IN TIME O’ STRIFE
by Joe Corrie adapted by Graham McLaren.
National Theatre Scotland Tour to 25 October 2014.
Runs 1hr 50min No interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 4 October at Oxford Playhouse.
Grim times, vibrant people, energetic and deeply-felt drama.
In 1926, as this production announces, miner and poet wrote Joe Corrie In Time O’ Strife to raise money for the soup kitchens which helped starving miners and their families during that year’s 7-month strike, and which were ancestors to the food banks that, latter-day Scot Michael Gove informs us, are the lifestyle choice of many impoverished people today.
It was one of four examples of earlier 20th-century Scottish political theatre revived in the 1982 Clydebuilt season from small-scale touring company 7:84 and Glasgow Citizens’ Theatre.
The following decade saw young theatre director Graham McLaren create small-scale Theatre Babel, touring classical plays set simply – early work saw actors not involved in a scene sitting beside the stage, the audience behind them.
A new century brought the National Theatre of Scotland, for which McLaren has revived two of the Clydebuilt repertoire; Ena Lamont Stewart’s Men Should Weep, a powerful portrait of poverty in Glaswegian tenements, and, now, Corrie’s strongly-felt play.
Several traditions contribute to his adaptation. 7:84’s popular style, acknowledging the audience and creating the friendly feel of club or variety entertainment, shows in the setting, a pub with live entertainment enlivening the drab décor with the songs and dances from which Corrie’s realistic drama emerges rather like Chekhov’s play in Louis Malle’s film Vanya on 42nd Street.
Desperate miners return to work or hold-out, splitting families and lovers. And, with a freedom that recalls the Citizens’ at its boldest, McLaren inserts the author’s poems – several set to music – and vivid dance episodes, while a (too small) TV monitor
shows the days on strike, and cuts to the Britain-wide 1980s miners’ strike, with pictures of the Orgreave battle and the condemnatory tones of prime minister Margaret Thatcher.
And images of ordinary miners, crucial to Corrie’s point that their resilience will be the root of, and route to, eventual victory. But it’s the extraordinary within the apparently commonplace that McLaren’s cast bring to life. None more so than John Kazek’s Jock, with the commonest name of all, the conscientious father who hangs on tenaciously as hunger and desperation claw at his determination.
Jenny: Hannah Donaldson.
Jock: John Kazek.
Kate: Vicki Manderson.
Tam: Tom McGovern.
Bob: James Robinson.
Jean: Anita Vettesse.
Wull Baxter: Owen Whitelaw.
Band: Michael John McCarthy, Jenny Reeve, Adam Scott, Jonny Scott.
Director/Designer: Graham McLaren.
Lighting: Lizzie Powell.
Composer/Musical Director: Michael John McCarthy.
Choreographer: Imogen Knight.
Dramaturg: Iain Heggie.
Assistant director: Andrew McGregor.
Associate designer: Rebecca Hamilton.
Associate choreographer: Vicki Manderson.
7-10 Oct 7.30pm Mat Thu 2.30pm BSL Signed Fri Dundee Rep 01382 223530 www.dundeereptheatre.co.uk
14-18 Oct 7.30pm Mat Wed & Sat 2.30pm Audio-described Thu; BSL Signed Fri; Captioned Sat 2.30pm Citizens’ Theatre Glasgow 0141 429 0022 www.citz.co.uk
23-25 Oct 7.30pm Mat Sat 2.30pm Sherman Cymru Cardiff 029 2064 6900 www.shermancymru.co.uk