REDD up the stables, muck out the byre, plant the tatties, howk the tatties, clamp the tatties... Shear, stook, striddle, stack. Women’s work.”
BONDAGERS worked hard. Every ploughman had to provide one, a woman who would work on the farm with him. If his wife was too busy with family life, he had to hire one to work the fields and lodge in his home.
Sue Glover’s play Bondagers, which opens at the Royal Lyceum tomorrow, follows these women as they work through the passing seasons, experiencing the rhythm of the land and the harshness, humour, hope and tragedy of those who work it.
Classed as modern classic, Bondagers has been called ‘a haunting evocation of a lost way of life.’
Set on a 19th century Borders farm, it charts the stories of six land workers as they graft their way through 12 months.
The cast are led by award-winning Edinburgh actress Wendy Seager as Sara, with Charlene Boyd as Jenny, Jayd Johnson as Liza, Pauline Lockhart as Maggie, Nora Wardell as Ellen and Cath Whitefield as Tottie.
It’s a company that has left director Lu Kemp impressed.
“We are fortunate in Scotland to have a wealth of astonishing female acting talent,” she says.
“I am delighted to be working on a piece which gives breath to some of those voices.
“Sue Glover’s play has rightfully found its place as a Scottish classic. The themes and ideas it grapples with are as acutely relevant to our world at this moment in time as when the play was written.”
Seager reveals she had personal reasons for wanting to be a Bondager, “It’s a beautiful piece of work and playing Sara was always on my list.
“My Gran worked the fields and had a rounded back all her life from tattie picking when she was young. The Bondagers story is one a lot of people don’t know about and these women deserve to be remembered.”
With six strong women on stage, a female director and writer, it’s an exciting production in which to be involved, Seager impresses.
“Inspiring, empowering and a bloody guid laugh,” she says. “And it’s still relevant today, especially with the threat of fracking on our doorstep and so much of our food and even our animal feed being imported.
“We misuse the land still, often not deliberately, we just don’t look at the real long-term implications.”
The actress, who first trod the boards as part of the now defunct Edinburgh Youth Theatre, alongside the likes of Shirley Manson, actress Kath Howden and playwright David Greig, admits it’s “wonderful” to be back on stage in her home town.
“Walking on and looking out at that beautiful auditorium, still makes my tummy flip with excitement,” she smiles, even though it means swapping her trademark jeans for a skirt.
“If Katherine Hepburn could give up her slacks and comfortable shoes for her art, so can I...” she laughs.
Bondagers, Royal Lyceum, Grindlay Street, tomorrow-15 November, 7.30pm (matinees 2pm), £12.50-£29, 0131-248 4848