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The Bevellers

Citizens Theatre, Glasgow
4 stars
When the late Roddy McMillan’s glass factory set drama made its debut in 1973, Scotland, and indeed Britain, was a different world. Old industries were on their last legs, unreconstructed flat-cap Labour ruled the roost and mass unemployment was a thing of the future. Seeds were being sown, however, for the Thatcherite assault on culture that did the dirty work before ushering in its ideology’s bright Blairite heir.

Thirty-three years on, such notions stare audiences blue in the face in Jeremy Raison’s revival, as we follow apprentice beveller Norrie through his first day on the shop floor. Given a flinty, street-smart and unsentimental reading by William Ruane, as he’s put through his paces by foreman Bob Darnley, an entire word in microcosm opens up, making this not so much a parable of industrial strife than a forensic study of factory floor politics.

Raison’s production takes its time, and even the flare-ups that do occur are mere skirmishes which nevertheless point with bleak certainty to the bigger picture, epitomised by the appearance of Brian Pettifer’s sozzled old soak Alex. Only then do the consequences of 50 years hard labour become apparent. Andrew Clark’s Matchett is an effortlessly cock-sure 1970s lad, the one prevailing fixture in a work which, like the ancient newspaper Norrie finds behind a mirror, is a piece of living history destined to return.

By the end, Norrie may appear beaten, but perhaps we should think again. At least he’s been smart enough to get out. One fears for his future, however. Small business start-ups are only a ballot box away.

The Herald, February 14th 2007

ends

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