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Mark Fisher
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Follow me on Twitter at MarkFFisher, WriteAboutTheat and LimelightXTC I am a freelance journalist and critic specialising in theatre and the arts. Publications I write for include the Guardian and the Scotsman. I am the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: how to make your show a success and How to Write About Theatre: A Manual for Critics, Students and Bloggers. I am also editor of The XTC Bumper Book of Fun for Boys and Girls: A Limelight Anthology. From 2000-2003, I was the editor of The List magazine, Glasgow and Edinburgh's arts and events guide.
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Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Calum's Road, theatre review

Published in the Guardian
Four stars
IT'S a road that really exists. Nearly two miles long, it goes from South Arnish to Brochel Castle on the Inner Hebridean island of Raasay. Built in the 1960s, it is the single-handed work of Calum MacLeod, an islander who grew so frustrated with the council's failure to construct a road that he just did it himself.

The story is told in Roger Hutchinson's 2006 book Calum's Road and adapted here in a lyrical, musical and elegiac ensemble production by Gerry Mulgrew for Communicado and the National Theatre of Scotland, on tour with Mulgrew's equally rewarding children's show Tall Tales for Small People.

The appeal of MacLeod's feat is in its classical audacity. Played by Iain Macrae, he is a single-minded man who never stops working and never sits down. He uses the routes taken by sheep to chart his course, gets materials by picking apart ancient walls and uses nothing but hand tools to boldly go where no man has gone before. Like a Greek hero, he is one part awe-inspiring, one part hubristic.

The tragedy, in David Harrower's gorgeous adaptation, which circles in on itself like the twists and turns of a Highland road, is as much ours as his. MacLeod is driven by his desire to halt the island's depopulation but, by the time the council finally surfaces the road, he and his wife are the only ones left in Arnish. His achievement is astounding, and too late.

Seen from the perspective of MacLeod's daughter and her childhood sweetheart, now living far away, the construction of the road is the dying gasp of a condemned culture. Like the Gaelic they no longer speak, it symbolises a way of life that eludes them. It is not just a road but, like this spirited production itself, a poignant reminder of our collective loss. (Pic: Richard Campbell)
© Mark Fisher 2011
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