THE breakdown of the original frontman of psychedelic rock band Pink Floyd is to be explored in a major new play to be staged as part of Scotland’s annual festival tackling mental health issues.
The story of Syd Barrett, who was ejected from the group by his bandmates due to concerns over his erratic and unpredictable behaviour, will be brought to life by author and playwright Alan Bissett.
His play, One Thinks Of It All as a Dream, will be staged in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen later this year to coincide with both the 70th anniversary of Barrett’s birth and the tenth anniversary of his death.
Bissett is pledging to lift the lid on the “multi-faceted character” of Barrett, who was hugely influential in Pink Floyd’s sound, but was to live as a recluse for the rest of his days after leaving the band in 1968. The play is expected to be one of the centrepiece events of the tenth Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival, which now attracts more than 25,000 people to some 300 events across the country.
Bissett, whose previous plays include The Moira Monologues and Ban This Filth, said: “Syd Barrett is unique in rock‘n’roll history, and certainly haunted Pink Floyd’s music after he left. There’s no figure quite like him – which is itself attractive to a dramatist – but I also wanted to explore his multi-faceted character. He was by turns charismatic, selfish, principled and vulnerable.
READ MORE: The strange tale of Syd Barrett
“The legend of ‘Mad Syd’ has been enshrined in rock lore, but I wanted to get past the acid-casualty clichés to try to find the man beneath, in all his complexity.
“I took the decision to go backwards and forwards in time, through all the periods of Barrett’s life, to try to gain some understanding of the entwined roots of creativity and mental illness, as well as the various impulses which might have driven him to reject the modern world.”
Cambridge-born Barrett was a founder member of Floyd and wrote many of their early songs, but was ousted during the making of their second album, A Saucerful of Secrets. His problems were largely attributed to his heavy experimentation with the drug LSD.
After abandoning an attempted solo career, releasing two unsuccessful albums, he moved in with his mother and lived as a recluse until he died in 2006.
Floyd became one of the world’s most successful rock bands, selling more than 250 million albums, securing entry to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996 and memorably reforming, without Barrett, for Bob Geldof’s Live 8 event in London’s Hyde Park the year before their former frontman died.
His former bandmates David Gilmour, Nick Mason and Rick Wright told a BBC documentary four years ago about how there was little understanding of mental illness at the time Barrett was in Pink Floyd and admitted he had not been treated properly for his condition.
Falkirk-born Bissett is now working on a play charting the impact Scottish football star Graeme Souness had when he signed as player-manager for Rangers FC.