Posted by Babs Melville
We caught up with Ian Boyter to find out more about The Gutenberg Boys, a storytelling stage show taking place at Dreghorn Loan Hall on Saturday 14th April.
First, can you tell us a bit about the story?
Set in the Edinburgh in the 1960s, the stage show is based on Ian Boyter’s book, ‘The Adventures of The Gutenberg Boys’. This extraordinary fictional memoir is a hilarious evocation of the work, play and joyful shenanigans of a group of 1960s printing apprentices as they grapple with the antiquated printing methods of Johannes Gutenberg.
In a busy Edinburgh printing factory, in glitzy, grimy dance halls where rock ’n’ roll is youth’s latest passion, in the streets and bars of the capital city, Blackie, the rawest new apprentice and his crafty workmates relieve life’s daily grind by outwitting each other, outfoxing the foreman and betting on the Cuban missile crisis, while flirting with forgery, fire-raising, fantasy and the fairer sex, as they gradually wise up …and become letterpress printers in the process.
Ian, three other musicians and a show director have collaborated to develop the script, and eight brand-new rock ‘n roll songs.
Alastair McDonald, best known for his Scottish folk songs, is flexing his considerable storytelling muscles. He also sings and plays guitar in the show.
Peter Fenton, singer and guitarist, is the show’s lead singer and is accompanied by Alan Herriot on keyboards and vocals. Alan, also an excellent singer, has created the show’s original cartoons. Ian adds his saxophone to the music, which is performed live on stage.
What lead you to adapting the book into a stage show?
I wanted to perform a reading of some of the stories myself, but I don’t have the ability to do the stories justice. My friend, Alastair McDonald, is an experienced actor, and he offered to make audio recordings to let me hear how he thought the characters should be ‘played’. There is a lot of pithy Scots dialogue in the stories and Alastair is the ideal actor to express it. When I heard his readings I was amazed at how he added much more drama and expression to the stories than I could ever have imagined. He is able to use individual voices for each of the characters and bring them vividly to life.
What do you think the music adds to the story?
Some of the stories take place in dance halls and sometimes the teenage characters discuss the pop music of their day. Because I am a working musician, having played saxophone in rock and jazz bands since I was a teenager, I felt that certain parts of the stories could be re-interpreted as songs and add whole additional dimension to the show.
How long has the adaption taken? What changes had to be made?
Once the project group was formed (one storyteller, three musicians and a director) we worked for about three months, holding one project group meeting a week on the script adaptation. At the same time the eight songs were written and developed. For the show, the stories (four stories selected from twenty in the book) were simplified, reducing the number of characters and cutting any parts of the storyline deemed not absolutely essential to moving the story forward at a good fast pace. Many sentences were re-written to ensure that the identity of the particular character speaking was immediately established. Finally, to get the show down to a reasonable length, one and a quarter hours, I was ruthless in editing my text, with the valuable assistance of Alastair McDonald and the show director.
Do you have any other projects planned?
Once the show has been premiered I might be able to think about future projects, (there is plenty more unused material in my book) but with two weeks to go, my total focus is on this show.
Where can people find out more about the show?
Go to my website: http://www.ianboyter.co.uk