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Ceilidh

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 and the drinking starts, as Mairi magics up the ability for everyone to speak Gaelic while being simultaneously translated in surtitles projected onto wide-screen TV monitors.

What follows in Lewis Hetherington’s production is a series of up-close exchanges that move from oral story-telling to a form of shared experience that trickles down the centuries. As MJ Deans’ Eilidh and Calum Macdonald’s Eddie crave modernity beyond the kitsch championed by Mairi Morrison’s Lisa, a dysfunctional culture estranged from itself on both a personal and a political level is laid bare. In this sense, Muireann Kelly’s fearlessly larger-than-life Mairi is both celestial agent provocateur and fairy godmother to a tribe who in part lost its voice as it was colonised by big business. If Ceilidh is anything to go by, it looks like it’s well on the way to reclaiming it back.

The Herald, March 12th 2018

ends

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