Published in the Guardian
IT'S all go in Sharman Macdonald's She Town. The Dundee mill-workers are angry because their wages are being cut; the choir is auditioning to accompany Paul Robeson, the singer and civil rights activist, at his concert in the city's Caird Hall; and the politically committed are preparing to go and fight the fascists in the Spanish civil war.
A shame, then, that it comes across as so joyless a play. The women are always bickering (about what, it's often hard to say); but worse, they are downtrodden rather than fervent, their anger too easily cowed by reactionary ideology. When the mill-owner's wife accuses them of "politics borne of envy", adding, "that's no politics at all", they are oddly quick to agree. With so many people on stage and with such polemical material, you would expect something celebratory and defiant. This seems muted and humourless.
That's not a charge you could level at Chris Rattray's The Mill Lavvies, which has no political ambitions but offers much jolly banter as it follows the working day in a cloth factory from the perspective of the gents' loos. Set 30 years after She Town, when it's the Beatles who'll be playing the Caird Hall, it's a minor comedy made special by the songs of Michael Marra, given spirited performances by the six actors in Andrew Panton's good-hearted production.
© Mark Fisher, 2012
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