A new adaptation of Brecht's comedy Mr Puntila and His Man Matti arrives at Tramway this March. Adapting this classic is Scottish writer Denise Mina, read on to find out more about Denise and her gender-switched adaption.

Denise Mina in rehearsals for Mrs Puntila and Her Man Matti. Photo Aly Wight 

Denise has been rocking the literature world for years. It didn't always look like it was going to be that way though. Denise left school at 16 and worked in a series of dead-end jobs before settling back here in Glasgow, where she still lives. She went to night school to get into Law at university and wrote her first novel, Garnethill whilst she was supposed to be working on her PhD thesis on the ascription of mental illness to female offenders.

Garnethill went on to win the Crime Writers' Association John Creasy Dagger Award for Best First Crime Novel. Since then Denise has written 12 novels including The End of the Wasp Season and Gods and Beasts, both of which won the prestigious Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Novel of the Year Award in consecutive years. In 2014 she was inducted into the Crime Writers’ Association Hall of Fame. Her most recent novel, Conviction, stars a strong female protagonist who is obsessed by true-crime podcasts. It was a New York Times bestseller and a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick. 

Denise is a multi-talented force, regularly contributing to TV and Radio as well as writing short stories and graphic novels. She was even the first woman to write 12 instalments for comic-book horror series Hellblazer. 

Her new adaptation Mrs Puntila and Her Man Matti reunites Denise with comic actor Elaine C Smith, who stars. The pair have worked together before - on a Play, Pie And Pint lunchtime show about the matriarch of a Glasgow gangland family.

Denise sent Elaine a draft copy of Ida Tamson, with a note saying: "I read somewhere that when Mario Puzo wrote The Godfather he sent it straight Marlon Brando, so I'm sending you this because I can't think of anyone better to play the part". Elaine agreed and they've got on famously ever since.

Denise Mina and Elaine C. Smith Eoin Carey
Denise says that she also knew straight away that Elaine would be the perfect Puntila. In a recent interview Denise explained why the gender swap was necessary: 

"Changing it from Mr Puntila to Mrs Puntila was absolutely essential to the production because a large part of the original is about sexual predation of powerful men. It was a bit Benny Hill which at that time was very funny and did talk about power and it was regarded as quite radical but to us now it reads very differently and by changing the gender it means that we can comb all of that sexual politics out and actually just look at the raw issue of power ownership and selling other people."

Elaine C. Smith in Mrs Puntila and Her Man Matti. Photo Mihaela Bodlovic

With its themes of class and power, we think Brecht's comedy is as relevant as ever and Denise's new version highlights modern issues such as zero-hour contracts and food banks. She told us why the 1940 play is so ripe for adaptation:

"It's a brilliant play for now because it speaks so much about what is going on and the big issues that we're addressing now. It speaks about power differentials, about income differentials, about rich and poor, about why there isn't a revolution, about the treatment of workers, about the centralisation of power in one person."

You can read more about Denise and this new play, in The ListThe Scotsman,  and The Morning Star

Don't miss this wild reworking of the Brecht classic when it arrives at Tramway from 25 March. Book your tickets here

Mrs Puntila and Her Man Matti is co-production with Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh in association with DOT Theatre, Istanbul.