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Dear Scotland

Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh
Four stars
One of the most refreshing things about the second part of the National
Theatre of Scotland's compendium of mini monologues by contemporary
writers inspired by one of the SNPG's magnificently multi-faceted
archive is, as with its predecessor, co-directors Joe Douglas and
Catrin Evans' refusal to cast to type. So while Janice Galloway's take
on Muriel Spark is performed by Anneika Rose with a vivaciousness that
suggests a nation in its prime, Johnny McKnight's version of the Queen
finds Colin McCredie playing a woman hurt both by neglect and the fact
that she's been portrayed on-screen by Helen Mirren.

Linda McLean's Clementina Stirling Graham is a shrewd operator, Liz
Lochhead's Robert Burns a partisan firebrand, while Rona Munro's
tribute to Dear Scotland contributor Jackie Kay is the warmest of
homages. Rob Drummond's Three Oncologists look at some very real
matters of life and death, Nicola McCartney's bystander from a scene
involving James 111 brings home some similarly hard truths, even as
Iain Heggie's James V1 and 1 is a gloriously bucket-mouthed chancer
showing off his motley collection of flag designs.

We're only fully brought back down to earth in what is effectively a
series of spoken-word routines by comic Chic Murray and trade unionist
Jimmy Reid. As devilishly observed by writer Stewart Hepburn and
performer Sally Reid, Murray's showbiz anecdote is a deceptively wise
parable involving Jimmy Tarbuck, Barry Manilow and the distance between
tenement walls. It is Hardeep Singh Kohli's version of Reid, however,
who possesses the common touch required to prove that, whatever happens
next, while much of the polemic will come cheap and easy, it will
always be the poetry that counts.

The Herald, April 29th 2014



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