Rapture Theatre get seriously political with latest production
Although writer Michael Frayn is best known for his playful parody of theatre folk, Noises Off, his script, Democracy, is a weightier look at cold war politics. Based on true events, it goes back to 1969 to capture the anxiety of Willy Brandt, newly elected chancellor of West Germany, as he faces internal and external threats. With his party plotting against him, and a possible East German spy in his inner circle, Brandt's predicament is suddenly, and sadly, relevant in the aftermath of the Brexit vote, but director Michael Emans notices an even deeper resonance.
'The play is one that I have always wanted to tackle,' he says, 'as it has echoes of the great Shakespearean power plays that I love.' Emans' Rapture Theatre has long toured great scripts around Scotland – including Arthur Miller's All My Sons and Chekov's Uncle Vanya, given a Scottish twist. Yet with Democracy, the company is grappling with an explicitly political story.
'It is extremely prescient in a world that is becoming increasingly politicised,' he admits. However, he sees theatre as, if not a remedy, part of the political narrative. 'The feedback we receive at post-show discussions tell us that theatre is the ideal forum for discussion: our work is there to entertain but by entertain we mean to stimulate, challenge and provoke and that feedback tells us we do that.'
Having enlisted a couple of famous Scottish actors, Colin McCredie from Taggart and River City's Sean Scanlan, Emans maintains the vision that has marked Rapture's productions: a serious script, given Eman's distinctive directorial touch, with popular appeal. Democracy is timely, but it also has the intrigue of a classic spy story, evoking John Le Carré and places the current problems in the EU within their historical context.
Theatre Royal, Glasgow, Tue 6–Sat 10 Sep; King's Theatre, Edinburgh, Thu 29 Sep–Sat 1 Oct; touring through Sep & Oct.