The Edinburgh Fringe is still three months away, but last week saw the announcement of what is sure to be one of the biggest attractions of 2017. Fresh from a sell-out run of his iconic Trainspotting in 2016 and the release of the long-awaited sequel to the classic 90’s film version, Irvine Welsh and writing partner Dean Cavanagh have revealed they will be bringing a new play to The Assembly Rooms. Performers will be directed by Nick Moran, best known for appearing in another 90’s favourite, Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels. Billed as Waiting For Godot meets The Italian Job, the play is set in London at the fag end of the Swinging Sixties. It stars Perry Benson as one of two gangland characters auditioning for a role in a classic film.
“It’s derived from a film called Performance,” confirms Benson, “Which was a seminal film that influenced Martin Scorsese and a lot of filmmakers who came after that. Nicolas Roeg co-directed it.” The other director on the film was Edinburgh-born Donald Cammell, something of a cult figure.
“He was a very interesting character. I believe he ended up going out with Marlon Brando’s younger daughter for a while.”
The link to Edinburgh in the story, as well as Welsh’s well-documented roots in the capital, are likely to ensure there can’t be any accusations of London-centric parochialism. But what can we expect from the play itself?
“It’s a fast-moving, very insightful piece from Irvine and Dean,” says Benson. “I was really attracted to the script as it’s quite quick as well. In the Assembly Rooms, you’ve only got just over an hour so it’s got to move; so in that way there are no boring bits, which is what I like.”
Benson’s involvement in the play came about partly through acquaintance with its creator. “I was asked by the producer Shelley Bell Hammond, and I know Irvine. He lives near me in London. I would bump into him occasionally. Obviously, I knew his work and he knew some of mine. We always had a little chat, often about soccer, so in that way we were like-minded.”
On being asked if a knowledge of Cammell and Roeg’s film was necessary to get the most out of Performers, Benson insists not but it is worth seeing for its own merits. “The piece stands alone as it is, but it might be worth seeing [Performance] before hand. It’s a very interesting film. It’s a good slice of life of the 60’s. Some reckon it’s the most authentic portrayal of what was going on at that time.”
The play will be the first time back on a Fringe stage for Benson in some time. “The last thing I did was about sixteen years ago for Andrew Brown who founded the Gilded Balloon with Karen Koren. We did a cabaret show called Cave of the Golden Calf, and a show called Mostly Haunted – sort of Burke and Hare-ish – an after dinner show at the Royal Scots Club in Abercromby Place.”
Although he has had an extended leave of absence from a Fringe stage, a Benson is a keen attendee. Closing our chat we asked if he had any particular recommendations for 2017. “I haven’t actually seen the programme yet, but they always have a fabulous spread of people. There will always be someone that I want to see there.
“I like a lot of spoken word; comedy, dance – whatever there is I’ll go and see it.”