Trumpets and Raspberries
Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, Fri 18 Apr–Sat 10 May
Even winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature have bad days at work. It might surprise you to know that Dario Fo felt he’d had one of these after the first preview of what, subsequently, became one of his most acclaimed plays. For Trumpets and Raspberries, these days seen alongside such classics as Accidental Death of an Anarchist and Can’t Pay? Won’t Pay! seemed in rehearsal and at previews to leave both company and audiences a little cold.
Director Tony Cownie takes his cue from Fo’s wife Franca Rame, whose advice appeared to save the piece, and make it the classic that it is. ‘Franca delivered her verdict without fear or favour. We were performing a script with a format from other times. It needed to be more rooted in present day reality. It needed to deal with the burning, awkward issues that affected us and the public at large.’
At this point, Cownie lowers the volume of Fo’s theatrical biography he’s been quoting from and looks at me. ‘It wasn’t enough to do it in period – even Fo seems to recommend updating it,’ he says. ‘I’ve updated it to make it relevant now to issues around us. It’s about finding a new target for 21st century audiences. I’m not telling anyone what it is, but there’s something in this version that does that – come and see it and find out.’
Fo’s 1981 modern classic revolves around a rich industrialist disfigured when a terrorist gang attempts to kidnap him. Rescued by a worker from his plant, the man is abandoned with said toiler’s jacket covering his body. Sent off for reconstructive surgery, the rich man returns from hospital with the poor man’s face, leading to all manner of farcical confusion. ‘In a way the play is much more believable than it was then, because plastic surgery has advanced so much – you really can now create a whole new face that’s completely authentic,’ says Cownie. ‘Given that we’re also setting it in 2011, there’s even more scope for that. It’ll also be about other advances we’ve made in the world.’ With a cast comprising some of Scotland’s best comic actors and a message about terrorism, class and days of strife, this promises to be a rewarding updating of a fine old play.