EPT Won’t Weep

March 16, 2022 | By More

Men Should Weep makes the stage – eventually

Of the many productions which fell foul of the Covid lockdowns, Edinburgh People’s Theatre’s production of Men Should Weep was perhaps the most unlucky not to have made it to the stage on time.

It was all ready to go just over two years ago, the set was on stage at the Church Hill Theatre and the cast were ready. Then one of the company contracted Covid and the whole company had to self isolate, forcing the whole run to be cancelled.

Ruth Finlay, Lyzzie Dell and Mandy Black. Pic Graham Bell

But now the company is back – slightly changed in personnel but very much ready to bring the play to the stage two years later than planned. And it has a greater relevance than ever.

Ena Lamont Stewart’s play is an extraordinarily moving story of women surviving in the east end of Glasgow of the 1930s. It finds in the lives of Maggie, her family and her neighbours not only all the tragedy that appalling housing, massive unemployment and grinding poverty can produce, but also a rich vein of comedy – the sense of the ridiculous, the need for a good laugh.

moved

Director Anne Mackenzie says: “When I was asked to direct for EPT, the minute I read the script of Men Should Weep, I fell in love with it.

“I couldn’t fail to be moved by the plight of Maggie and John Morrison and their family, not necessarily in the pathos of the situation, but in the moving way the play explores the impact of this on each of the characters.

“Here is a family living in dire circumstances, struggling, and failing most of the time, to make ends meet. They face unemployment and appalling living conditions, they’re trapped in their circumstances, with shared care of John’s aging mother, 5 young children at home and an older son and his wife who move in, having found themselves homeless.

“It’s a desperate situation, and we can clearly see how all the characters in the play are shaped by their environment.”

Mags Swan and Elizabeth Douglas. Pic Graham Bell

The original production, by the Glasgow Unity Theatre at the Athenaeum Theatre in 1947, came at a time when society was very aware of people who had been completely reduced in circumstances because of the Second World War.

It was adapted and revived – again to popular acclaim – in 1982 by Glasgow’s 7:84 Company, at the height of the Miners Strike. A further revival by the National Theatre of Scotland in 2010 helped to cement its reputation as one of the most beloved plays of the twentieth century.

The play’s relevance today is not merely as a Scottish set text list for Higher English, but the way in which it chimes with greater events around the world. And it also has relevance for our not-so-distant past.

a vein of rich Glasgow humour

“I can very much relate to their situation,” adds Mackenzie, “growing up in a mining community, with the miner’s strikes, the decimation of the coal fields and mass unemployment in my town… when my Dad couldn’t provide for us as a family, but refused to let my Mum work as it somehow compromised his sense of male pride, identity and self-worth as the breadwinner.

“But it’s not a depressing or maudlin play: Amongst all the poverty and distress there runs a vein of rich Glasgow humour, which can raise a smile even in the bleakest of circumstances. There’s a strong sense of community, the like we don’t see much in evidence these days. And a tiny glimmer of hope.”

Men Should Weep
Church Hill Theatre, 33 Morningside Road, EH10 4DR.
Wednesday 16 – Saturday 19 March 2022.
Wed – Fri: 7.30pm; Sat: 2.30pm.
Tickets and details: Book here.

Ruth Finlay, Mandy Black and Ronnie Millar. Pic Graham Bell

ENDS

 

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