A douce view from the stalls

6th April 2001 at 01:00
BEING on the Glasgow-Edinburgh axis, as one friend rather pompously put it, means happily enjoying the two cities' cultural benefits. Milton or Pilton, Morningside or Kelvinside, it's all interchangeable.

After all, had it not been for an aggressive depute director of education who interviewed me when I left Moray House, refusing permission to visit the two schools where I'd been offered a job, the past 30 years might have been spent in Edinburgh comprehensives.

Broughton and Portobello had both been enjoyable placements for teaching practice but fate, in the shape of Mr Ferguson, dictated a return to the west.

Not for me Liz Lochhead's early feelings of being intimidated by Edinburgh, where, in her "Poem on a Day Trip" she talks of seeking refuge in "Woolworth's anonymous aisles".

Memories of pupil and staff bus trips to see Willie Rough and The Bevellers in Bill Bryden's heyday were revived recently with a (pupil-free) return visit to the Lyceum to see its magnificent production of A View from the Bridge.

Interest was whetted not only by favourable newspaper reviews, but by the fact that the artistic director himself had first trod the boards in the church dramatic club which my father helped to run (as a comic policeman in a Jimmy Scotland one-act play I sem to remember).

It's been a remarkable winter for this club, as Golly the ghillie from Monarch of the Glen also first performed in the school drama club that acted as a feeder for that same church drama group.

Back at the Lyceum the heart sank as a school party was ushered in just before curtain-up - yet all fears of groundlings were groundless as the group didn't whisper or rustle once throughout the production. A tribute to themselves and their (very) well-behaved school.

Yet, the dilemma remains. How else do pupils get trained into proper audience behaviour except by experience of theatre - with all the attendant risks of disruption to disgruntled theatre-goers? Giles Havergal used to manage this magnificently by having pupil workshops with the actors and director before the production. They were so involved when the play came on that they forgot about their sweeties.

Paradoxically, my only problem with this spin on the Edinburgh axis came with eating. Such was the fancy handwriting on the menu of the restaurant adjacent to the theatre that my Glaswegian eyes were sure it read "shitcake".

More cosmopolitan minds than mine assured me that shiitake is a mushroom delicacy much enjoyed by the douce Edinburgh literati.

Ars gratia artis, I say.

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