Stewart Conn by Sean Hudson

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Thumbnail image of I Didn't Always Live Here I Didn't Always Live Here
Oberon Modern Plays, 2013 (7m 3f)
Stage premiere: Citizens' Theatre, Glasgow, 1967
 

“Not as if I always lived here, mind you ... I started off in Govan. Never dreamt in those days I'd end up this side of the river. Real step up in the world that was ... I'm grateful for it. Despite everything. I'm grateful for it.”

Set in a Glasgow tenement in the 1960s but with flash-backs to the Depression, the Blitz and shortly after World War Two, the play was premiered by the Glasgow Citizens' Company – being revived, most recently, at the Finborough Theatre, London, in March 2013. The text of this production is included in the Oberon Modern Plays series.

I Didn't Always Live Here is a powerful and affectionate evocation of the city in which it is set, presented from the point of view of the marginal and dispossessed who take centre stage ... but resonating with deeper, wider significance ... a sombre meditation on human life's fragility, made good by human warmth and community. — Anne Varty (The Edinburgh Companion to Scottish Drama/EUP)


Hugh Miller
Diehard, 2002 (1m)
Stage premiere: Netherbow Theatre, Edinburgh, 1988

 

This one-man piece draws on Miller's vibrant writings to examine the tug between his fundamental religious beliefs and the implications of his fossil discoveries, and the circumstances leading to his tragic suicide.  With a coda spoken by his 'ghost'.

Fringe First winner, Edinburgh International Festival Fringe, 1988

Conn's play, a powerful piece of drama, affords a glimpse into the soul of this remarkable man, achieving unusual depth in presentation of character. It's also beautifully written. — Joy Hendry, Glasgow Herald

It brings out the very spirit of Fringe drama.  It is innovative, and beautifully written. —  Trevor Royle, BBC Radio Scotland (Festival View)


Herman
Fairplay Press, 2007 (3m 2f)
Stage premiere: Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh, 1981
 

To escape an obsession with one of his students an academic immerses himself in the work of Herman Melville, only to blur his distinction between fantasy and reality and find himself pursued by two seamen, in fact the Furies, in many guises.

Fringe First winner, Edinburgh International Festival Fringe, 1981

An unsettling study of personal obsession, this stimulating and imaginative work continually juggles reality and fantasy in a succession of succinct scenes ... [the central character's] self-loathing translated into a series of blackly comic confrontations with two men, always different yet always the same, who emerge from the shadows with sinister authority. — Mary Brennan, Glasgow Herald

... a play with resonances, written with a poet's feeling for words, but without being “poetic”;  the action moves freely but with moments of almost macabre tension, through several planes of “reality” ... At every turn the Furies are there, now blackly comic, now menacing. — Cordelia Oliver, The Guardian.


The Aquarium
Fairplay Press, 2007 (2m 2f)
Stage premiere: Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh, 1973
 

Set in a middle-class Glasgow flat in the early 1970s the action involves a father and son each of whom perceives the other as failing to live up to expectation, and the destructive effect of this, not least on the mother with her divided loyalties.

In Stewart Conn's play THE AQUARIUM a woman asks, “What's the use of loving someone if you don't show it?”  This is the key to the bitter conflict between father and son that Conn so vividly presents.  Their hostility does not stem from a lack of affection, but from their inability to express good will towards each other.  Their relationship steeped in rancour, neither is prepared to understand the other, or to make that gesture that would bring them closer together. — Allen Wright, The Scotsman


Play Donkey
Fairplay Press, 2007 (5m 3f)
Stage premiere: Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh, 1977
 

The focus shifts between a young Scottish mercenary in an African jail, and those most concerned about the outcome:  his uncomprehending parents and girlfriend, a local reporter, an eye-for-the-main-chance lawyer, and a bland consular official.

Stewart Conn's play is a powerful commentary on one of the violent evils of the age, the facts and acts of mercenary soldiering ...  Every word sounds exactly right for the speaker in question, and at the same time says more than mere colloquial fidelity could encompass... [Presenting us with] a quite unsentimentalised picture of a callous young misfit, yet a profoundly pathetic glimpse of what can happen to misfits, and how they may be used, it is  absolutely riveting. — Christopher Small, Glasgow Herald

PLAY DONKEY centres on a young Scottish mercenary awaiting an “exemplary” trial in “some emergent African state”.  Like a child's game of cat's cradle, it links his destiny with some of those most closely affected by it – his bewildered parents, two girls, the clever London lawyer who flies out to plead his cause, knowing it is already as good as lost.  Conn's strength is that he refuses to take sides...  Laughter is written into the play, and deftly so.  It is laughter only to stop you weeping. — Cordelia Oliver, The Guardian


The King
New English Dramatists 14
Penguin Plays, 1970 (2m 1f)
Stage premiere: Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, 1967
 

Drawing on myth and anthropological sources, the play depicts a couple who engage a gardener who claims to control the weather, and symbolically seduce and crown him – only to kill him when they realise they have been deluded.


The Burning
Scots Plays of the 70s

The Burning
Calder & Boyars, 1973

Subsequently included in
Scots Plays of the Seventies
edited by Bill Findlay
Scottish Cultural Press, 2001 (cast size can vary in accordance with the text used, and production requirements)
Stage premiere: Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh, 1971

 

Through the power struggle between James I and his cousin the Earl of Bothwell, divine right and individual freedom, the play explores the themes of superstition and witchcraft, and the way the innocent can be mercilessly caught in the middle.

The Royal Lyceum Company's production of THE BURNING is a genuine step towards national theatre...  Conn marshals the cumbersome machinery of dramatised history with an original clear voice.  In a series of short scenes, broken up by some splendid ballads, he creates a convincing social flavour of corruptibility at the top and gullibility below. — Helen Dawson, The Observer

Stewart Conn's THE BURNING  shows how innocent citizens are trapped by struggles for political or religious power, in this case between King James VI and the Earl of Bothwell.  Towards the end of the play Bothwell says to the King, “We are the upper and nether millstones, you and I.  One way or another, it is those trappt in the middle must pay the price”. — Bill Findlay (ed.), introducing Scots Plays of the Seventies


Other plays include Thistlewood (1975), Hecuba (1979, with music by John Sampson), and Clay Bull (1998). 

An adaptation of George Mackay Brown's Greenvoe, with music by Alasdair Nicolson, premiered at Orkney's St Magnus Festival in 1998. Four Tales of Enchantment (Two Sisters; A Rose; A Flood; and Snow), also set by Alasdair Nicolson, was premiered by the London Symphony Orchestra and chorus at St Luke's, Covent Garden in 2005.

Radio work includes plays (Any Following Spring, 1962; Cadenza for Real, 1963; The Canary Cage, 1967; Miss Wilmot's Ghost, 1993) plus adaptations and dramatisations (his own stage play Clay Bull; The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark; Good by C. P. Taylor; Too Late the Phalarope by Alan Paton)

For television, Wally Dugs go in Pairs (BBC1, 1973); The Kite (BBC2, 1979); and Bloodhunt (adapted from the novel by Neil M. Gunn, BBC2, 1986)

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