Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Cosmic Landing on the London Stage; with Two Plays Running, a Third in Rehearsal and Hollywood Knocking at His Door, the Once Promising Playwright David Greig Has Arrived

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Cosmic Landing on the London Stage; with Two Plays Running, a Third in Rehearsal and Hollywood Knocking at His Door, the Once Promising Playwright David Greig Has Arrived

Article excerpt

Byline: NICK CURTIS

DAVID Greig apologises for being hung-over, but I really can't blame him.

The slender, wispily bearded, Edinburgh based playwright has pulled off a remarkable hat-trick this month. He's just down from Stratford, where he has been watching early rehearsals for the RSC production of The American Pilot, his shrewd examination of the way the US is seen abroad.

Meanwhile, his play about amnesia, Pyrenees, is selling out at the Menier Chocolate Factory. And at the Donmar Warehouse this week, Tim Supple's revival of Greig's poetic 1999 exploration of loneliness, The Cosmonaut's Last Message to the Woman He Once Loved in the Former Soviet Union - which shares with Pyrenees the characters of faithless husband Keith and his abandoned wife, Vivienne, as well as existential themes and a larky sense of humour - has had the London critics proclaiming him as a man whose time has arrived. At 36, and with 37 plays already to his name, Greig has entered the first rank.

"It is an exciting and hectic time," he says. "In the past, my work has been done in Scotland and abroad but the London part of the equation was often, somehow, missing. When I was arrogant and in my twenties, I thought, f*** it, let them come to me.

But London really is the theatre city, more than Berlin and certainly more than New York, especially when it comes to new writing, so success here is very important to me."

There are three main prongs to David Greig's writing. First, there are the "wilfully experimental" dramas he writes for Suspect Culture, the Glasgow-based company he formed with director Graham Eatough after they both graduated from Bristol University's theatre course in 1991.

Then there are the plays for children, which he writes for schools tours, but which often go on to mainstream Scottish theatres: the Scots already regard Greig as their leading playwright, and he is dramaturg of the new Scottish National Theatre. But it is the "proper, grownup plays" such as Cosmonaut, the Balkan drama Europe and the Second World War-themed Outlying Islands that get him noticed abroad and down south and in which, he says: "I am trying to say something."

Many of these "grownup" plays explore universal problems of identity, communication and faith on a personal-and national level, and are geographically non-specific. A cynic might say this makes them easier to export, but their very rootlessness springs from Greig's upbringing. He was raised in Nigeria, where his Aberdonian father worked as a quantity surveyor, "but my first language, apparently, was Italian, as all the construction companies my dad worked for were Italian, and I was educated at an American missionary school, which gave me a big God thing for a while".

HE SAYS that he and his father are absorbed by ideas and by arcane information, which perhaps explains the allusive, associative nature of his work. …

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