Fair Pley / The Stand Comedy Club
The Stand's New Town Theatre
David Hayman returns to the stage with this third incarnation of the boisterous socialist foghorn, Bob Cunninghame. Following from The Pitiless Storm, and The Cause of Thunder, the third piece of this puzzle comes with old Bob languishing in hospital, about to undergo some unspecified but invasive surgery.
It’s from here we follow him as he spryly leaps from his bed in order to walk “The West Highland Way” around the wards and corridors. Thus this convalescent camping trip through memory leads him not only into the past, but to rooms of other patients.
It’s a loud and brash piece of theatre, which has a lot to say. Hayman struts, shuffles and leaps around the stage pontificating loudly amidst various thunderclaps and moments of sleep to break the action.
Let there be no mistake, this is, much like the previous Cunninghame plays, absolutely political theatre, lambasting the government and the complicit inaction of people to stand up—something re-iterated at the end when Hayman repeats his usual additional part of engaging the, somewhat captive, audience in a post-show discussion to talk about his charity work. While this felt more open after The Cause of Thunder, here it feels almost accusatory and probably not the best way to send away a crowd who came to see a show, as if they’ve just been reprimanded by a grumpy headmaster.
It’s a polemic, but not one without hope or kindness. As much as Bob has ferocious anger toward the government, there is also deep care for public servants and for the NHS, and as ever this is an uplifting call to action. It’s a solid feeling, but by this third time round this track, the message is starting to feel a little tired, and a little weary.
Ultimately, while this is a call for solidarity and public action, it also feels like this is an exorcism of defeat and a passing of bitter fury. And with such a message of hope for new strength and a rebirth of new passion, perhaps it is a sign that this is just a step towards a firmer fourth play coming down the line.
Enjoyable, but for all its poetic prowess, somewhat insubstantial.
Reviewer: Graeme Strachan