Irvine Welsh to premiere new play at Edinburgh Fringe

Irvine Welsh's new stage play has been inspired by the cult gangland film Performance.

Irvine Welsh's new stage play has been inspired by the cult gangland film Performance.

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Irvine Welsh has revealed he is to premiere a brand new play at this summer’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe – set at the height of the swinging Sixties.

The writer, who has only previously penned two stage plays, has created a black comedy about two real-life gangland figures auditioning for a role in the cult film Performance, which Mick Jagger made with Edinburgh-born director Donald Cammell in 1968.

The Trainspotting author is joining forces with long-time collaborator Dean Cavanagh, who is also writing a TV series with Welsh about the origins of the UK’s rave culture.

Performers will be launched a decade after the writers, who are working on a biopic of Glasgow-born Creation Records founder Alan McGee, wrote a play inspired by the off-screen exploits of the actors who played the Munchkins in The Wizard of Oz.

Billed as “a cross between Waiting For Godot and The Italian Job”, Welsh’s play Performers will be directed by the Harry Potter and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels star Nick Moran when it gets its world premiere at the Assembly Rooms this summer.

Performance, which saw James Fox play a gangster who hides out in the house of a rock star played by the Rolling Stones frontman, was one of the best-known films directed by Cammell, who brought in several underworld figures.

Born at the top of the Royal Mile, in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle, in 1934 , he was a gifted painter as a schoolboy and moved to London when he was just 16 after winning a Royal Academy scholarship.

Welsh himself moved to London as a teenager at the height of the 1970s punk scene, working as a clerk for Hackney Council and studying computing with the help of the Manpower Services Commission.

Welsh said: “Dean and I are both big film nuts. We worked on a similar thing with Babylon Heights, the play we did about the little people who were almost put under house arrest when they were working on The Wizard of Oz.

“Performers is really about how art and entertainment treat people who don’t have a lot of power or are culturally outside of that place.

"The Sixties were such a pivotal time for the UK, when that sense of Britishness was still very much intact.

"We were all invested in the post-war dream, we had a very confident country and there was a growing standard of living. It was such a dynamic time.

“The recruitment of ordinary geezers from east and south London for Donald Cammell’s film seemed a fascinating story.

"The premise of an interview felt such a good way to address the Sixties theme but also explore the ongoing crisis of male sexuality.

“We didn’t really plan this project out, like we usually do. We started knocking around ideas, sending bits and pieces about the movie to each other, and got a conversation going.”

Moran said: “It’s really a comedy of manners about two people who should be running into a bank with stockings on their heads who are waiting to be auditioned for an art film with Mick Jagger in it.

"It’s a bit like a cross between Waiting For Godot and The Italian Job. What’s remarkable is how well Irvine and Dean have captured the parlance of the Sixties and the gag-a-minute dialogue.

“If people don’t know Performance they will still get it, but if they do know the film then they will really get it.”