August 8, 2008

Double Helping of Chandler and Wilde

By Liam Rudden Arts and

Taggart creator takes on prejudice

PREJUDICE lies at the heart of the two very different plays that Taggart creator and ex-Royal High pupil Glenn Chandler has chosen to co-produce with writer and director Patrick Wilde on at this year's Fringe.

The first, which Chandler also penned, is a camp romp through middle-England in the days when men smoked pipes and the Colonies were there to be ruled.

Boys of the Empire, set in a 1920s public school, finds the pupils embroiled in plot by some 'shifty foreigners' to blow up their alma mater in response to British intervention in Mesopotamia, a country Whitehall has just christened Iraq.

The second piece, What's Wrong With Angry? addresses homophobia, and was written and first staged by Wilde in 1992 as a response to Section 28 legislation, which prohibited schools and local authorities from depicting homosexual relationships as an acceptable lifestyle.

For Chandler, donning a producer's hat, which has involved him in every aspect of the production from painting the set to sourcing the costumes, has come as a welcome return to his roots in Fringe theatre.

"Taggart was extremely good to me and gave me a wonderful 16 years," he says. "After Taggart I worked for Yorkshire Television on True Crime Dramas and Dalziel and Pascoe for the BBC. Eventually I had a kind of watershed moment when I thought, 'What do I really want to do?'

"I had started in theatre on the Fringe in London, way before Taggart, and I wanted to have some fun again, fun being the operative word.

"You see, the one thing about a Taggart is that once it's done and on DVD, it is there forever. It doesn't matter how many times you watch it, it is exactly the same. The great thing about theatre is that it changes every night. The audience change it every night. And that was a world I wanted to go back to, I wanted to get involved with real people again."

Together, Chandler and Wilde, who directs both plays, have struck up a robust working relationship, thanks to a happy co-incidence.

"Patrick and I had the same agent. Patrick wanted to bring Angry up to Edinburgh and we realised that Angry and Boys had interchangeable casts - suddenly a light bulb went on," explains Chandler.

Wilde takes up the tale, "We had met before, socially. Obviously, I was familiar with Glenn's work and he had seen a couple of plays that I had directed. So far, it's worked out really well, we're still waiting to have our first row," he laughs.

"However, having got through the run up to the Fringe without one, I don't think it will ever happen. It was so stressful, but that's Edinburgh, and doing two shows is completely insane."

Both plays were rehearsed over a gruelling five week period - the cast would work on one in the morning and the other in the afternoon.

"What is interesting about Angry and Boys is that, although Glenn's is out-and-out comedy with a satirical message, both plays are about tolerance and intolerance. The simple message of both pieces is that if everybody was just a bit nicer to each other the world would be a better place," says Wilde.

What's Wrong With Angry? deals with the intolerance many young gay people have to deal with when they decide to come out and reveal their sexuality.

Wilde says, "It is important to remember that although it is a period piece, I have had people come up to me after the show and talk about how they would never have dreamed of coming out at school.

"There are braver boys who do come out, but it's still hard. My philosophy is that it is much easier to be gay now than it ever was, but it is no easier to come out than it ever was."

Chandler's piece on the other hand addresses good old fashioned British xenophobia.

"I have always been fascinated by the British occupation of Iraq in the 1920s," he says, recalling the play's origins. "I was doing some research into Lawrence of Arabia and discovered some letters he had written to The Times newspaper in an archive - I thought, 'Somebody could be writing this to The Times today. He used sentences like, 'We are storing up bloodshed for ourselves in Iraq.'

"So I wanted to set a piece in that era but I didn't want to write anything that was particularly preachy. Instead I wrote it in the style of a Boys Own story and brought out the message by making it funny but with a sting in the tale."

That sting is where both plays have their second message, "Nobody learns from history."

A sad but true indictment of modern society, told with humour and, in the case of Angry, a bumping high energy soundtrack.

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Boys of the Empire, C, Chambers Street, until August 25, 8pm, GBP 9.50-GBP 11.50, 0845-260 1234

What's Wrong With Angry?, C, Chambers Street, until August 25, 3.25pm, GBP 9.50-GBP 11.50, 0845-260 1234

Originally published by Liam Rudden Arts and Entertainment Editor.

(c) 2008 Evening News; Edinburgh (UK). Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.