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Mark Fisher
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Follow me @markffisher and @writeabouttheat I am an Edinburgh-based freelance journalist and critic specialising in theatre and the arts. Publications I write for include the Guardian, Scotland on Sunday and the Scotsman. I am the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: how to make your show a success, published in February 2012 and How to Write About Theatre: A Manual for Critics, Students and Bloggers published in July 2015. From 2000-2003, I was the editor of The List magazine, Glasgow and Edinburgh's arts and events guide. See my website for more information and comprehensive Scottish theatre links.
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Tuesday, October 08, 2013

In Time o' Strife theatre review

Published in the Guardian
Pathhead Hall, Kirkcaldy
Three stars
TS ELIOT called him "the greatest Scots poet since Burns".Yet not only is Joe Corrie hardly a household name but, as a coal miner who wrote his best-known play during the general strike of 1926, he had little in common, politically or socially, with the author of The Waste Land. Eliot notwithstanding, Corrie was always coolly received by the establishment, which is why he dedicated the best part of his creative career – some 50 plays – to Scotland's amateur stage.

It is director Graham McLaren's contention that even In Time o' Strife, a landmark play staged by Corrie to great success in the late 20s, was dramaturgically underdeveloped. That's why, in this National Theatre of Scotland production, he has seen fit to play fast and loose. He has gutted the script, dropped characters, reordered scenes and inserted borrowed material from elsewhere in the Corrie canon. The tale of a Fife mining community buckling under the strain of a seven-month lockout now features gutsy folk-punk renditions of Corrie poems by Michael John McCarthy and tense dance sequences choreographed by Imogen Knight.

The meeting of music, dance and drama is frequently exhilarating and, with the costumes nodding to 1984 – the year of the last big strike – as much as 1926, the production has a rare political anger. But despite McLaren's success in jolting the play out of its period setting, he finds it harder to resist its pull of domestic naturalism. With a design that exchanges a miner's cottage for the fluid space of a community hall, the production calls for the operatic. Instead, the director encourages an introspective style of acting that leans too heavily on the play's pathos. Given the theatrical flair elsewhere, it makes for an evening that is as uneven as it is charged.
© Mark Fisher 2013
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