Review – The Cheviot, The Stag And The Black, Black Oil

The National Theatre of Scotland’s production of The Cheviot, The Stag And The Black Black Oil was worth every minute of the two hour plus drive to get to the Live Theatre in Newcastle to see it.

Having only found out that the production was on tour after the tour had started we were unable to purchase tickets for any venues in Scotland. Thankfully the final performances were in Newcastle and we were on holiday that week, a mere 120 miles away. A quick check showed that there were tickets available for the performance on Thursday afternoon, I immediately booked the tickets, then a hotel room then prepared to tell my partner that our holiday was to be cut short so we could go to the theatre.

This however is no ordinary theatre production and having been too young to watch it on tv in the 70s and missed the previous tour a few years ago, I was determined I was not going to miss it this time.

When I was initially introduced to political theatre in the 80s watching productions by the 7:84 and Wildcat theatre companies, the Cheviot was something I had heard of but never seen. Now, decades later it had become something of a distant wish, until I saw it advertised as playing in Perth. Cue the ticket search and the drive to Newcastle to make sure I did not miss this opportunity.

It seemed strange sitting in a theatre in England watching a production about Scotland. However, there are many similarities that can be drawn regarding the treatment of the population by the so called “ruling classes” in both Scotland and the North of England.

Much of the content of the play is based on information that is publicly available and that many of us will have heard of at some point in our lives. The “Highland Clearances” are well known as a specific point in Scotland’s history. What is not so well known are the details, such as a gun ship being sent to quell unarmed crofters or a woman with mental health issues who refused to leave her home being bricked in her home until her food ran out and she agreed to leave.

As the play takes you through the decades it reveals ever more instances where the population of Scotland have been betrayed by those who own the land and those who govern the country.
The changing of the boundaries the night before devolution so that 7 oil rigs were no longer classed as being in Scottish water. The lack of an oil fund for the country, compared to Norway where the oil fund is up to billions of dollars. The almost total annihilation of the Gaelic language.

Writer John McGrath has found a simple yet effective way to show the true effects of centuries of oppression by those in power. This play has lost nothing in the decades since it was first written and performed. It is a performance that everyone should see to show them the true history of Scotland.

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