Work is flowing in for writer as new play hits city stage

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Eileen Nicholas stars in A Play, A Pie and a Pint's The Queen of Lucky People by Iain Heggie Pictures: Martin Shields
Eileen Nicholas stars in A Play, A Pie and a Pint's The Queen of Lucky People by Iain Heggie Pictures: Martin Shields

What's the point of having 5000 Facebook followers? Why do people become obsessed by the internet?

"I've come to realise it's the pursuit of popularity," says writer Iain Heggie. "It's about attention.

"It's also about obsession, about interests that can take over people's lives. It's also about delusion.

"That's why you can get people in their bedrooms saying outrageous things."

Iain Heggie has leapt into the world of the internet, it's delights and dangers, for his new play, The Queen of Lucky People.

Running at Oran Mor this week the monologue tells the story of Patrice, an older lady now retired who was a school's student adviser.

"In her previous career she found ways of getting attention," says Iain. "But she takes self-importance too far."

Iain Heggie's premise is intriguing, but then most of his plays are. The award-winning writer has long had the power to make audiences sit up and take notice. And laugh. His play The Tobacco Merchant's Lawyer was not only one of the best monologues ever performed in Scotland, it was also one of the best plays produced.

He reveals the process of writing The Queen of Lucky People has proved to be as equally absorbing, which bodes well. Yet, why make the central character female? "I've written three monologues for men, including The King of Scotland and Lust, so I liked the challenge of changing sex. And if I got stuck I could always re-write.

"And you have to accept all fictional writing is tricky. The characters are not real human beings, they are more focused and clear cut than human beings. But the important thing is if the audience believes the journey they go on."

Iain Heggie didn't set out to become a writer from an early age. And at King's Park Secondary he certainly wasn't encouraged to put ideas on paper.

Ironically, his intelligence worked against him.

"In Glasgow at the time (the early sixties) there was a shortage of teachers so classes were split in the middle, some kids kept back, some pushed forward. I'd get pushed forward. I went to secondary school really young and I was totally lost. And I left school, to the horror of my parents, at 16."

Iain moved to England in his late teens. "I did all sorts of jobs, then studied English and Geography at university for no obvious reason."

The writing bent revealed itself in an unusual form. "I began to write letters to people. And the attention I was giving to the process was vastly disproportionate to the functional purpose of the letter. I'd read the letter 12 times before sending it off.

"I guess it was a form of showing off. But I enjoyed the positive reaction."

At the end of his course, Iain went to acting classes and the introduction to this world saw him write plays achieve remarkable critical success.

And while he's had lean years he's philosophical about the course of life and work.

"I've given up writing to teach acting three times but in the past two years I've gone back to full-time writing."

The work is flowing. "Now that I don't teach anymore I'm writing a play set in education," he reveals. "I'm also writing a play set in the early sixties, contrasting the old black and white world of the fifties with the new consumerism, a time when sex was beginning to be available in a way it wasn't."

He's written a one-man version of Hamlet, called Tragic he hopes to tour in the autumn. However television's door is only ever slightly ajar. "Britain is too dominated by executives," he says. "In America, the writers have power. And in Scotland I don't know what STV can do given the Manchester London cartel. The BBC is also a virtual cartel. How can it make sense when London sitcoms are filmed in Glasgow?"

He talks of writing for River City (the first eight episodes) and speaks of several Scottish writers edged out because they had 'big personalities.'

It's not hard to believe why the outspoken Iain Heggie was one of them.

"It's a pity because I think TV is much easier to write for than theatre," he maintains. "Resolving scene structure in theatre is much harder. But I loved River City. It was a chance to learn and it was fantastic fun. While theatre offered a lot of freedom (of writers' expression) I wasn't very guarded in TV meetings and didn't realise producers sometimes don't like this."

Iain Heggie won't not write. It's what he does. It's cathartic. It helps put life into perspective.

"Yes, but you do get a little less fearless as you get older," he offers, grinning.

It's hard to believe, coming from a man who's written a hugely provocative monologue for a woman of a certain age and contrary disposition.

n The Queen Of Lucky People, Oran Mor, until Saturday.

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