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Silver Threads

Paisley Arts Centre
Three stars

When you're handed a flyer supporting the workers while DJ Big Div plays civil rights tinged 1960s soul records, one might think Bruce Morton's new play is looking at a more recent protest movement than it is. Especially when a series of paisley pattern projections hinting at trippy Happenings to come punctuates each scene. In fact, Morton's hour-long comedy presented by producers Jim Lister and Stephen Wright's grassroots FairPley company is set in 1856 Paisley, when the weavers who produced such swirly patterns were fighting for a living wage.

The play focuses on Davie McKenzie, who starts both his day and the play by punching a horse, and ends it by resisting the financial advances of works foreman Andrew Galbraith, his integrity intact. Inbetween, he comes into contact with real life emancipated slave and funk-soul brother Frederick Douglass, all the while running the gauntlet of his much put-upon wife Hannah.

All this is presented in Philip Differ's one-off showcase production in a mixture of monologue and routines that show-off Morton's stand-up roots by way of some hip to the minute colloquialisms that mashes up past and present with possible futures ahead. With Morton himself playing a Scrooge-like Galbraith opposite Neil Leiper, who plays Davie as a hapless galumph with a heart of gold, the play taps into a form of righteous localism that may be rough around the edges, but has the audience booing the boss's lackey. As part of the welter of activity on the back of Paisley's bid to become UK City of Culture 2021, radical history reinvented as a sit-com with a conscience is a fine way to start.

The Herald, July 6th 2016

ends

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