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The Mill Lavvies

Dundee Rep
4 stars
Life is one long tea-break in Chris Rattray’s 1960s-set play, first 
seen on Dundee Rep’s stage fourteen year ago, and now revived in Andrew 
Panton’s solidly assured production. Performed back to back with 
Sharman Macdonald’s She Town, this is the male flip-side to that play’s 
women only zone, as it follows a sextet of mill workers escaping from 
the daily grind via the laddish banter of the rest room and its 
accompanying toilets.

It’s here we meet simple-minded skivvy Archie, old lags Robert, Geordie 
and Jim, upstart Teddy-Boy Henny and Beatle-loving Kevin, who mark time 
indulging in assorted shaggy-dog stories and pranks with seemingly 
little consequence.

Out of this comes a lovingly observed portrait of working class society 
in flux that revels in its localism even as it follows in the work-play 
tradition of John Byrne’s The Slab Boys and Roddy McMillan’s The 
Bevellers. Barrie Hunter’s pompous Robert and Martin McBride’s nasty 
Henny are both relics from an earlier age, while only Jonathan Holt’s 
music-loving Kevin is looking towards any kind of future.

It may be Guy Mitchell’s She Wears Red Feathers that opens the show, 
but it’s Please Please Me by The Beatles that closes it. If those two 
recorded tunes book-end the play, it’s Michael Marra’s original songs, 
performed live by the cast, that provide its pulse. Soaked in grizzled 
pathos and wry observations, stylistically they encapsulate the move 
 from skiffle to rock and roll to the 1960s beat boom that acts as a 
metaphor for society’s even greater shifts. The malicious act that 
thwarts Kevin’s ambitions is telling too of how old orders cling to 
power by any means necessary.

The Herald, September 17th 2012



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