Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

A Play without Drama

Theatre of Scotland

The Callanish Stoned- Theatre Hebrides , Theatr Felinfach, Ceredigion , October 28, 2007
Theatre of Scotland by The Callanish Stoned- Theatre Hebrides Scots playwrights are boldly taking their country’s drama into places distinctively their own. So with anticipation I awaited the arrival of Stornoway-based Theatre Hebrides to the first of two Welsh venues on their three-country tour between performances in Drumnadrochit and Letterkenny.

There is a lot to be told from the Western Isles; the Catholic revival and the religious overhang, the generation gap, the loss of young people and the immigrant inflow, the beleaguered bilingualism, the rich musical tradition. Sadly, none of this was to the fore in “The Callanish Stoned”, a script that did not live up to the skills of its players.

The author is primarily a novelist and poet, recipient of a number of awards in those genres; it did show. Act one comprised sixteen scenes in under seventy minutes, in the main two-handers and surprisingly static, both dramatically and physically. The structure of theatre is not that of television. Scenes in which a sole actor centre stage held a one-sided telephone conversation screeched out for an injection of dynamism.

Within such brief scenes characters were single-attribute- hell and damnation obsessive, dippy Earth mother, thuggish drunk- with small variation in emotional register. The one occasion in which an argument broke out it was forced with no base in what had gone before. The act ended, in the absence of any dramatic situation evolving, with a bicycle collision and an abrupt attack by a new character.

Act two contained more scenes within a shorter time span. Acts of violence were perpetrated by and against new characters who lasted a scene or two. A kilted, clearly disturbed Gaelic-speaking character looked suspiciously as though he had an allegorical function, if so jarringly within a realist play.

The teenage dialogue was sprightly but over-dependent on cultural reference-points, Beavis and Butthead, Bill and Ted. For a rock-mad Goth, in a play quite specifically set in June 2007, the references to Kurt Cobain, Meatloaf and Jon Bon Jovi, were dated; the bands and references of the moment were absent.

The director’s programme notes stated that “The Callanish Stoned” had achieved great popularity in its native Lewis. I am glad. No doubt there was much of local reference and relevance lost in the journey four hundred miles South, but this play did not travel well.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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