Presentation on theme: "John Byrne’s Slab Boys Trilogy Bursting with poetic life rather than the usual despair."— Presentation transcript:
John Byrne’s Slab Boys Trilogy Bursting with poetic life rather than the usual despair
Of all Scottish playwrights of the past 50 years, John Byrne is the most restlessly, relentlessly original. Born in Paisley in 1940 - and brought up in what was then a deprived council estate, though Byrne says he loved it - he emerged first as a visual artist rather than a writer. At 19, he left Stoddart's Carpet Factory for Glasgow School of Art, and never looked back. He designed the legendary pop-up-book set for 7:84 Scotland's 1973 debut, and Billy Connolly's fantastic Big Banana Feet boots for The Great Northern Welly Boot Show of 1972.
His first play, Writer's Cramp, appeared in 1977. But it was with The Slab Boys, premiered at the Traverse in 1978 in a glittering production by David Hayman, that Byrne propelled himself to fame as a key figure in Scotland's theatre renaissance.
A cheeky and inventive variation on the traditional workplace play - set in a Paisley carpet factory in 1957 - The Slab Boys was the first-ever drama about Scottish working- class life that was neither militantly political, nor fiercely gloomy, nor self-pityingly elegiac. Instead, it was bursting with life, brimming with poetic variations on real west-of- Scotland street language, and brilliant in its recognition of that key postwar moment when growing affluence, and exposure to American popular culture, began to open new creative possibilities for working-class boys.
The original cast included Robbie Coltrane as a middle- class slab boy with upwardly mobile aspirations, and Byrne went on to create the cult TV hit Tutti Frutti, now revived by the National Theatre of Scotland. But it was that cry from the 1950s, filtered through the lens of the late 1970s, which first signalled his vital postmodern vision of working-class Scotland as a place full of energy, colour and exotic possibility. JOYCE McMILLAN