This weekend, Falkirk’s celebrated Tryst Theatre marks its 40th anniversary by staging a new production of John McGrath’s brilliant Scottish play, ‘‘The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil’’.
Since 1978 the Tryst has taken productions all over Britain and beyond to great acclaim – if they have a trophy cabinet it must be bursting at the seams by now! Of course nobody should be surprised by this success. A quick trawl through back numbers of the Herald confirms that the Falkirk area has been at the forefront of amateur drama for a century or more with an astonishing number of groups in our towns and villages staging hundreds of performances every year. My own interest dates back to the 1950s when my father was in charge of stage lighting at the Town Hall and I spent many a night perched in the wee box above the stage watching the actors strutting their stuff down below. At the time the main man in the local drama world was Falkirk High School’s drama teacher Duncan Clark who, along with his daughter Betty, led the school’s Former Pupils Dramatic Circle to great success. This had included bringing home the Howard de Walden trophy after a winning performance at London’s Globe Theatre in 1931. The news was greeted by near euphoria in Falkirk with a full page spread in the Herald, a civic reception and a huge crowd at Grahamston Station to welcome the triumphant actors back home.
In the early 1950s one of the Duncan Clark’s pupils was Bill Graham who soon made a name for himself with the FPs and then with many other local companies. No surprise then that he went on to study speech and drama before joining the staff at Larbert High School. No surprise either that there was soon a new club making a big reputation. The talented pupils encouraged by Bill continued performing after leaving school as Larbert High FPs. By 1978 having recruited a number of members from other clubs they decided to reform as Tryst Theatre. Joining the group were several key figures like brilliant set designers John Reid and Mike Benzie, make-up maestro Andrew Hunter and experienced actors and technical crew from the Children’s and Youth Theatres. Their first production was the Scottish classic ‘‘Whisky Galore’’ and, after that, the stage was set fair for four decades of success. Amazingly there are still six members of the original company active in Tryst: Frank Murray, the current President, Jim Allan, Jim and Kareen Cairns, Lorna Herd and David Webster. This experienced group, along with several new recruits, was able to pick up the reins after the retiral and early death of Bill Graham and the success continued. The sad demise of the Falkirk Players, who had enjoyed a similar stellar career in local drama, brought a number of very talented actors to the Tryst.
The ‘‘Cheviot’’ is a marvellous mixture of comedy and tragedy as the story of the Highland clearances, grouse-moor toffs and oil barons is told in words, songs, music and dance. Let me declare an interest: Over the years I have had the pleasure of sitting in with the company when music with a Scottish flavour was required.
I’ll be there this Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights in the Studio Theatre in Falkirk Town Hall. But don’t let my presence put you off! Come along and enjoy a fantastic play and celebrate 40 years of Tryst.
Tickets for each night are available from www.ticketsource.co.uk/trysttheatre” www.ticket source.co.uk/trysttheatre or at the door on the night.