Review: Calum’s Road, Communicado/NTS tour (Sunday Herald)

Calum’s Road

Seen at Gaiety Theatre, Ayr, run ended;

touring Scotland until June 28

Reviewed by Mark Brown

The story of Calum MacLeod of Raasay – from “weak child” born in Glasgow, returned to his parents’ island home for the benefit of his health, to headstrong man fighting against the depopulation of the north of his island by building his own road – is one woven of the agonies and complexities of Scottish history. A devout Free Presbyterian for whom Portree on the neighbouring Isle of Skye was a heathen redoubt (Scotland’s major urban centres were, to him, veritable dens of iniquity), MacLeod (who died in 1988) embodied an intriguingly conservative defiance of authority which was born of the Highland Clearances in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The remarkable story of MacLeod’s response to the then Inverness District Council’s refusal (on grounds of cost and priority) to complete the road already begun in north Raasay is told in Roger Hutchinson’s book Calum’s Road. As this revival of David Harrower’s 2011 stage adaptation (by Communicado theatre company and the National Theatre of Scotland) attests, it’s a tale well worth retelling.

A story which requires so much narrative elucidation is not obvious theatre material, but director Gerry Mulgrew has, in true Communicado style, brought together fine ensemble acting with excellent movement (by Malcolm Shields), live music and song (by Alasdair Macrae) to create a work of affecting, humorous and robust theatricality. A first class cast brings the story to gorgeous life on Gordon Davidson’s versatile set and in front of John McGeoch’s unusually effective projections.

As with any great Communicado show, the collective endeavour rises above any individual contribution. That said, special praise is due to Iain Macrae, whose nuanced and affectionate characterisation of Calum paints a wonderfully vivid picture of a man of occasionally comic stubbornness, Stakhanovite determination and unforgiving principle.

For tour details, visit: http://www.nationaltheatrescotland.com

This review was originally published in the Sunday Herald on May 26, 2013

© Mark Brown

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