JOYCE MCMILLAN on CEILIDH at the Tron Theatre, Edinburgh, for The Scotsman 12.3.18.
4 stars ****
AMID ALL the mayhem of the recent Creative Scotland funding round, Scotland’s fairly-new Gaelic-language touring company Theatre Gu Leor emerged as one of the winners, newly raised to regularly funded status. So it’s perhaps fitting that the latest show from this woman-led ensemble is about nothing less than the return of the repressed, in the shape of a Gaelic language and culture so despised and marginalised over the centuries that by the start of the story, it has dwindled into little more than a cheap advertising slogan in the arsenal of global capitalism.
The scene – well impersonated by the Tron’s Victorian Bar – is an executive function suite in Glasgow, where anxious-looking Lisa, all designer tartan and perfect make-up, is trying to flog off shares in a planned corporate leisure resort on the Harris landscape where she was born. The proceedings are soon interrupted, though, by a rowdy revenant from the 17th century, one Mairi Ruadh, a mouthy storyteller and poet who isn’t about to let this desecration pass, without some stout cultural resistance.
What emerges is a surprisingly complex tale – given its 75-minute length – about women’s lives then and now, about mothering children not our own, and about the obligation to pass on and cherish our own stories, rather than let them be silenced by harsh economic pressures. There’s plenty of song, and four richly enjoyable performances from Mairi Morrison as Lisa, MJ Deans and Calum MacDonald as young folk Eilidh and Eddie, and the mighty Muireann Kelly as Mairi Ruadh; along with a final burst of ceilidh storytelling from the next generation of Gaelic speakers, to remind us that the old language is not dying, but showing signs of new life.
On tour this week to Islay, Lochaber, Inverness, Aberdeen, Edinburgh; and across northern Scotland until 31 March.