Rantin (2014)

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JOYCE MCMILLAN on RANTIN at Cove Burgh Hall, for The Scotsman 1.2.14.
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4 stars ****

IT’S LOOKING FORWARD to the referendum, and back to the great tradition of celidih theatre pioneered by 7:84 Scotland; it’s not polemical in the 7:84 style, but it tries to speak to and for contemporary Scotland, at a vital moment in its history. It’s Kieran Hurley’s Rantin, devised by one of Scotland’s leading young writer-performers and the three other company members, Gav Prentice, Drew Wright and Julia Taudevin. And after a brief outing last year, this small-scale National Theatre of Scotland production is now out on the road, on a touring schedule that will take it from Edinburgh’s Summerhall next Thursday, to Orkney, Oban, and beyond.

Those turning up to see Rantin, though, would be well advised to forget conventional expectations of a night at the theatre, for this is more like a chilled-out chat with some young friends, who also provide music and stories. The set, by Lisa Sangster, looks like a cosy, scruffy Scottish living-room, with some of the audience on cushions on the floor; and the stories, when they come, seem like a 21st century reaffirmation of the Liz Lochhead view that progressive modern nations can only describe themselves by constantly adding new stories and images to the national picture, rather than trying to narrow down or exclude.

So here, among many others, we have the one about the unemployed drunk half drowned at Methil harbour, or the one about the Palestinian woman refugee passing through Clydebank on a bus. The music is mainly updated folk song, including Drew Wright’s powerful new setting of theFreedom Come All Ye; some of the songs work better than others. For uncertain times, though, this is a warm, poised and heartfelt attempt to remind us that we get nowhere by over-simplifying our story; that the story continues, that we are all part of it, and that none of us – fortunately – has any idea how it will end.

ENDS ENDS

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