Alec Finlay

Alec Finlay

I remember school bus trips to see Wildcat and 7.84 in Glasgow. 

I remember seeing wee Scottish cheeky-chappie actor, Archie Lennie – from 633 Squadron and The Great Escape! – in Panto, playing Ugly Sister II opposite Rikki Fulton. He strode around in his bustled dress like he was flying a Mosquito. 

I remember a Dario Fo play at The Pleasance and David Steele arriving late to watch with his family. I over-heard his son breathlessly catching him up with the action. Steele’s hair was shiny, just like on the tele. 

I remember Michael Horden eating the egg in The Rivals, and Nigel Havers and Martin Jarvis eating cucumber sandwiches in The Importance of Being Earnest. 

I remember Anthony Quayle – Ice Cold in Alex! – playing Caliban in The Tempest – not any of the words, just the angle he held his torso. Proper acting. 

I remember as a teenager I was allowed to choose one play from The Fringe program, and my Gran would take me for free. We went to Fugard’s The Island, a two-header about Mandela. I’d never heard a black African voice in real life. 

I remember Tilda in Man to Man with a rabbit paw down her Y’s. She’d stop and look right at you. I’d never seen an actor do that before. She’d walk back and forth in her imaginary cell, saying up and down, up and down. One time she said up and a guy in the audience added and down. She smiled. 

I remember how confusing it was knowing where to sit on the cube seats in the Grassmarket, at the old Traverse. 

I remember Troon “Swoon” Colquhoon. That made me laugh more than anything. 

I remember the smell of the pine log seats and scattered bark for The Conegatherers at Tramway. 

I remember everyone going to see Brook’s Mabharata in Glasgow, except me. 

I remember the Handke play that had no words, just lots of actors doing things. It was great. 

I remember the camp bakers in Yeddie Morgan and Communicado’s Cyrano. Did they really have a stall of Tunnocks? 

I remember Alan Cumming pegging out the white bedsheets in Conquest of the South Pole. 

I remember performing five of John Cage’s stories and how I had to   practice   to find   the pace    of the words. 

I remember my violent partner planning to do a performance with a Woman’s Refuge shelter, without either of us having any sense of the incongruity. 

I remember a 5-hour reading by Kenny Goldsmith of an 18th century weather diary (Applegate) in Morden Tower. It coincided with a derby at St James’ Park, a stone’s throw away. The intermittent deafening roars puzzled Kenny, but he rode them well. 

I remember having to hear John Hegley at Morden Tower. My dog Barney started sniffing in his bag while he was reading. John accused him of trying to eat his anti-depressants. 

I remember Tom McGrath speaking to a part-empty Lyceum after his translation of Merlin. Those soft lips of Tom’s, like he had no teeth. When he talked it was like a door had opened onto what a public conversation could be. He ended by saying something like, “and from here all we can do is enter the theatre of the world…” 

I remember a poetry festival in Olomoc. It ended with a satirical comedy in the town’s old theatre. I came in late and stood at the back feeling the laughter come in waves. I laughed as well, although I couldn’t understand a word. 

I remember telling Daniel Day Lewis that he should play WB Yeats to Tilda’s Maud Gonne, in a film never to be made. 

I remember not wanting to go because it was uncool, but how good Kiss Me Kate was, with Paul Jones. 

I remember Merce Cunningham dancing at the Playhouse when he was already old and the feeling of love that filled the theatre. 

I remember nodding off in that play David Greig did after [The Scottish Play] because I was so tired. 

I remember my Mum coming home from seeing some Fringe show with my Gran when I was a kid. When she came in to say night-night I asked what they’d seen. She said it had been some naked Japanese people hanging upside down on a trapeze. 

I remember moving seats in the old Demarco theatre on Blackfriars St, because there were big drops of rain coming in. 

I remember the Footlights 2-minute episode of Star Trek performed, as if on amphetamine, by – I think – Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Tony Slattery, and Emma Thompson, before anyone had heard of them. It hurt laughing so much. 

I remember the snow in Slava’s show. 

I remember sitting on the floor at The Sage listening to Chopin and our fingers dancing a mazurka, like mice. 

I remember a play by Kantor’s company, performed the year he’d died. They did the whole thing as if he was on the stage with them, looking where he was supposed to be. They all looked so Polishly sad. 

I remember seeing an old-fashioned cowboy melodrama in a wee hall, in a wee village, on the end of a peninsula, in Argyll. The raffle went on longer than the play. 

I remember them building the house in Complicité’s Three Lives of Lucy Chabrol 

I remember opening the Fringe program to see that Andy had ripped off my idea to dance the Archie Gemmill goal and not told me. Naughty Andy. 

I remember telling Heiner Goebbels how great Hashirigaki was – a Beach Boys Gertrude Stein koto opera. Who’d have thought it. 

I remember that Gertrude Stein’s Four Saints in Three Acts was pretty good. 

I remember everyone loved Pina Bausch with that field of poppies. I hated it. 

I remember being taken to a play that imagined what happened after The Cherry Orchard, at The Riverside. They’d placed an enormous fallen tree in a glasshouse. That’s never left me. 

I remember going to see Madness for the last time, in the Playhouse. They came on for the encore wearing kilts and carrying an enormous tree-sized caber. You could see it must be heavy by the way they lugged it on their shoulders. Then they threw it into the audience. Shrieks. It was polystyrene and the brown paint hadn’t dried yet. Then I remember they sang ‘It Must be Love’ for the first time. 

I remember when I was 18, going to the south of France for my first holiday alone. I had to get the overnight bus from St Andrew’s Square. I killed time beforehand at Andrew’s house in St Stephen Street. Growing up in the country we had no locks on the door. I’d never owned a key. I got bored around 8’ish and went out for a walk, but, as soon as it shut, I realised the door had locked and I’d no key. Andrew was at the Lyceum with his girlfriend. I got a taxi there, realising half-way that I had no money. No mobile phones or bank cards in those days. When I arrived they were showing Marlowe’s Dr Faustus. I explained to the ticket guy I needed to find my friends to get their keys. They took me up to peek in each of the circles in turn. No luck. Then we came down to the stalls. I had to wait outside with a gang of semi-naked red-painted devils. They entered the audience from the back, seething and creeping their way up to the stage. They were such a gang, those devils. I had to follow them into the theatre, a wee pale boy in a jacket, as threatening as a hay bale. I remember when we left Andrew kindly said that he wasn’t enjoying the play anyway. I just made the bus. 

Tags: Letters