The Herald – Interview for Seizer

Seized by joint ventures

Keith Bruce

The Herald Friday 24 October 1997

SPENCER Hazel has a scheme to encourage new writing on the British stage. ”Shakespeare should be banned for the next 10 years,” he opines, then theatre might escape atrophy.

Failing that, Hazel is doing his best to defend the art form by creating work that attempts to redefine the role of the playwright both in relation to the audience and the actors. The 30-year-old first came to notice with Frantic Theatre Company, Fringe favourites who created Klub and then Flesh.

This year Hazel has been collaborating with Boilerhouse, the Edinburgh-based company which has since been awarded an annual grant of £100,000 from the SAC’s Fixed Term Funding Awards for touring theatre, an award based on the company’s appeal to young people.

Its latest production Seizer, first seen outdoors in the Old Quadrangle of Edinburgh University during the Fringe, is aimed at the same audience. With Tam Dean Burn playing the gladiatorial MC from an armoured vehicle and much loud music being played, its setting made sense.

How it will play in Glasgow and Stirling remains to be seen. The publicity for the show makes much of his contribution: it is billed Seizer by Spencer Hazel, with the name of Boilerhouse much smaller, but Hazel makes much of the collaborative process, talking of the text as being only one of the ”tracks” in the final mix. ”I worked with Christine Devaney on Flesh, but there the script was produced separately and the choreography was added later. This time we worked together and it opened up the creative process.

”Because we have a very literary theatre heritage in this country, playwrights are not theatre writers. We are using the structures that previously existed by denying them. It cuts right through a lot of that hierarchical nonsense you get in theatre. ”

Hazel was born in Newcastle but moved to Holland when he was nine, living there for 14 years. Returning to Britain he had to relearn English, and discovered its playfulness. His relatively recent reacquaintance with his native tongue may be partly responsible for his inventive use of it. The Boilerhouse performers – Tam Dean Burn, Michelle Gomez, Denise Evans, and Jan Knightley – and director Paul Pinson played equal parts in Seizer’s development, he says, but the audience is ”another part of the transaction, an extra member of the cast”.

That attitude chimes with Hazel’s writing, which does not create characters, but uses the personalities of the performers. He insists this is no big deal. ”It is just a different approach, instead of pretending to be someone else. It means you see the theatre experience for what it really is.” Hazel insists such an approach should not be intimidating for the audience. ”It is the job of the artistic community to offer different interpretations of experience, or offer the means to interpret experiences differently. We are not painting a picture, we are creating a mirror.”

Seizer is at the MacRobert Arts Centre, Stirling University, at 10.30pm tonight and tomorrow, and at the Tramway, Glasgow, October 30 and 31, and November 1 at 8pm.