Performers deals with masculinity at the point when the sexual revolution was saturating culture. For many working class men it was confusing and threatening. As secularism started to replace traditional Judaeo-Christian attitudes, a lot of men found themselves torn between embracing the liberation and clinging to the simpler, more morally binary past.
In the swinging and hallucinogenic London of 1968, visionary Scottish filmmaker Donald Cammell joined forces with cinematographer Nicolas Roeg to make “Performance”. The film would star James Fox, Mick Jagger and Anita Pallenberg, but the casting process was frustrating for Cammell because he insisted on bringing “real villains” into the roles that supported the lead character of South London gangster Chas Devlin.
David Litvinoff, a chameleon-like character who bridged the worlds of rock and roll and organized crime, was employed as dialogue coach because of his connections and he set about introducing “real villains” to Donald Cammell. What started out as an acting vehicle for Mick Jagger soon took detours as Cammell began experimenting with the script. He developed the theme of dualism and became inspired by the writings of Borges and the paintings of Francis Bacon. Violence, psychedelic drugs, sex and a homoerotic subtext became enmeshed in a story about the fracturing of the male psyche. David Litvinoff persuaded many London criminals to audition for roles in the film.
Performers is the story of two of them.
On release, “Performance” was disowned by Warner Brothers, refused distribution, banned in certain countries and attacked by the mainstream media over its gratuitous sex, violence and illicit drug consumption. “Performance” did however go on to become a critical success and remains a cult classic. The filming took its toll on those involved though, most notably James Fox, who suffered a nervous breakdown and retired from acting for a period of time. Many believe that this was a result of Fox’s method acting and his submergence in the London criminal underworld in preparation for the role, which Cammell enthusiastically encouraged. Today the film is cited as a huge influence on director Martin Scorsese and many other filmmakers and has gained a place in pop culture as the “coolest” and most accurate portrayal of swinging London ever documented.
“Performers” is a dark, subtle comedy with a cast of 4. A play of one scene, that narrates the story of two unwitting gangsters who find themselves auditioning for a part in the film. Packed full of cultural reference points from the swinging sixties, the play presents an altogether inspiring twist on a classic casting couch situation. Perry Benson and George Russo make the perfect gangster duo, with exceptional immersion into his character from Perry. Expect some nudity.
Tickets priced between £10 & £15 available from 20/4/17 via
Assembly box office 0131 623 3030 or www.assemblyfestival.com
Irvine Welsh is the author of ten novels and four books of shorter fiction. Welsh shot to fame when Trainspotting was published in ’93. In ’94 Trainspotting made it’s debut as a play at Edinburgh fringe, before Danny Boyle’s film adaptation became a global blockbuster in ’96. The film became an iconic representation of 90’s culture and ensured Welsh’s place as one of the most contemporary and controversial writers of our time. Further novels such as Ecstasy, became the first paperback to go into The Sunday Times number 1 Best Seller list, with Filth selling over 1 million copies in the Uk alone. Welsh is a partner in two film production companies and is currently writing a TV screen play. The release in January this year of Trainspotting 2 grossed nearly $40 million at box offices worldwide. Originally from Edinburgh, he currently lives in Chicago.
Dean Cavanagh is a screenwriter, dramatist and author. He created The Herb Garden magazine in 1991 and went on to write regularly for The Face, I-D, NME and Melody Maker before starting work for the company Radical Media, penning TV commercials and music videos. Cavanagh first collaborated with Irvine Welsh in the late 90's and since then they have written for film, TV and the stage together, both in the UK and US. 'Performers' is the second play he has co-written with Welsh.
Nick Moran is a British actor, producer and director. Best know for his film roles in Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrels, The Musketeer and Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows parts 1 and 2. Moran first came to the big screen playing alongside Roger Daltry in Buddy and has played West End leads in plays such as the award winning Willy Russell play Blood Brothers. He co-wrote the play Telstar with James Hicks and made his directing debut with the big screen adaptation.
Perry Benson with an illustrious, comedic TV career spanning almost 5 decades, that includes; Grange Hill, Blackadder, The Young Ones, Dr Who & Benidorm to name only a few, Perry is best known for his major roles in films such as Quadrophenia, This Is England, Somers Town, Sid & Nancy, Scum & Vinyl
George Russo is a London based actor who co-wrote and played the lead in the independent film about London’s gangland – Turnout. George plays boxing promoter Frank Warren in the upcoming British sports drama My Name Is Lenny about the notorious bare-knuckle fighter Lenny McLean.
Lewis Kirk has appeared in the Netflix TV series Reign & the film adaptation of Les Miserables. He stars as singer Johnny Brandon in the upcoming TV film Babs, the life story of Barbra Windsor.
Maya Gerber starred as the young Princess Elizabeth alongside Dame Helen Mirren in The Audience, and has appeared in the TV films & series; Cider with Rosie, Black Mirror & On Angels Wings.
About Burning Wheel Productions
Burning Wheel are also producing Irvine and Dean's screen adaptation of Alan McGee's autobiography 'Riots, Raves and Running a Record Label - The story of Creation Records due to go into production later this Summer.
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