Review: In Time O’ Strife at the Citizen’s Theatre Glasgow: written by Joe Corrie, adapted by Graham McLaren


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By Anne Austin

The National Theatre of Scotland and Graham McLaren have brought to life 1920’s miner Joe Corrie’s work In Time O’ Strife.

In May 1926 approximately 1 million miners were locked out of their work place by mine owners who chose to ignore the injustice in ‘their’ men working longer hours for less money. United in their values, other trades folk came out in support. Builders, gas workers, transport workers and dock workers stood against the greed of the profiteers.

Thirty years ago the nation suffered at the hands of Thatcher’s government; a time when the ordinary hard working family were just insignificant threads in a bigger picture where the priority of free market economics overruled human worth.

McLaren has beautifully adapted the original work to combine these two eras.

One of those miners from the ’26 strike put his experience, thoughts and feelings down on paper. Undoubtedly this man, Joe Corrie, would be better known today if his attitudes toed the political and social line. And now, Director Graham McLaren has combined these two eras to adapt Corrie’s In Time O’ Strife for audiences across the generations to experience and to provide a voice for the man who was not heard enough in his time.

McLaren said: “We sat in a small room upstairs here in the Citizen’s putting all this together. It was emotional. Some of us were crying. Some of us were angry.”

Social injustice is still a raw topic and this National Theatre of Scotland production does not back away from the responsibility of relaying the suffering of the working people at the hands of governments.

A bare set reflects both eras. The creative touch of a framed photograph of Corrie adds a beautiful sentiment to the play. The hardship is reflected in the starvation to the point of death of an unseen character whose family and friends beg and pawn goods for a mere crust of bread.

The sub plot love story which is as forbidden as a Shakespearean tragedy, if not more, accentuates the bitterness of those who would die for the strike and those who would become ‘scabs’ in order to fight for their love. McLaren’s cast depict the tragedy intensely which has heartstrings bursting for all the characters.

A striking theme throughout the play demonstrates that Corrie was a man before his time, showing the strength of the female in a period which had yet to recognise equality. Corrie presents the strength of the females during these bilious times which McLaren reveals through Hannah Donaldson (Jenny), Vicki Manderson (Kate) and Anita Vettesse (Jean). The ladies pull off performances that would make Corrie proud. John Kazek (Jock), Tom McGovern (Tam), James Robinson (Bob) and Owen Whitelaw (Wull Baxter) ooze the frailties within the hard men being ground down by those holding the power.

Anita Vettesse said:

If Joe Corrie was alive today he would be a very profound play write. He writes really strong characters for women. He was so aware of the strength of women back in the days of a very male driven society.”

The Shilling a Week band of Michael John McCarthy, Jenny Reeve, Adam Scott and Johnny Scott provide a loud and not surprisingly angry soundtrack which reaches out beyond the times making this play accessible to all ages.

This is a fast, furious and passionate play and yet again the National Theatre of Scotland has produced a turbulent spectacular with injustice resonating with audiences.

follow on Twitter @AnneFKAustin @NTSonline @citizenstheatre @MCLAREN_G 

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