Published: 27/05/2008 00:00 - Updated: 25/11/2011 17:48

Cult classic The Wasp Factory re-imagined

Nicola Jo Cully as Frank, Ian Sexton as Father and Robbie Jack as Eric.
Nicola Jo Cully as Frank, Ian Sexton as Father and Robbie Jack as Eric.

IAIN Banks made both his debut and an instant reputation as a striking new talent with the publication of "The Wasp Factory" in 1984. A macabre and often horrifically violent novel about a very dysfunctional family living on a small island off the north east coast of Scotland, its mix of dark fantasy and wicked humour has ensured its status as a cult novel ever since. Ed Robson, the artistic director of Cumbernauld Theatre, is a long-standing fan of the book, and his new stage version a co-production with Glasgow's Tron Theatre will visit Eden Court this week. The co-production came about thought a chance meeting with the then artistic director of the Tron, Gregory Thompson, in early 2007. "I happened to be sitting in the bar at the Tron one day when Greg came in," Robson explained. "We had a coffee and were chatting away and he asked what we were thinking of doing. I mentioned 'The Wasp Factory' and he immediately said would I be interested in doing that as a co-production with the Tron. It was one he was really excited about it was just one of those lucky moments." The new production is built around Malcolm Sutherland's adaptation, originally created for the Citizen's Theatre in Glasgow in 1990 (Iain Banks's own preferred stage version), but the exigencies of that production necessitated changes this time round. "It was created for a very specific context in-the-round at the Citizens, so we have had to make changes to many of the things that were specific to that setting," Robson confirmed. "It is Malcolm's interpretation in terms of the text, but re-envisioned in dramatic terms if you like. "For me this book has always seemed eminently translatable to the stage, and of course there have been various adaptations over the years. Iain is very generous with his work, and has been very supportive of what we wanted to do with it. He basically left us to get on with it, and is very relaxed about people taking a new approach to his work. I think he finds that quite exciting." One controversial note in the new version is that Robson has chosen to give away a major twist in the novel (spoiler alert) that the central character, Frank Cauldhame, is actually a girl from the outset by casting Nicola Jo Cully in the role, with Robbie Jack as his psychotic brother, Eric, and Ian Sexon as their father. "A girl has always played Frank, but the way it is usually done is that there is a boy and a girl playing it in the same production," Robson explained. "We have only the girl Frank, but that seemed very straightforward to me. Frank Cauldhame is a girl. In terms of the plot in the book you don't know that until the end, and obviously we have foregone that revelation in our production it is the character who is unaware rather than the audience. "There does seem to be some resistance to having a girl in the role, but I come back to the fact that Frank is a girl, a girl who thinks she is a boy, but definitely physically and genetically a girl. We have really tried to create the original's sense of mystery and darkness on the island, but Iain has always said it is dark and it is comic and we have tried to remember both aspects of that. Sometimes the only way to deal with the level of violence described in the story is to laugh at it, even if it is a bit nervously!" * The Wasp Factory is at the One Touch Theatre, Eden Court, tomorrow and Thursday. Tuesday Reviews - only in the Inverness Courier

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