vital question of identity in a world undergoing seismic political and cultural change.”

The Scotland element is reflected in a biographical look at Tom McGrath, starting from live performances of two of his mid-seventies plays for the Traverse: The Hard Man and The Android Circuit.

Tam Dean Burn will be directing the performances as script-in-hand readings in the Traverse. The Hard Man, based on the life of Jimmy Boyle, was first staged in 1977 – with a major revival in 2011. In a contemporary spin on its masculinity it will be cast in reverse gender, with Kate Dickie taking the title role.

Science in the theatre

The Android Circuit was staged by the Traverse in the 1978 fringe and was McGrath’s first attempt to introduce science into the theatre, according to an interview he gave to the Times Educational Supplement 20 years later.

Describing The Android Circuit’s plot, he says: “a cosmonaut makes love to a female android, merging human and machine. The set glittered with a rainbow film. Artificial birds twittered on the soundtrack.

“The audience was wary. They did not like science fiction, they said. There were lots of preconceived notions to break down. Nonetheless, the play was enough of a success to go to London where it played as part of a ‘fantasy theatre’ season at the ICA.”

In celebration of McGrath’s roots in 1960s counter culture, jazz and poetry, Tommy Smith will lead the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra in a musical tribute at the Queens Hall featuring the music of Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Freddie Redd and other jazz greats – with readings of McGrath’s poetry by Tam Dean Burn.

Wholly Communion,

McGrath read his own poetry at a packed Royal Albert Hall in London in 1965, one of 17 poets from eight countries to take part in the First International Poetry Incarnation. Unfortunately he didn’t make it onto the 33 minutes of Wholly Communion, Peter Whitehead’s black and white documentary of the event which will be screened at the EIFF.

Also on show as an indicator of McGrath’s beat poetry roots, will be Shirley Clarke’s The Connection (1961) a film adaptation by Jack Gelber of his play of the same name, with music by Freddie Redd.

The on-screen element of the programme will be centred on McGrath’s Play for tomorrow: The Nuclear Family, from 1982. Set in 1999, the British government is instilling a fear of nuclear holocaust in its population in order to further technological development.

As a result, computer literate teenagers in the UK are the breadwinners while physical work is a thing of the past. Tired of being made to feel like a second class citizen by his son Gary, Joe Brown recruits his highly dysfunctional family into the Citizen National Defence program as a working holiday.

Full details and dates of screening for the onscreen programme have yet to be announced, but according to the EIFF it will: “mix interview, documentary and drama, embellishing this biographical picture of McGrath culturally, and firmly linking him artistically to EIFF history.”

Other related and theatre-related events will include a screening of A Sense of Freedom, and a performed reading directed by Gilbert Johnson of Z-Cars writer John Hopkins’s 1968 play This Story of Yours, about a detective succumbing to 20 years in the force.


This Story of Yours: Script Reading directed by Gerard Johnson
Traverse Theatre, 10 Cambridge Street, EH1 2ED
Thursday 22 June 2017: 8.15pm
Tickets available: HERE.

Electric Contact, A Jazz Tribute to Tom McGrath
Tommy Smith and the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, featuring Tam Dean Burn
The Queen’s Hall, 85-89 Clerk St, EH8 9JG
Friday 23 June 2017: 7.30pm.
Tickets available HERE

The Hard Man: Script Reading directed by Tam Dean Burn
Staring Kate Dickie
Traverse Theatre, 10 Cambridge Street, EH1 2ED
Saturday 24 June 2017: 8.15pm.
Tickets available HERE

The Android Circuit: Script Reading directed by Tam Dean Burn
Traverse Theatre, 10 Cambridge Street, EH1 2ED
Monday 26 June 2017: 8.15pm.
Tickets available HERE

Further details of the Future is History strands are here, on the EIFF website: www.edfilmfest.org.uk.


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