THEATRE / The feel bad factor: Doug Lucie has made a career of lambasting the metropolitan middle classes. Georgina Brown asks him about his latest assault

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The Independent Culture
The gaping knees in Doug Lucie's Levis are not an attempt to stride with right-on trendiness into middle-age; it's a matter of funds. 'I was on benefit until a month or two ago and I'm lucky, I get plays on,' he shrugs.

Lucie has pretty much cornered the market in the feel-bad play (Hard Feelings, Progress, Fashion) and his splendid scorn has earned him fame - notoriety even - if not fortune. Not that he's ever done it for the money.

His mission has always been to hold up a mirror on a middle-class materialistic world he finds at once 'horrific and hilarious'. And since Lucie is also directing his new play, Gaucho, it will be as horrific and hilarious as he intends. 'I want it to be an 'in yer face' production. Lots of humour, not a comedy,' he says. 'And I don't like director's flourishes; I don't need them. My name's on the front of the programme.'

His desire to direct is partly in response to his treatment as the writer of a television script. Lucie's title was The Golden Hello; he read that it had been changed to Headhunters in the Independent. 'That embodies what the process was like; things were changed without any reference to me. Once the camera started rolling I had no say, no control. It's good to be in control again.'

Gaucho zooms in on a group of Oxford graduates, some 20 years on. A journalist of the killer-interviewer type arrives with some friends at the Greek island hideaway of Dec, a big-time cannabis dealer (loosely based on Howard Marks). Her brief - to dig the dirt on her former lover - blows up in her face. They're an ugly lot, utterly cynical and egotistical.

Lucie's view of humanity is particularly bleak. 'Born free but everywhere in chains, pretty well sums it up,' he says. A blacker Simon Gray, Lucie is the chronicler of his own Oxbridge generation. He went up to read English in 1973 and threw himself with a vengeance into drama, demos and sit-ins. He's wasted none of the material, reworking incidents, characters and themes again and again. The scenario in which a grammar school lad makes mincemeat of a public school chap recurs in Gaucho. The hero is the ostensible baddie, the voice of opposition, the one driven almost to the end of his tether.

And, surprise, surprise, it is with him that Lucie clearly identifies.

'He is talking about a moral order which will happily ban, prescribe and hand out edicts arbitrarily, about a society which makes up morality on the hoof rather than addressing questions of what it believes and what the consequences of its actions are.' Dec's position might also be compared to that of the writer who feels pushed into a corner where no one is listening.

Lucie admits that until a couple of years ago he would have placed himself in the camp of the despairing. 'I began to feel disillusioned with the process of opposition, that it was all a waste of time.' He traces his renewed optimism to the change in Tory fortunes.

And while he believes that theatre is suffering from a 'lack of nerve' and too often follows what the public wants ('there are too many insignificant plays'), he is confident that through it he can achieve his aims. 'Theatre is like a rockpool where a tide is in for hours on end and all you can see is this great grey wash, then out it goes and you get down there and see real life magnified and fascinating. Then the tide comes in and we hold our breath again. There was a point when I thought that the tide would always stay in. Now I know that it goes out. Occasionally. In my plays, anyway.'

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