Theatre: Bob lets rip on a long dark night of the soul

David Hayman returns as everyman Bob Cunninghame
David Hayman returns as everyman Bob Cunninghame

IS it time for real change? (Or evolving as it is now known, thanks to a top tennis player’s evolving of the English language.)

Politics, in theatrical terms has come back into vogue, thanks in great measure to the untold misery and economic destitution which our political leaders have failed to protect us from.

But what can we do about our state of being, asks playwright Chris Dolan. Well, we can’t vote – not yet anyway, but we can reveal our anger.

Award-winning playwright Dolan’s anger is once released via the mouth of Bob Cunningham. Bob is an older man, a one-time union official whose unalloyed story we first heard in the writer’s pre-referendum piece The Pitiless Storm.

We then heard Bob, played by Scots acting legend David Hayman, bellow for a brighter future in 2017’s A Cause for Thunder. And now he is back with the final part of the trilogy in Time’s Plague – which is described as ‘Bob Cunningham’s deepest spiritual journey.’

This time again Bob reflects on his own life, but also on the state of the NHS, the politics of the pandemic, the rise of the right, Independence, climate change, the future . . .

Along the way, he also offers up thoughts on the human condition and the coming of the end. Bob, we learn, is in a hospital bed. ‘A long dark night of the soul, an understaffed ward, a single room. Another stormy night. He’s broken – as is the world around him.’

Hayman and Dolan came up with the idea of creating Cunningham after lengthy frustrated conversations about the collapse of society, of being governed by rulers whom they believed could care less.

Chris Dolan reveals the premise for the latest instalment in the life, or rather the diminishing life, of the embittered hero. “We learn Bob was supposed to walk the West Island Way with his pals before he found out he was ill. And now we find him in a hospital room on the top floor – the Dark Star – where is doing making the journey in his mind.

“It’s just a great vehicle for thinking about who we are and where we need to go from here. It’s also a way of talking about Scotland via the West Highland Way. And what better way to talk about Scotland?”

It’s clear that the passing of time hasn’t softened the character of Bob the complainer. “He’s an unreasonable man. A bad-tempered cantankerous man,” says Hayman, smiling.

The actor pauses for a moment. “He makes me think of that great quote; ‘Reasonable people adapt themselves to the world. Unreasonable people expect the world to adapt to them. Change, therefore, is only possible if people are unreasonable’.”

Hayman expands on the theme of Bob Cunningham’s desperation to be heard. “Bob is stuck in this cramped little room.’ I need to do something. I need to be heard.’ And he’s thinking ‘If our voices aren’t heard how can change be possible?”’

Time’s Plague runs at the Stand Comedy Club in Edinburgh as part of the Fringe Festival, August 21-28 and tours Scotland, including Oran Mor in Glasgow, September 7.

 

Don’t miss: Inconversation With . . . features a number of political voices at the Fringe including Jeremy Corbyn, Ian Blackford and Len McCluskey. See Fringe website for details.

 

RIKKI Brown can certainly see the importance of political theatre. Hasn’t Scotland in the past been enlightened, informed and entertained by the likes of 7:84 and Wildcat?

But to be partisan in comedy? That’s a different matter, he says. Stand-up comedians, says the gag and sketch writer who has penned for likes of Only an Excuse? Over the years, should take a sawn-off shotgun approach; be prepared to blast every political party and individual who deigns to stand up and makes a noise.

“That’s the way I feel,” says Brown. “And most of it is just noise. That’s why I wanted to create this new show Aye News. I feel we don’t take a healthy overview when it comes to criticising our politicians and be prepared to attack each and every one of the deserving.

“It seems that satirical comedy which is prepared to criticise anyone, and every party has been allowed to die and my mission now is to put the satire back into the saltire.”

Brown, who once wrote the acclaimed Radio Scotland lunchtime satire Watson’s Wind-up, starring Jonathan Watson, does not only hit out at the politicians who be believes to be speaking in tongues.

“There are lots of fun targets which we’ll be having a go at,” he says. “We’ll be asking the likes of the all-important question; ‘Why does Andy Murray’s mother seem to follow him wherever he goes?’

The writer also feels that a news satire show wouldn’t be complete if it didn’t include a laugh at today’s woke agenda. “We now have book burnings, students being told of books they should avoid, warning labels attached to seemingly innocent children’s films and stories . . . It makes you despair, but it offers up great scope for comedy.”

Are there any areas into which he will not insert the investigatory probe?

“Yes,” he says without hesitation. “Transphobia. It’s way too delicate. And sometimes things take time to settle into our consciousness.”

Aye News, Webster’s Theatre, Glasgow, September 29.