Theatre Stornoway,

Quebec Traverse Theatre,


Neil Cooper


When badass bounty hunter Mairi MacNeill moseys into the half empty hotel of a one-horse town in 1888 Quebec, it looks like the end of the trail for her former partner in crime, Donald Morrison. For the Gaelic speaking Scots settlers who live there, it looks like the history about to be made will put them on the map forever after.

Having left Mairi in the lurch in Texas seven years earlier, Donald is a wanted man several times over. The Pinkerton Detective Agency is on his trail, and it looks like they might save everything, including Jean Baptiste and Uilleamina’s hotel, where the local bigwig known as the Major still rules the roost.

The storm that’s brewing sees everyone holed up in the hotel bar, alas, where a new set of myths are about to be whipped up.

This is the merry dance that ensues in Calum L MacLeoid’s new play for Glasgow based Gaelic theatre company, Theatre Gu Leor. Performed in an easy mix of English, Scottish Gaelic and Quebecoise, Muireann Kelly’s production is a slow burning affair, played out in Becky Minto’s wood-lined saloon bar set, with cracked folk music underscoring the action.

Elspeth Turner leaps into the role of Mairi as a wronged woman who takes a walk on the wild side and winds up as much of an outlaw as her quarry. As Donald, Dol Eoin McKinnon invests his character with similar swagger. There is moving interplay between Sam Smith as Jean Baptiste and MJ Deans as Uilleamina, while Daibhidh Walker’s Major sets a template for corrupt officialdom to come.

Confined to the saloon, and with a focus on storytelling, there are moments MacLeoid’s play recalls the poetic flourishes of Irish drama, only broken up by choreographed fight scenes.

Produced in association with An Lanntair arts centre in Stornoway, MacLeoid and Theatre Gu Leor are here exploring the frontiers of a generation of migrants in search of new narratives to define themselves. This is how legends are born.