Review – The Sash

May 1 2013 | By More

✭✭✭✭✩   These colours still run

Cameron (Colin Little) tells Georgina (Michelle Gallacher) a few historical facts in Rapture's production of The Sash. Photo © Richard Campbell

Cameron (Colin Little) tells Georgina (Michelle Gallacher) a few historical facts in Rapture’s production of The Sash. Photo © Richard Campbell

King’s Theatre
Tue 30 April – Sat 4 May 2013
Review by Irene Brown

The play is old but its themes are not beautiful; their colours far from fine.

Rapture’s revival of Hector MacMillan’s play about Scotland’s sectarianism feels like watching the opening of an old and ugly wound. Like looking at a semi-demolished tenement with its wallpaper still intact, evoking questions of the life that went on there.

Forty years on – the play is set in 1973 and has the language to match – and The Sash exposes some of these lives with harsh humour and in the unsanitised attitudes of the time.

It is the 12th of July. The day of the Orange Walk. Bill MacWilliam (Stewart Porter) is in swaggering form in anticipation of the celebrations while his son Cameron (Colin Little) is disaffected by the proceedings. Like a reverse striptease, Bill attires himself gradually over the piece from semmit and trousers to the full bowler-hatted-and-brollied regalia of the Order.

The father’s personal and highly enthusiastic walk around his living room as he dolls himself up impacts on his Irish Catholic downstairs neighbour, Bridget (Jane McCarry), inciting much ceiling banging from below and foot stomping from Bill. All the while, the tunes of the flute and accordion bands waft in the background, their sounds getting louder as the window is flung open to let in the stirring strains.

The complex history of two particular tribes
Bill MacWilliam (Stewart Porter) and Bridget (Jane McCarry) face-off in Rapture's production of The Sash. Photo © Richard Campbell

Bill MacWilliam (Stewart Porter) and Bridget (Jane McCarry) face-off in Rapture’s production of The Sash. Photo © Richard Campbell

Since the death of the woman in their lives, father and son live in bottle-strewn chip-paper chaos and the set shows this to good effect. It contains various shades of orange starting from the autumn coloured couch with orange and blue tea towels on its back. The tobacco-stained walls are adorned with the icons of the order – HM the Queen, King Billy on his white horse, the Lion Rampant alongside the flag of Ulster Scots bearing Red hand of Ulster, a photo of Ibrox Stadium and a Rangers scarf.

The two young women, Una (Ashley Smith) the pregnant Catholic niece of Bridget and Georgina (Michelle Gallacher) the baton twirling Orange marcher dressed like a glamorous Fran and Anna tribute, add pertinent voices in this darkly humorous exposé of the complex history of two particular tribes.

The performances from the five strong cast are as tight as the skin of the big drum on an Orange Walk. Jane McCarry’s accent sounded authentic though at times too muffled to make out the lines but her portrayal of the high buttoned, frilly pinnied, besom bashing Bridget is exceptional.

Stewart Porter is utterly superb as the staunchly Protestant gallus Glasgow male and is a colossus on stage. Their mutual grudged and gritted acknowledgement of their common humanity in time of need is grossly outweighed by their mutual blindness.

Colin Little and Ashley Smith convincingly allow their characters of Cameron and Una to bring a thoughtful balance and other ways of seeing the world they inhabit. Michelle Gallacher as the pivotal Georgina is a bright and perky element in the proceedings.

Will Fyffe’s song I Belong to Glasgow, acts as parenthesis to this play but these seams run deeply across other parts of Scotland too. The play’s revival is a timeous reminder of bigotry’s ugliness even if the specific issues of whether someone is a Billy, a Dan or as the old street chant included ‘an old tin can’, have been publicly tamped down.

The image of the bloodied but unbowed Bill MacWilliam hirpling off the stage under support still holds strong symbolism.

Running time 2 hours.
King’s Theatre, 2 Leven Street, Edinburgh
Daily Tue 30 April – Sat 4 May, 7.30pm (Matinees Wed, Sat 2.30pm)
Full details on King’s website:

The Sash on tour

30 April – 4 May Edinburgh
King’s Theatre
0131 529 6000 Book online
8 May East Kilbride
Village Theatre
01355 261 000 Book online
9 May Motherwell
Concert Hall and Theatre
01698 403 120 Book online
10 May Stirling
01786 466666 Book online
11 May Kimarnock
The Palace Theatre
01563 554900 Book online
17 May Dumfries
Theatre Royal
01387 253383 Book online
18 May Cumbernauld Theatre
Cumbernauld Theatre
01236 732 887 Book online
21 – 25 May Glasgow
King’s Theatre
0844 871 7648 Book online
28 May Giffnock
Eastwood Park Theatre
0141 577 4956 Book online
29 May Livingston
Howden Park Centre
01506 777666 Book online
30 May Greenock
Beacon Arts Centre
01475 723 723 Book online
1 June Falkirk
FTH Falkirk
01324 506850


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