The Stamping Ground

Festival Theatre


Neil Cooper

Four Stars

As theatre makers across the land strive to make the great Scottish musical, it turns out the ingredients for such a venture were hiding in plain sight all along. Because the rabble rousing calls to arms of Runrig’s half-century old back catalogue of contemporary folk rock anthems transfer surprisingly well to their new life as showtunes in this touring revival of director Luke Kernaghan and writer Morna Young’s jukebox musical.

Drawn from a concept by Alan B McLeod, Young takes what appears to be an everyday domestic saga before scaling things up to create a universal meditation on home, land and colonialism.

Young’s story focuses on Euan and Annie, who make a prodigal’s return from the big city to their Highland birthplace in the village of Glenbeag after their teenage daughter Fiona is bullied at school. Euan is a writer of the sort of popular historical novels that keep the geeks happy, while Annie gave up singing to become what Americans might call a homemaker.

HeraldScotland: RunrigRunrig (Image: free)

Glenbeag is on a downturn, with the local pub about to be sold off to developers with the intention of turning it into a holiday home. A fundraising festival sees Annie return to the stage, while tensions are inflamed by the presence of a free-spirited young woman called Summer, and the return of a big talking Canadian called Johnny, who has his mind set on wooing Euan’s widowed mother Mary.

Community spirit, it seems, isn’t exactly in abundance.

What follows is an infectiously appealing cross-generational tug of love for a way of life under threat of being bought up and hyped into a very different brand.

This is driven by Calum MacDonald and Rory MacDonald’s songs, taken down a notch or two by musical arranger John Kielty, and given voice by a cast led by Ali Watt as Euan and Jenny Hulse as Annie.

With unavoidable echoes of Local Hero in Raw Material and Eden Court Inverness’s production, the similarly feelgood happy ending points up a show of strength in a rousing call to arms.