The Slab Boys is a coming-of-age story that is recognised around the world and a modern piece of Scottish theatre history.
Although the events of The Slab Boys very obviously take place in Paisley in 1957 (Byrne's original detailed set design for The Slab Boys vividly evokes the factory where Byrne himself worked as a teenager), it would be mistake to think of The Slab Boys as a play 'about' working class Scotland. The play was hailed at its premiere at the Traverse Theatre in 1978 for its joyful and hilarious celebration of Scottish cultural identity and working class life and the play certainly depicts real life and real people, but does so whilst utilising theatrical and poetic language, farce and dealing with some large and universal themes. Teenage rebellion, the decline of industry and the impact that has on communities' and individuals' identities, the pervasiveness of American culture, and the importance and fragility of dreams and goals are all touched on in the play.
|Jamie Quinn as Spanky and Sammy Hayman as Phil in rehearsals for The Slab Boys. Credit Tim Morozzo.|
|Original The Slab Boys production. Courtesy of The Traverse Theater|
Like many a west coast émigré The play even made it across the pond to New York, where Kevin Bacon, Sean Penn and Val Kilmer practised their best Paisley accents in 1983.
|Production shot from the 1983 Broadway production of The Slab Boys starring Sean Penn, Kevin Bacon and Val Kilmer.|
When The Slab Boys director David Hayman later worked with Kevin Bacon on the movie Where the Truth Lies, Bacon told him that The Slab Boys was one of the highlights of his career.
Meanwhile, back in Scotland, the play was revived at the Traverse during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 1982. As well as returning to direct the play, David Hayman joined the cast as Phil with Gerard Kelly playing Spanky.
|Gerard Kelly and David Hayman in the 1982 production of The Slab Boys|
In 1997, Film 4 turned the stage play into a film, starring Robin Laing and Russell Barr with Julie Wilson Nimmo, Barbara Rafferty and Ford Kiernan also taking roles.
John Byrne has designed the new Citizens Theatre 2015 production, with lots of details to place us firmly one Friday afternoon in 1957 the day of the annual 'Staffie'.
|Detail from John Byrne's 2015 set design for The Slab Boys|
|David Hayman and John Byrne in rehearsals for The Slab Boys. Credit Tim Morozzo|