I won’t lie: the thought of watching a play about Depression-era poverty in Glasgow isn’t likely to fill you with festive cheer.
* * * *
Witnessing the Morrison family lurch from one domestic disaster to the next is (emotionally) hard to endure. Yet for its truth, its optimism, and its unique Glaswegian humour, Leitheatre have not only done Ena Lamont Stewart’s 1947 classic a justice, they make it an enriching production well worth parting with a few bob for.
Set in a tenement slum in Glasgow’s east end, the story centers around matriarch Maggie Morrison (Lynne Morris) who has a jobless husband (Mike Paton) to contend with, hungry weans under her feet, and a nippy old granny to look after. Worse, she’s been separated from her TB-infected infant, her son Alec (David Rennie) is embroiled in an abusive marriage, and her daughter, Jenny (Lauri Young), has flown the nest to become a high-class prostitute. Even when it looks like things might start to improve for the Morrisons, you almost expect some form of ironic punishment to come crashing through their midden like a wrecking ball wrapped in an eviction notice.
A wordy, ambitious piece to take on, the Leitheatre cast deserve the freedom of Easterhouse for getting their tongues around Stewart’s lengthy script even though the weegie accent was, for one or two, a bit difficult to master. For an amateur company, the set is more impressive than some professional organisations who have staged the same play in the past. And the army of supporting characters – gossiping biddies, gallus workmen, and interfering nosey-parkers – all adds to what life was really like in 1930s’ Glasgow.
The most resonating thing about Men Should Weep, however, is how little things have changed in the past 80 years. In fact, it could be argued things have deteriorated. Domestic abuse remains a constant issue, the most vulnerable in our society are treated with uncaring contempt, and that sense of community we once had with our neighbours has all but vanished. If there’s a message, it’s this: look after one another, persevere, and never lose your sense of humour.
Run ends Saturday