Men Should Weep

Nov 20 2014 | By More

✭✭✭✭✩  Moving

Church Hill Theatre: Wed 19 – Sat 22 Nov 2014

A fusion of high drama and earthiness, executed with precision and real emotion, Leitheatre’s Men Should Weep at the Church Hill Theatre is thoroughly satisfying.

Ena Lamont Stewart’s 1947 play, set in Glasgow during the depression of the 1930s, has in recent years emerged from a period of neglect to become regarded as a classic of Scottish drama. Justifiably so, as the story of the Morrison family expertly blends tragedy with down-to-earth comedy, dealing with the effects of grinding poverty while focusing on the lives of women.

Moira Macdonald (Lily) and Lynne Morris (Maggie) in Leitheatre's Men Should Weep. Photo Marion Donohoe

Moira Macdonald (Lily) and Lynne Morris (Maggie). Photo: Marion Donohoe

The entire play is set in the tenement flat of the Morrisons, with mother Maggie, the mother of a growing brood, the central figure. Lynne Morris is superb in the role, portraying a woman worn down by poverty but who is unwilling to let her situation diminish her love for her family.

What gives the story real warmth is the continuing affection between Maggie and her husband John, a man who feels his masculinity being eroded by his inability to provide for his family. If Mike Paton is not quite able to convey the most tragic elements of the situation, he is very good at putting over the humanity.

Moira Macdonald plays Maggie’s preachy unmarried sister Lily with a naturalism that softens some of the character’s sharp edges. Patricia MacLeod’s Granny mines a rich seam of comedy while never losing sight of the pathos of someone shuttled between relatives who seem most interested in her pension book.

Lizzie, one of those relatives, is well realised by Irene Cuthbert, who makes what could be a one-dimensional character convincing. Special mention must go to Maya Marshall and Sam Wood, who play two of the younger Morrison children sensitively and believably.

Light-hearted elements

The cast certainly manage to do justice to the more light-hearted elements of the script. Alison Kennedy, Phyllis Ross and Sally Pagan relished the comedic side of the gossipy neighbours without lapsing into caricature or ignoring the more serious sides of the characters’ lives.

The complete cast of Leitheatre's Men Should Weep. Photo Marion Donohoe

The complete cast of Leitheatre’s Men Should Weep. Photo Marion Donohoe

If Stephen Hajducki’s tremendously realised set seems a little expansive for a cramped tenement room, it gives the cast room to stretch out. Director Rik Kay creates a rhythm and pace that combines an easy naturalism with something more ambitious.

The drama reaches consciously at times for a tragic grandeur; while there is no doubting its quality, there is a danger of it appearing melodramatic if not carefully handled. Two of the characters that run the greatest risk of this are Alec, the ne’er-do-well oldest son, and his calculating, flirtatious wife Isa. While David Rennie and Elona Smith approach these roles with care and judgement, their climactic confrontation does not really come off dramatically.

This is a rare lapse, however, and the final scene is played movingly by Morris, Paton and Lauri Young, who is suitably brittle and conflicted as Jenny, the Morrisons’ wayward daughter. Whether the revised ending from the 1970s, as presented here, or the original (and far bleaker) conclusion is more in tune with what has come before is another question, but this ensemble fully deserve the rays of hope this version provides.

Running time 2 hours 30 minutes including interval
Church Hill Theatre, 33 Morningside Road, EH10 4DR
Wednesday 19 – Saturday 22 November 2014
Evenings 7.30 pm
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