The Drawer Boy - An interview with Andy Arnold

The Drawer Boy - An interview with Andy Arnold

Quick off the drawer

Steve Cramer talks to newly appointed artistic director Andy Arnold about his debut at the Tron, The Drawer Boy

The Tron seems to be undergoing its own version of a glorious 100 days at the moment as its newly appointed artistic director, Andy Arnold, hits the ground, not so much running as sprinting. The former artistic director of The Arches avows that a very busy programme is in store for us over the coming years, and is setting out his stall with The Drawer Boy, a relatively obscure Canadian piece from the late 90s by Michael Healey.

The play focuses on a young actor who, intent on developing new work from life experience, visits a farm in rural Ontario. Arnold takes up the story: ‘One of the two farm workers he meets appears to be slightly brain damaged, with mental problems as a result of a war injury. It’s very touching and funny, but it’s also an intriguing psychological journey – the characters are wonderful. The story is something people are easily drawn into. It has a dark and surreal element, which makes it an artistic challenge. There’s an element to it about memory, about unlocking things in the dark recesses of our minds.’

The piece promises a character study that goes further than simply pointing out differences in lifestyle between urban sophisticates who might, these days, hanker after a kind of English Romantic view of the country and those who actually live there. Minds and psychological processes are affected by where we live, and the clash between these two ways of seeing the world look set to be exposed here.

The relative obscurity of this piece is typical of Arnold’s programming. At the Arches he brought such undiscovered American talents as John Patrick Shanley to Scottish audiences to much acclaim. ‘It was done by a small theatre company in Nottingham a few years ago, but aside from that it hasn’t been done here, which is amazing, because it’s been so successful all over Canada and the US,’ Arnold explains. ‘It’s the kind of thing that’s very accessible, it appeals to a very wide audience. It’s not the kind of play I’d have done at the Arches, so it feels like a real opportunity to do it.’

As for his plans for the future of the Tron, Arnold sees it as a much busier place than it has been for some years. ‘I want to get to a stage where we produce a lot of creative work, a powerhouse. The challenge for me is to get to the stage where most of the year we’re producing in-house work or collaborations with other theatres. I want both spaces up and running most of the time. In our first year we’re hoping to produce five in-house productions, which is a couple more than the theatre has produced over the last few years,’ he says.

Arnold is conscious of the differences between the underground, endlessly creative but often impoverished Arches to this bigger producing theatre, and sees it as an opportunity to change Glasgow’s theatrical landscape. ‘It also allows me to focus completely on theatre. That’s what I set up the Arches to do, but, a lot of other stuff came out of it, like the clubs and so on, which enabled us to do theatre. Those things were brilliant, but it’s nice now to get to an environment where I’m solely concerned with making theatre.’

And will he act again? ‘Oh yes, I enjoy that. I’ll focus first on the directing, but I think I’ll get round to that eventually. The old actor manager thing is still part of me.’

The Tron, Glasgow, Thu 8–Sat 24 May.

The Drawer Boy

An award-winning Canadian play about a young actor who visits an Ontario farm in order to research a part.