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Arts / Legendary piece of Scottish theatre comes to Mareel

Stephen Bangs, Billy Mack, Christina Gordon and Emily Winter in The Cheviot, The Stag and the Black Black Oil 2016. Photo:Tommy Ga Ken Wan

A NEW adaptation of John McGrath’s iconic and influential play The Cheviot, The Stag and the Black, Black Oil is finally coming to Shetland next month. 

First staged by the 7:84 company in the 1970s, the powerful account of the exploitation of the Scottish people has become a cornerstone of contemporary Scottish theatre.

Under the directorship of Joe Douglas, the National Theatre of Scotland and Dundee Rep brought the play back on stage in 2016.

Now six of the original cast members are reuniting for a 2019 tour of the Highlands and Islands, including Mareel on 23 May, ahead of a two week long run at Newcastle’s Live Theatre.

Forty five years on from its original tour, John McGrath’s pivotal political play has lost none of its vitality and relevance, expertly weaving, songs, poems, scenes and sketches into a freewheeling Highland ceilidh.

From the ruthless croft clearances of the 18th century to the fashionable Victorian game hunts, and the scars left by the ‘70s North Sea oil boom right up to the political upheaval of the current day The Cheviot, The Stag, and the Black, Black Oil presents the stories and experiences of Scotland’s land, sea, and people across the centuries.

Douglas said: “This play has power. Or more specifically, it hands power back to audiences. It shows up the historic hypocrisy and systemic cruelty of wealthy landowners, aristocrats, oil tycoons and politicians – all in the name of profit – and shouts loudly and directly that ‘enough is enough’.

“Change is occurring in many rural parts of the country and the position of Gaelic language and culture within the wider Scottish psyche is changing too – but change takes time, which is why this play is still so relevant almost 50 years on.

“It will be fascinating to see how The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil sits in village halls and other more intimate venues in 2019 and to see what it stirs up. At the very least, we promise a good night out.”

Cast members from the 2016 production, Stephen Bangs, Jo Freer, Christina Gordon, Calum Macdonald, Billy Mack and Aly Macrae, are reunited and joined by actor musician Reuben Joseph for the 2019 tour.

Tickets for the show cost £12 and are available from the Shetland Arts box office.