Review: The Cheviot, The Stag and The Black, Black Oil, Citizens Theatre


Photo: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

Widely considered one of the most important and trenchant pieces of Scottish theatre, The Cheviot, The Stag and the Black, Black Oil takes its title from three of Scotland’s biggest exports, and three of the most controversial- all wider symbols of colonialism. Dundee Rep Ensemble’s latest version of John McGrath’s 1973 play so endures, as it has lost none of its relevance, or bite.

Fusing knockabout humour with jarring historical vignettes and Gaelic folk songs, the ceilidh play focuses an unflinching gaze on the Highland clearances and the subsequent effect on small communities, as homes were burnt down and families evicted; the oligarchs and toffs buying everything in sight through landed wealth, and an update in the form of a Donald Trump cameo- a man not so far from pastiche, after all.

The cast are superb throughout, swapping roles with great ease,even if the satire is a little broad in the first instance. That we are still having these conversations and concerns forty three years later shows how far we have to come as a nation, particularly in terms of  a post-Brexit landscape.

The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil Production Image 1 Photo Credit TOMMY GA-KEN WAN.jpg

Photo: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

It would be interesting to see how the show plays out to audiences further north, or indeed further south (no Scots stereotype remains un-tampered with-from pompous Laird to puffed-up nationalist) but the populist yet political plays which followed in its wake- and much of our comedy- owes a lot to this trailblazing classic.

(Lorna Irvine)


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