Review: Sunset Song

Sunset Song. Pic: Comp
Sunset Song. Pic: Comp
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AS the last notes of the Flowers of the Forest died away, the sun set on old Scotland – and the lights went up on what was at times a searing production of Alasdair Cording’s adaptation of the Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s masterpiece.

* * * * * *

The King’s Theatre

Following the journey of independently-minded farm girl Chris Guthrie (Rebecca Elise) and her struggle with a life tied to the land and dominated by brutal men, the Great War background is a metaphor for change which more than chimes with Scotland’s recent peaceful confrontation of ideas.

The war sweeps the old life away; changing the landscape, the rural economy and attitudes as well. As if to bring us bang up to date, Minister Colquohoun (Fraser Sivewright) closes the show with a riveting address at the dedication of the village war memorial in which he declares “Nothing is true but change”.

Alan McHugh as Chris’s father, John Guthrie, gives a brilliantly raw portrayal of a man so conditioned by both subsistence farming and a culture of patriarchal domination that he can leather his 17-year-old son for a triviality, impregnate his exhausted and crushed wife and even in sickness attempt incest with his daughter.

So, too, is Clare Waugh convincing as Guthrie’s down-trodden and defeated wife, while David McKay and Sandy Nelson as the ultimately doomed village boys Chae Strachan and Rob Duncan provide the entertainment with some well-executed one-liners.

Craig Anthony-Ralston is suitably handsome as Chris’s husband, but if there is one weakness in the storyline it is his sudden and largely inexplicable transformation from loving husband to brutal abuser.

For all the components to work effectively as they do, it takes a powerfully vulnerable performance from Rebecca Elise as not just the main character but the principal narrator. She embodies a future with the potential for a different way of life, but whose love of her heritage combined with a fear of the unknown prevent her fulfilling her ambition. You won’t need to go far to find people today who will see a metaphor in that.

n Run ends Saturday