Tryst Theatre to put on powerful play in Falkirk for 40th anniversary

Actor Howard Sargeant (left) as Patrick Sellar and Jim Allan, director, as James Loch
Actor Howard Sargeant (left) as Patrick Sellar and Jim Allan, director, as James Loch

Falkirk’s Tryst Theatre will marks its 40th anniversary in a truly fitting style next month when it hosts a play which revitalised the live entertainment industry.

The company has decided to celebrate the milestone moment by selecting a show from the decade of its formation, John McGrath’s The Cheviot, The Stag and the Black Black Oil.

Premiered in 1973 by the 7:84 Theatre Company, the productions is an epic, angry and innovative account of the exploitation of the Scottish people.

The 7:84 name derives from a 1960s statistic that pointed out only seven per cent of the UK’s population owned 84 per cent of its wealth, a rather clear indication of McGrath’s aim to stage radical, popular theatre with a strong political message.

A passionate history lesson about the Highland Clearances, it’s billed as a “ceilidh play” which tells the tale of how Scots people have been consistently dispossessed since the 18th century.

By mixing elements of farce, satire, poetry, pantomime, music hall, Gaelic song, country and western, and dance, the play is far more fun than its serious subject matter would suggest.

One critic even labelled it a rousing theatrical equivalent of a Proclaimers gig.

Writer Joyce McMillan went one further, describing it as arguably the single most important show in the entire history of Scottish theatre.

Tryst director Jim Allan said: “We’re delighted to celebrate our 40th anniversary with this great play that gets standing ovations everywhere it goes.

“Its central theme is control of Scotland’s natural resources and it remains as relevant today as it did over 40 years ago.

“Simultaneously surreal, hilarious and deeply moving, it’s a fantastic piece of agit-prop theatre which covers 200 years in two hours, taking us from the forced emigration of rural Highlanders via the stag-hunting upper classes to the mad rush for oil in the North Sea.

“McGrath wanted to offer a good night out to people who don’t usually go to the theatre and he succeeded brilliantly, presenting the story in an accessible and entertaining way.”

Frank Murray, Tryst chairman, added: “There’s a nice local connection, as one of the first performances of 7:84’s play was in Falkirk’s old Callendar Park College of Education in 1973.

“So Falkirk’s getting another chance to see it 45 years on!”

A 14-strong cast, who will wear different hats to denote their character’s identity, will be joined on-stage by local historian and musician Ian Scott.

Tryst Theatre’s The Cheviot, The Stag and The Black Black Oil will be staged in Falkirk Town Hall Theatre from Friday, October 26 through to Sunday, October 28, with each of the three shows starting at 7.30pm.

To buy tickets, available for £12, go to www.ticketsource.co.uk/trysttheatre.