Following its UK tour, Torben Betts’ The Unconquered, an adventurous piece of new work which netted the Critics Awards for Theatre in Scotland’s new writing award, will be travelling on to New York for a shot at American audiences.
Stellar Quines’ splendid production of this relentlessly anti-naturalistic piece showed a buccaneering spirit and courage that would put larger scale companies to shame. Betts’, whose work manifests itself in two quite different forms, one a fairly familiar Ayckbournian drama of suburbia, the other wildly confrontational experimental drama, has seldom experienced the latter variety being taken up by the theatrical mainstream. ‘It’s quite interesting the number of people who’ve said to me, “Torben is a great writer, we love his work, but we’re not doing it”,’ says director Muriel Romanes. Yet, the vivid memory of the play lives long after in the mind. ‘When you know that something has stayed with you that long, you know as well it’s work of real quality.’
The story of a middle class suburban British family whose lives are altered by a socialist revolution, then the intervention of an invading American military force restoring a very questionable and violent form of order, works through a succession of wild leaps through both language and physical action. ‘He uses technical and theatrical conventions in his writing that no other writer, certainly in Scotland, does,’ says Romanes. ‘That’s quite a difficult exercise for actors to undertake, because it has to be both highly theatrical, and real at the same time. It’s agit prop – there are elements to it that are like the old 7:84.’