Rough Island

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JOYCE MCMILLAN on ROUGH ISLAND at Oran Mor, Glasgow, for Scotsman Arts 8.2.14.
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4 stars ****

IT’S THE 13 July 1985, the day of Bob Geldof’s iconic Live Aid concert, which may – or may not – have brought the world together in a rare moment of unity.  There’s no chance of a trip to London or Philadelphia, though, for the four kids featured in Nicola McCartney’s new Play, Pie and Pint drama.  They’ve travelled only as far as Inchgarvie, a fictional island not far from their home in Motherwell; and even when posh punk Joanne manages to track down the concert on her giant ghetto-blaster, their views on the music being played often border on the contemptuous.

As the play begins, the level of aggression and nastiness simmering among the four characters – Joanne, her best friend Sharon, Sharon’s bullying boyfriend Gary, and Gary’s hopeless wee brother Stephen – seems excessive, even repellent.  Gary’s hair-trigger violence is frightening, Joanne and Sharon exchange savage insults, and everyone mocks poor Stephen, brilliantly played by Barrie Hunter in a wig and school uniform.

As the play unfolds though, McCartney’s grip on the big themes of the 1980’s – the death of heavy industry, the arrival of an age of individualism that these kids both reject and embody – begins to shape a compelling drama; a tragedy in miniature that offers a powerful snapshot of a generation haunted by change, as Alasdair McCrone’s production sets off on a Highland tour, alongside last year’s Oran Mor show Doras Duinte.

Rough Island at Oran Mor, Glasgow, until today, and on tour in the Highlands and Islands until 8 March.

ENDS ENDS

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