Skip to main content

Mother of All the Peoples

Dundee Rep
Three stars

In a city built on its heroines, there are few more towering than Mary Slessor, the Dundee sired mill girl who in the nineteenth century followed in the footsteps of David Livingstone and spent almost four decades as a missionary in Africa. Mike Gibbs' play was inspired by Elizabeth Robertson's biography of the play's subject, The Barefoot Missionary, and faithfully dramatises Slessor's colourful life beyond it.

The play is introduced by the older Mary emerging from a large grass hut on one side of the stage to narrate her back pages, which are duly played out on the other half. Here we find Mary's younger self, a precocious auto-didact raised in the slums by a mother who every Saturday night faced the back of her husband's hand. Burying herself in books, Mary embarks on a real life adventure that will take her to the other side of the world, where things don't always go according to plan. Witch doctors, suspicious natives, visiting do-gooders and even her very own toy boy enter Mary's sphere, and if she can't take the heat, then she'll slip off her shoes and hold court in her petticoats.

Produced on home turf by the Mary Slessor Foundation, and with all funds raised pooled into supporting the Foundation's ongoing work in Nigeria, there is much wit to be found in Gibbs' text. This is accentuated even more by his local all female cast, who play to an audience clearly already familiar with the material enough to sing along with Mairi Warren's music, played on piano by Euan Gow in a stately homage to one of Dundee's finest.
 
The Herald, April 17th 2015
 
ends

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Ceildh

Tron Theatre, Glasgow Three stars
One kiss is all it takes for everyone to understand each other in Catriona Lexy Campbell and Mairi Sine Campbell’s new play. Linguistically that is, as ancient and modern are brought to rollickingly intimate life by the Gaelic-based Theatre Gu Leor (Theatre Galore) company in the Tron’s Vic Bar en route to an extensive cross-Scotland tour. The set-up is the sort of ghastly tartan-draped corporate function whose perma-grinning hostess Lisa makes bogus claims of preserving culture while blatantly intent on flogging it off to the highest bidder. Think McWetherspoon by way of Trumpageddon.
With the audience ushered into a cabaret table arrangement by Lisa’s step-daughter Eilidh and serenaded by Eddie’s oh-so-couthy accordion playing, the dirt from Harris is unearthed along with a bottle of David Beckham-branded whisky. This causes the corporate shindig to be disrupted on an epic scale by seventeenth century poet Mairi Ruadh. Which is when both the kissing an…

Pauline Knowles - An Obituary

Pauline Knowles – Actress
Born December 16 1967; died October 17 2018
Pauline Knowles, who has died suddenly of a heart attack aged 50, was one of the most powerful stage actresses of her generation. Over more than twenty years, Knowles brought a quiet intensity and fierce intelligence to every part she played. This was the case when she played the barely articulate rural woman in Philip Howard’s original 1995 Traverse Theatre production of David Harrower’s modern classic, Knives in Hens. It was still the case when Knowles gave a ferociously contemporary portrayal of Clytemnestra in This Restless House, Zinnie Harris’ stunning reinvention of Aeschylus’ Oresteia trilogy directed by Dominic Hill at the Citizens Theatre with the National Theatre of Scotland twenty-one years later.
Knowles occupied both roles with an innate sense of each woman’s everyday ordinariness in ways that made their experiences totally recognisable. As a result, however extreme their actions and however powerful the…

The Duke

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh Four stars
Shon Dale-Jones seems like a very nice chap. You can tell from the way he welcomes each member of the audience into the theatre, shaking them by the hand to a soundtrack of energising 1960s feel-good soul. Such a personable approach helps create a warm and intimate atmosphere, so when he sits at a desk with only a laptop, a volume control and us for company, you can’t help but be charmed from the start of this hour-long foray, both into his own fantastical mind as well as the discursive set of first-world contradictions it lets loose into the world.
It begins with a Royal Worcester porcelain figure of the Duke of Wellington on horseback, which Dale-Jones’ dad bought in 1974 for £750. This would make it worth more than £8,000 in today’s money if his mum hadn’t broken it while dusting. This is just one more thing for Dale-Jones to think about as he attempts to apply a script doctor’s ruthless critique onto a film script he’s been working on for a deca…