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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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Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Theatre review: Rough Island

Published in the Guardian
A Play, a Pie and a Pint/Mull Theatre
Oran Mor, Glasgow
Three stars

THE conversation about Live Aid usually focuses on the unprecedented gathering of the world's rock music elite and the profile-raising benefits for Queen and Status Quo. Or we talk about the concert's effects on charitable giving and the change it made in the attitudes of rich nations to poor ones.
Such concerns don't pass playwright Nicola McCartney by, but she goes a step further, in this co-production between A Play, a Pie and a Pint and Mull theatre, by presenting that day in July 1985 as a pivotal moment in British social relations.
With a flurry of references to Monkey, Nik Kershaw and the Fine Fare supermarket chain, she places four teenagers on Inchgarvie, the fictionalised "rough island" of the title. As the children of police officers, flying pickets and peace protesters, they have grown up with the class war. Now, as coalmines and steel works face closure, they will end up either unemployed or sucked into the Bollinger-and-Gucci lifestyle of the loadsamoney era. Like those who were expelled from this landscape in the Highland clearances, they are being shaped by the forces of history.
So while a ghetto blaster relays crackly segments of the Wembley gig, they squabble over the effectiveness of Live Aid, remember the charity received by families of striking miners and consider Bob Dylan's plea to support impoverished farmers at home. From our perspective, 30 years later, it is a time half full of idealistic promise and half rife with despair.
Given the way things played out, it's odd that the character who symbolises the imminent rise of the neo-Thatcherite should be the one who drowns. He was the future and his death muddies McCartney's thinking about the era's losses and gains. But her willingness to raise the questions gives Alasdair McCrone's production a sense of purpose to match her own thoughtful political reflection.
© Mark Fisher 2014 
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