Volume 94, Issue 62

Friday, January 12, 2000


London playwright wins Lottery

DJs spin for charity

Sad Rockets take off with new album

Maggie's more than crepes

The Friday Rant

London playwright wins Lottery

By Rebecca Morier
Gazette Staff

Is it a bird or a plane? Neither, it's Superman. Chip or cracker? Doesn't matter, it's a snack. Is it a play or novel? If you're talking about The Phoenix Lottery, it's both.

For author and playwright, Allan Stratton, the play and the novel are not mere reflections of the same story. "The two are quite different," he contends. "The novel functions as a comic epic. It has a huge cast of characters and it takes place over 50 years – it's big. The play concentrates on the events immediately surrounding Junior Beamish's decision to launch the Phoenix lottery."

Stratton first wrote a draft of The Phoenix Lottery as a play, but became increasingly intrigued by the characters. "The more I thought about them, the richer they became, and there was simply too much material for a play," he says. The story then evolved into a novel, since Stratton considers writing plays and novels both gratifying though vastly different.

"In the novel, the art is in the digression and being able to spin out a story. In theatre, the art is in being able to cut and edit. They're quite different skills but I enjoy everything," he says. Despite noting the difference between the two formats, Stratton marks the similarity between audiences and readers.

Gazette File Photo

"You can have a reader who's not particularly perceptive, just as you can have a production that's not sensitive to the material and can misrepresent it. The thing is, in theatre, if it doesn't come across properly, the playwright takes it in the neck."

In acknowledging the threat of public criticism, Stratton favours the type of control one has in fiction, especially in being able to work symbiotically with an editor. Still, with the exception of public readings, he misses the interaction with the audience. "There's something about being in the theatre with a crowd of people laughing and responding, that I find really terrific and that you miss in fiction," he admits.

Starting tonight and lasting until Jan. 28, The Phoenix Lottery will have its London run at The Grand Theatre, giving Stratton the opportunity to embrace the immediacy of his audience's responses.

A London native, Stratton is no stranger to the theatre, as he will be returning to his roots, both in a familial and an artistic sense. "I'm returning to a family home and also, The Grand has been a home to my work in the past," he says. In fact, The Phoenix Lottery is his fourth play to hit The Grand's stage, with Papers, Friends of a Feather and the successful Nurse Jane Goes to Hawaii as his dramatic precursors.

When asked whether or not Stratton still has feelings of anxiety and excitement with the opening of his latest comedy, he laughs nervously and reveals, "Yeah, all of that." Not that he has much to worry about; humour seems to exude from his writing, which he credits largely to his personal vision of the world.

"What a person writes, whether it's comic or dramatic, depends very much on their sensibility. The nature of the person is going to come out in their writing. I tend to have an ironic view of the world and that comes out in my work," he asserts. "A friend told me once, 'I go jogging and sweat is the by-product of my jogging.' So I write, and laughter is the by-product of my writing."

Stratton's plans for 2001 will see him return to writing his new novel, of which he is currently in the midst. But he doesn't have to worry about not keeping resolutions since he hasn't made them. Still, he does think that some are worth making.

"I think a good one would be to live in the moment and a second one would be to keep perspective," he states assuredly. "I've tried to keep in mind with this particular opening that no matter how important something seems, nothing in terms of one's career will end or begin one's life."

Allan Stratton will read from his latest novel on Monday, Jan. 15 at 7:30 p.m. at the central location of the London Public Library and his latest play is running at The Grand Theatre until Jan. 28.

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Copyright The Gazette 2000