Men Should Weep
Ena Lamont Stewart
The National Theatre of Scotland
Men Should Weep is a beautifully real play whose refusal to look dated displays Ena Lamont Stewart's talent and also our own failings. So few plays, since this came out in 1947, have portrayed working class women with this degree of empathy.
The play features a mainly female cast although the setting inside a working class family home with the men out looking for work and the women at home looking after the children makes this just realistic. The men have by no means been erased from the picture and if they are emasculated it is by their unemployment, not by the women in their lives. The limelight though shines firmly on Maggie (Lorraine M McIntosh).
It is Maggie's story, a character not without her faults, but one by whom the audience is enthralled, for her humour and hard work but most of all just being herself and McIntosh makes her seem so genuine and so real. Not that the other characters aren't realistically done either - and no apologies for the overuse of the term 'real' as this is realism on stage at its best.
Maggie's family form an imperfect but appealing whole, and through all the different relationships and relations - the frustrated father, spoilt son, the daughter who wants to flee the nest, the son ill in bed - show a slice of life that transcends the cramped Glasgow tenement. Each member of the cast works so hard and there is so much attention to detail in every second of the play.
Singer Arthur Johnstone has the audience singing and tapping along with "The Day We Went to Rothesay, O" the first of several musical interludes, a great way of reaching out and involving the audience.
The play opens with two men in modern dress rolling back container doors to reveal the tenement from between the wars, showing a play that both deals problems of the 20th Century and also reaches out to us in our own century.
When the play was revised by Stewart for the 1982 revival, she changed the ending to be less depressing. The play is still tragic, but it is the little things, rather than any huge catastrophe, that now and then cause a tear to form in your eye.
Until Saturday 19th November
Reviewer: Seth Ewin