Finished With Engines
This article is from 2008.
As a revival of Finished With Engines hits the Fringe, Scottish playwright Alan McKendrick tells Kirstin Innes about his fertile collaboration with members of New York’s Riot Group
Stephanie Viola and Drew Friedman, draped sleepily about a rehearsal room, don’t look much like wisecracking sailors with the power to blow up the world. It might be the jet lag. The New York-based actors, best known as founder members of the multi award-winning Riot Group, have just flown back to Scotland to revive Finished With Engines, a sharply-written, critically acclaimed two-hander set on a floating nuclear platform, which debuted at the Arches in 2006, the result of a commission which put Friedman and Viola together with Scottish playwright and director Alan McKendrick.
‘I think the Arches put us together because they know we’ve got similar interests – in making politically-inflected work with a heightened use of language,’ says McKendrick. ‘I turned up to the first rehearsal with the first two scenes down, but Drew and Steph’s approach – actually, ‘attack’ would be more appropriate – to the work greatly influenced my writing. The piece evolved naturally from the personnel involved.’
McKendrick welcomes the chance to revisit the production for the Traverse Fringe programme.
‘Something I want to try and make clearer this time around is the overarching idea behind the piece. Between 1945 and about 1999, people’s fears of annihilation were collective and connected to nuclear threat. Round about the turn of the century that changed. That localised terrorism could topple all the world’s nuclear weapons from that list of anxieties is a radical and frightening shift, and one that goes largely unremarked upon.’
That said, Finished With Engines is a comedy. ‘In tackling subjects as huge as this, you’re on a hiding to nothing without a healthy, necessary dose of gallows humour. The kind of humour that only comes from almost total incomprehension of the size of the subject. It’s funny cos it’s true!’
Finished With Engines, Traverse Theatre, 228 1404, 1–10 Aug (not 4), times vary, £14–£16 (£10–£11). Preview 31 Jul, £10 (£5).