The Collie’s Shed

August 24, 2022 | By More

★★★☆☆     Moving Drama

theSpace on North Bridge (Venue 36): Mon 15 – Sat 27 August 2022
Review by Torya Hughes

Shelley Middler’s new play The Collie’s Shed, which she also directs, is based on the miners’ strikes of the 1980s and fits perfectly into the intimate space of Perth Theatre at theSpace on North Bridge.

Before the action starts, the scene is set as the sound of Kick out the Tories from Harlow punk band Newtown Neurotics blares out in the darkness, followed by clips of Margaret Thatcher and political commentary from the 1980s.

The Collie’s Shed – Young Team. Pic: The company

When the lights go up, however, we are in a Men’s Shed in East Lothian, where a group of ex miners come together to chat and do woodwork. Very quickly it becomes apparent that there is unfinished business between a few of them, with old tensions rising to the surface.

The action skips between the past and the present, as the men’s younger selves fill in some of the events that have made them who they are today. The set is formed of four chairs, each with a character of its own, and an assortment of tools that suggest the location.

The four characters are clearly defined by both the younger and older casts. Joey Locke’s young Billy is full of frenetic energy, handmade letters spelling out “burn the witch” on the back of his leather jacket. Kevin Parr as the older Billy retains the same simmering anger and frustration, struggling to control his deep seated resentment of police and scabs alike.

vulnerability

Dom Fraser and Alasdair Ferguson as the young and old versions of Tom both show vulnerability as they reveal the impact the strikes had.

The oldest of the group, Charlie, played with touching fragility by Stephen Corrall, was forced to cross picket lines in his younger days. As John Gray explains in the flashback scene where he plays the younger Charlie, he has a family to support, making his choices more difficult.

Being made to choose between heating and eating is sadly very relatable in the present day, and brings home the dilemma the men must have felt.

The Collie’s Shed – Old Team. Pic: The company.

Paul Wilson as the older Glen is the outsider of the group – moving away from the area and choosing a long career in the police, causing the other men to hold a deep seated resentment against him. Rory Grant, playing the younger Glen, also has children who need to be fed, and feels that it’s pointless to fight against the inevitable.

The plot is simple, and sometimes feels a little repetitive as the same arguments are rehashed in the past and present. However there are lovely moments of dialogue, where the men discuss such everyday mundane things as the way their wives fold socks or the girl in the corner shop who slips them extra sweeties, which gives a very natural feel to the conversation.

These lighter moments and brief flashes of humour help to lift what could otherwise be a very bleak storyline. Shelley Middler’s script also allows the actors to depict genuinely touching relationships between the men, showing the supportive bonds that come with long lasting friendships.

Although the play covers events which are nearly 40 years old, there is much that will speak to audiences of all ages. This is a piece which shows great promise, and warrants further development.

Running time: 45 Minutes (no interval)
theSpace on North Bridge (Perth Theatre), Hilton Edinburgh Carlton Hotel, EH1 1SD (Venue 36)
Monday 15 – Saturday 27 August 2022
Daily (not Sun 21): 20:35.
Tickets and details: Book here.

Instagram: @thecolliesshed

ENDS

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