IT’S 15 months since Edwin Morgan died, aged 90 and very frail. Yet his creative spirit surges on and now his friend Liz Lochhead, who succeeds him as Scotland’s Makar, has written an extraordinary tribute for this year’s Glasgay! festival.
It’s not a neat piece of theatre, and not everything works perfectly, but its warmth, its complex texture, and its dynamic, questioning quality express truths about Morgan that a tidier drama could not begin to contain.
The scene is a Glasgow care-home where Morgan lay dying, in the last year of his life; the key relationship is the one between Morgan and his friend and biographer, a fictional version of the real-life James McGonigal. Morgan feels he cannot write any more, but is suddenly assailed by three vivid and terrifying dreams. He clutches at James, and asks whether he thinks it possible that “a person could live two utterly different lives, without either self being aware of the other?”
Out of that central thought, Lochhead weaves a complex 80 minutes of memory, imagination, conversation, and poetry, in which Davie McKay plays both a lovable Morgan and – with less success – a cheeky, streetwise character who represents the poet’s “life force”. Part tribute to the intensity of a homosexual life that spanned the ages of secrecy and openness, part powerful reflection on Morgan’s modernity and restlessness, and part loving portrait of a city with its own double lives, Lochhead’s play is as rich as it is memorable; and even in its most awkward moments, the three actors – including Lewis Howden as the biographer, and Steven Duffy as a series of lovers – deliver it with a passion and care that speaks volumes, not least about the love that surrounds the immortal memory of Edwin Morgan.