Jane McCarry talks of sectarian study in The Sash

Jane McCarry, right, in The Sash
Jane McCarry, right, in The Sash
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‘DESPITE its title, The Sash really is for anyone,” insists Still Game favourite Jane McCarry, who returns to the Capital this week in Rapture Theatre Company’s production of Hector MacMillan’s 1973 bittersweet study of sectarianism, The Sash.

“A lot of my Catholic friends have said that they would never come to see a play with that title, but it’s actually about the bigotry on both sides,” says the actress, equally well know as everyone’s favourite gossip Isa Drennan and children’s favourite Granny Murray in Me Too.

The Sash

The Sash

MacMillan’s classic political play about prejudice, sectarianism and ideals takes place on the day of an Orange Walk.

Bill MacWilliam, played by acclaimed Scottish actor Stewart Porter, is determined that his son, Cameron, will join him on the walk.

However, prompted by his mother’s recent death, Cameron has started to question his father’s beliefs.

Throw in the arrival of the staunch Irish Catholic spinster from downstairs (played by McCarry) with her pregnant niece and you have a powder keg just waiting to explode.

As father is pitted against son and niece against aunt, old prejudices are questioned and new ideals sought.

Director and producer Michael Emans recalls how it was a production of The Sash many years ago that sparked his own interest in the theatre.

“Sectarianism was part of my daily life growing up in the west of Scotland. When I first saw The Sash it had an instrumental effect on igniting my passion for theatre.

“I have felt this desire for a while to re-discover this play and put it back on the map as a piece of serious political theatre.”

No one was more pleased by Emans’ desire to bring the play back to Scottish stages than writer Hector MacMillan, who admits he was delighted when he heard that Rapture Theatre wanted to revive his play for a 40th anniversary tour.

“It is 20 years since the last production and 40 years since the first and, sadly, the themes of the play are as relevant as ever,” he says.

“When Michael Emans contacted me about the play, I knew, from the way he spoke that he would treat the play with integrity and looked forward to seeing the final production.”

McCarry too believes that it still holds a resonance for many today.

“Although it is very much a period piece, and we play it in all the fashions and colours of 1973, it still has a relevance because there are people who still hold these very strong beliefs.

“In the play there is a coming together of these attitudes through laughter - although it does have a hard-hitting and somewhat tragic ending. And while the characters still hate each other as much at the end as they do at the beginning they have perhaps a better understanding of how they are more alike than different.

“Hopefully anyone with similar views in the audience might also be left thinking about that too.”

For McCarry, the relevance of those themes never became more apparent than on the day she realised that the headphones on her i-Phone had not been plugged in properly as she made her daily commute to work.

“There are sectarian songs from both sides in the play,” she explains, “and I had them recorded on my i-Phone so that I could learn them on the journey in to rehearsals.

“Sitting on the train I couldn’t understand why the sound quality of the recordings was so bad. It was only when I got into town that I realised I hadn’t plugged my headphones in properly.

“I’d been blasting everyone on the train with these songs - they’d been playing them over and over on the phone’s speaker.”

She laughs, “I made sure the headphones were properly plugged in after that.”

The Sash, King’s Theatre, Leven Street, tonight-Saturday, 7.30pm (Wednesday & Saturday matinees), £14-£29.50, 0131-529 6000