Monday, 7 October 2013

In Time O' Strife

Pathhead Halls, Kirkcaldy
Five stars
The bar is open, the tables are out and the band are playing like
dervishes at a living-room hoolie as the audience file into the
community hall where Joe Corrie's grim realist play about the effects
of the seven month miner's strike that followed the 1926 General Strike
had on the Fife pit-head community. A framed picture of Corrie hangs
above the serving hatch and there's a speak-easy vibe to proceedings.
When a little girl stands at the microphone after fiddler Jennifer
Reeve has introduced Corrie's play and starts singing sweetly about
hanging black-legs before the seven-strong cast of this thrilling new
take on the play dance in vigorous unison to a thunderous indie-folk
arrangement of one of Corrie's songs, you know it's as vitally
contemporary and as far removed from old-time melodrama as is possible.

Director and adaptor Graham McLaren has put music and dance at the
play's heart, with a live soundtrack, composed and performed by Michael
John McCarthy's four-piece band, and Imogen Knights' choreography
crucial elements that display how song and dance can bind people. The
story itself, about a family torn apart by the strike, is a
gut-wrenchingly emotional experience, and there are some wonderful
performances from Hannah Donaldson and Owen Whitelaw as the central

While never overplayed, watching archive film footage of the pitched
battles between police and miners during the Battle of Orgreave in the
1984 miners strike brings Corrie's message chillingly home. As does the
closing rendition of The Red Flag. Anyone who thinks the song an
anachronism should witness this version, which is by turns mournful,
defiant, furious, triumphal and the most necessary song of today.

The Herald, October 7th 2013

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