JOYCE MCMILLAN on RANTIN at the Cottier Theatre, Glasgow, for The Scotsman 20.4.13.
3 stars ***
NEXT YEAR, as Scotland faces its big referendum choice, the National Theatre Of Scotland is hoping to send a theatrical roadshow around the nation, to help debate Scotland’s possible futures. Kieran Hurley, the NTS’s 2013 playwright-in-residence, is likely to be involved in that project ; and his new show Rantin, in the current NTS/Arches Auteurs season, looks mainly like a powerful first set of notes towards next year’s work.
In form, Rantin is a 75-minute ceilidh, played on a set that looks like a ahabby, friendly living-room, with the audience gathered around on chairs and cushions. Devised by Hurley with his three co-performers Julia Taudevin, Drew Wright and Gav Prentice, it involves both hard-hitting new songs, and thoughtful new versions of familiar Scottish tunes.
The heart of the show, though, lies in its series of fragmented monologues, designed to conjure up a modern Scotland in constant motion. From the harbour wall at Methil to the top of a bus in Glasgow, Hurley and company create a memorable range of characters, from Howard the American about to visit the land of his ancestors, to Miriam, a Palestinian woman now iiving in Glasgow. Some of these seem stronger and more credible than others, just as the music varies from the shouty and the self-pityingly folky to the beautiful and powerful. What Hurley is doing, though, is setting out on an ambitious and tremendously worthwhile journey that seeks to link Scotland’s familiar past to its fast-changing present; just as it links the great ceilidh-theatre tradition of 7:84 Scotland to the vital political choice we face today.