JOYCE MCMILLAN on THE CALL OF THE WILD at Oran Mor, Glasgow, for The Scotsman, 14.6.14.
4 stars ****
EVERYONE CONNECTED with the Play, Pie And Pint seasons at Oran Mor has been knocked sideways by grief, this weekend, over the news of the death of their founder and producer David MacLennan. So it will be no surprise if today’s final performance of Oran Mor’s latest summer Classic Cuts show, Dominic Douglas’s enterprising new 55-minute version of Jack London’s Call Of The Wild, is cancelled.
If the show goes on, though – as David MacLennan would surely have wished – then one more audience will have the chance to see a barn-storming performance by leading Scottish actor Keith Fleming, that perfectly captures the spirit of these short summer seasons of cut-down classics. First published in 1903, Jack London’s novel is an adventure story-cum-fable about a domesticated sled dog who eventually finds fulfilment in returning to the wild as the leader of a wolf pack; and here, Dominic Douglas draws out the political subtext of the story by staging it in a modern office, where a lone man in a suit trashes his keyboard, his computer, and other instruments of office oppression, in a quest for his inner wild self.
This startling conjunction creates an absurdist, comic effect that perhaps slightly diminishes the serious impact of the story. But the sheer force and exuberance of Fleming’s performance, driven by the drama of London’s storytelling, makes this a memorable piece of theatre, nonetheless; not profound, but sizzling with energy, as it roars out its fierce, sweat-stained protest against everything that makes us living creatures part of the machine, rather than the free spirits we were born to be.