The ceilidh band is already playing as the audience step onto
the bare floorboards of Joe Douglas' revival of one of the defining plays of
twentieth century Scottish theatre, and the whisky is flowing. Not as a
sweetener to encourage the smatterings of audience participation that ripple
throughout the show, but as a celebration, both of the play itself and the
spirit of artistic and political resistance it continues to define.
performed in 1973, John McGrath's ribald melding of variety traditions tells the
hidden history of how Scotland has been plundered by self-serving capitalists
from the Highland Clearances onwards. What could so easily have been rendered as
cheeky revivalism becomes in Douglas' heartfelt production for Dundee Rep's
Ensemble company a vital statement on the world we live in now and the way very
little has changed in terms of who's ruled the roost over the last forty-two
At times its series of sketches and routines resemble a radical take on
Horrible Histories as Douglas' ten-strong cast lampoon a ghastly set of
landowning toffs, corrupt politicians and cowboy oil barons on the fiddle in all
their boss class grotesquerie. As a damning portrait of exploitation emerges,
litany of self-justification for social cleansing could have been lifted
from a Tory party memo of today.
What is most striking is that, for all the
play's consciously roughshod form, beneath its veneer is
crafted, and when the cast sing a final song translated simultaneously from
Gaelic, it's a spine-tingling call to arms that needs to be heard across the
land right now.
The Herald, September 14th 2015