REVIEW: The Stamping Ground – King’s Theatre, Glasgow

At the peak of their powers, Scottish band Runrig’s music was an aural embodiment of the ties that intrinsically bind the Scots to their homeland.

There would appear to be, on paper, no better mix than Scottish playwright Morna Young whose deft pen has been displayed in Aye Elvis and the gripping Lost at Sea, and the Celtic rock giants. However, The Stamping Ground is not without its faults.

Annie and Euan, now in their 30s, and their teenage daughter return to their highland home from London. It’s a fresh start for all, but it is far from idyllic. Annie is invigorated, Euan is in a downward spiral of obsession with something that happened in the past and daughter Fiona has been removed from the relentless bullying she experienced in the capital. To add to the mix, Glenbeag, their once quiet town, is now a tourist trap and the mixed bag of local characters are feeling displaced.

It is never an easy process to create a jukebox musical, weaving a story around existing songs with copyrighted lyrics and The Stamping Ground is no different, it plays out like a series of vignettes, little snippets of life that are presented on stage, the accompanying song duly sung, then the next short scene unfolds. The themes of home and belonging are grand ones but it doesn’t successfully achieve a sense of togetherness, the ties that bind this are somewhat tenuous. It needs something better to bring it all together.

The songs have clearly been chosen to fit the storyline, and rightly so, but it is at the expense of missing out on many of Runrig’s most familiar hits. Unlike that other Scottish musical Sunshine on Leith, Runrig’s songs are not as well known as The Proclaimers, and it really needs a few more well-known tunes to keep the audience on board. The two and a half hour running time is also half an hour too long.

The fault lies in its disjointedness, and the overwhelmingly melancholy tone (much present in Scottish music). The cast are superb and the band equally so. The crystal clarity of the singing voices is an absolute joy.

It is a largely enjoyable evening out, but it would benefit from a re-think before taking it beyond the boundaries of its Caledonian home. Not quite there yet.

Runs until 17 June 2023 | Image: Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

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