WHEREVER you choose to stand, history creeps up on you. In Border

Warfare, it arrives from all sides, careering through the audience on

wheeled carts, bringing home truths of Scotland's centuries-old struggle

for free nationhood slap under our very noses. John McGrath's vast,

four-hour long pageant of oppression and conniving betrayal -- as much

visited on the Scots by their own aristocracy, politicians and

entrepreneurs as by the English -- is the first venture to use this

stunningly versatile space since Peter Brook's Mahabharata last spring.

And it uses it with gusto.

In this boldly conceived production, which he has directed for

Wildcat, the audience (ranged between the two 'poles' of Scotland and

England) are led through a thousand years of Scotland's chequered past,

from the tribal jockeying for land and power among the original invading

forces through to the more insidious acquisitiveness of current forces

emanating from Westminster.

In between he charts the various stages which led to the uniting of

Scotland and England, and the subsequent eroding of Scotland's national

identity, always with an emphasis on how the voice of the people has

been repeatedly ignored or overruled by self-seeking leaders. At times,

particularly in the early scenes, the sheer weight of telescoped fact is

hard to digest, but the very busy-ness of the production -- wheeled

horses carrying battles into our midst, John Knox haranguing us atop a

huge, carved, predatory eagle -- sweeps both the action and our

attention across occasional longuers. And there are some superb moments

-- the debate of 1707 that led to the Act of Union (we get to vote with

our feet!), the sly and merry satire that translates the activities of

the political Scottish Labour Party on to the football pitch, where they

score own goals, are just two of them.

Border Warfare is a cry of resistance, a cry for independent

nationhood, a cry for long-awaited freedom for the people. It's crammed

with humour, colour, song and heartbreak. The cast in this ambitious

project are quite marvellous in their hectic versatility -- history

lives at The Tramway, see it and, as McGrath and Wildcat no doubt hope,

learn from it.