Sunday, 4 September 2016

The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil

Dundee Rep
Four stars

If Dundee Rep's speedy revival of their 2015 production of John McGrath's seminal ceilidh play makes one thing clear, it is how, forty-three years on from McGrath's own 7:84 production, nothing has changed in terms of how Scotland continues to be colonised by big business at home and abroad. Nowhere is this more evident than a stone's throw from the theatre, where the city centre's numerous building sites suggest a progressive form of regeneration is ongoing. Given that the millionaire-owned construction company headlined on the billboards was recently exposed as being part of a cartel that blacklisted building site workers for years, Joe Douglas' production seems even more timely.

The ten-strong cast are already playing ceilidh numbers in front of a backdrop of a stag's head as the audience enter to a bare floorboards mock up of the sort of village hall 7:84 made their own. As a history of social cleansing and political racketeering is laid bare through songs and stories, the show's contemporary currency is astonishing, with the role-call of mercilessly lampooned toffs, grotesque hoteliers and developers, political yes-men and predatory oil men instantly recognisable archetypes

In a show that, with its frequent audience engagement, puts collective action at its heart, it makes plain perhaps more than ever before that the common people have to claim the power back. In terms of updates, there is a brief Donald Trump pastiche, but really there is little need. In a week where oil is back on the agenda, while a headline on a BBC website spoke of the Highland Clearances as 'progress', such a piece of serious fun is a necessary pleasure.

The Herald, September 5th 2016

ends

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