Thunderstruck

David Colvin
David Colvin
Scottish Storytelling Centre

Thunderstruck Credit: Sean De Francesco

Who was the Pitlochry bin man whose virtuosic playing would revolutionise the face of bagpipe music the world over forever, and why did his flame burn out so young? These are some of the questions that Thunderstruck, David Colvin’s play, seeks to ask and answer in this moving and bombastic tribute and love letter to bagpipes and the art of piping.

Thunderstruck follows Colvin as a young boy, taught to play at school, through his growth and education in pipe music through the arts of canntaireachd and his baptism into bullying, drink and peer politics.

But really, this is a homage to the sadly deceased expert and experimental composer and piper Gordon Duncan, who brought the Great Highland Bagpipe screeching into the 20th century. But the story only tangentially touches on him, a bright star, to which the young lad can only project his adoration and his jealousy on from afar, echoing the larger reaction of the stuffy piper community.

It’s a heartfelt and thumping production, with Colvin’s wistful words echoed musically by the drum, bass and guitar accompaniment from the three other musicians on stage. But the secret stars are the pipes themselves, at first only glimpsed, then tantalisingly teased before culminating in a beautiful, masterful crescendo.

It’s a stunning, staggering piece of modern Scottish folk theatre, a rich supplication to the heart of music, and a plea of recognition towards those who can’t see the beauty of change and imagination.

Reviewer: Graeme Strachan