Grit: The Martyn Bennett Story
until June 7;
at Mull Theatre, Druimfin,
Reviewed by Mark Brown
It seems like only last month that actor Sandy Grierson was giving his brilliant performance as Ivor Cutler, the great, eccentric humorist and poet, who died at the age of 83. In fact, it was only last month.
Yet, here he is again, playing the title role in another bio-play, Grit: The Martyn Bennett Story. It is testament to Grierson’s extraordinary versatility and charisma that he is equally successful in portraying Bennett, the accomplished musical pioneer behind the fusion of traditional Scottish music with 1990s electronica, who, sadly, died some 50 years younger than Cutler.
Grit is the brainchild of its director, the impressive dramatist Cora Bissett (of Roadkill fame). With a beautifully open, expository script by Kieran Hurley (creator of the fine one-man show Beats), the piece traces Bennett’s too short life, from learning to play the bagpipes while still at primary school, to being proclaimed a musical genius, and, ultimately, to his agonising losing battle against a voracious cancer.
The great achievement of this multi-artform piece is that it tells its story with precisely the same lack of regard for artistic boundaries that drove Bennett in his music making. A rave is juxtaposed with projected film of life in the rural communities of the Highlands. Traditional Gaelic song gives way to a splendid trapeze performance.
Grierson’s outstanding portrayal is supported excellently by lovely acting from Hannah Donaldson (as Bennett’s wife, Kirsten) and Gerda Stevenson (the musician’s mother, Margaret, among other roles). Every aspect of the design, choreography and, of course, the music is perfectly measured and combined to create a theatre work of nuance and sensitivity, but also one of tremendous energy and spectacle.
Touching, funny and overflowing with the late musician’s palpable lust for life, this is a wonderfully fitting homage to Martyn Bennett.
For further information, visit: corabissett.co.uk
This review was originally published in the Sunday Herald on June 8, 2013
© Mark Brown