The story of the Rocket Post (the subject of two films and this stage production) is a long-told but largely forgotten Scottish legend.
It’s July 1934 in the Western Isles and there’s a crowd gathered on a sandy beach to watch German scientist Gerhard Zucker. Zucker wants to connect the world and believes the future of communication is rockets, more specifically, rocket post. He chooses a 1600 metre flight path between the Isles of Harris and the (now) unpopulated Scarp to deliver his cargo. Zucker loads the letters, lights the fuse and… well, what could possibly go wrong? Plenty as it happens. The gunpowder fuelled rocket disintegrates into a hailstorm of singed paper confetti and he only has three days to fix it.
Revived from the original 2017 National Theatre of Scotland production, this utterly charming musical play aimed at children aged six plus, combines, to great effect: storytelling; puppetry; clever and captivating props, and a mix of songs old and new in German, Gaelic and English.
It is a story of hope and optimism, of faith in the future, traditional versus new, the status quo versus change, life at home or venturing into the big wide world as well as a subtle musing on the effect of technology that resonates down the years. Amid great scepticism and a little anti-German sentiment from the local population, Gerhard pursues his dream and along the way inspires local woman Bellag to see beyond her horizons.
The mark of success for this production is its ability to appeal to its wide-ranging audience. The smallest members are awe-struck at the storytelling and stage craft, and the writing is highly amusing and has a cleverness that has much to be appreciated by the adults. The cast (David Rankine, MJ Deans and Ailie Cohen) have a magnetism that draws you in and keeps you enthralled. Utterly, utterly charming, it leaves you with a feeling of warmth as you step out into the cold Autumn night.
Reviewed on 24 October 2022 and continues touring | Image: Contributed
It’s heartening to know that the future of Scottish acting is in safe hands. This production of Scottish playwright Rona Munro’s adaptation of Federico Garcia Lorca’s The House of Bernarda Alba is the perfect showcase for the nine young actors in this final performance for Motherwell College’s BA Acting degree.
Originally set in Andalusia, Munro’s resetting of the play to the East End of Glasgow has retained Lorca’s central story but added a vividly familiar depiction of the female members of a crime family in the aftermath of a murder. The play ramps up the claustrophobic atmosphere as mother Bernie tightens her stranglehold grip on her daughters as she tries to retain a tenuous hold on both them and her hard-won lifestyle.
Munro plays upon the exclusion of male characters from the action: slowly and climatically building up the tension as the women remain trapped together, the feelings of repression, the unrequited passion and displays mental fragility are all acutely displayed.
As head of the household Bernie (a role written large by Munro), Dawn Chandler manages to rein in a character who could so easily have descended into parody, to deliver a performance which wrings every drop of venom from every line as the formidable she-wolf slowly consuming her cubs.
The interactions of the sisters perfectly reflect the often brutal but ultimately loving relationships that exist between siblings. That said, some are more successful than others: Noemi McShane delivers a nicely nuanced performance as the mentally fragile Marty but her child-like looks render her slightly miscast as the older sister of flighty youngest Adie. As Adie, Christie Brown manages to perfectly convey those particularly annoying “in your face” traits of idealistic teenagers who think they know everything about love and are willing to do anything in its pursuit. Lauren Daley turns in a convincing, naturalistic performance as both the put-upon care-worker and pensioner family friend. Credit must also go to MJ Deans as Bernie’s long-term friend/employee Penny – capturing that West of Scotland former good-time girl teetering on the tightrope wire of a friendship on which her livelihood depends with aplomb.
These young women give hope for the future of Scottish theatre and I personally look forward to following their careers with interest.