Dogstar Theatre aims for the heart with writer Kevin MacNeil's play The Stornoway Way at Eden Court, Inverness
LOVE, whisky, self-destruction, Lewis, jokes, songs, writer Kevin MacNeil’s zen wisdom, all wrapped up with an ace cast, some unintentional gender confusion, for an absorbing drama – that’s The Stornoway Way.
MacNeil’s book is a better book than the play he has adapted from it. For example, the ending feels slightly flat in comparison.
But in Dogstar Theatre’s production, there is a lot of charm and a heap of energy. Wordplay and humour sing out, as they did in the often playful novel, with pithy wit and sharp lines helping to keep the pace fizzing along.
It is a very wordy piece and, in the first half, it seems at times that not much happens, though the action picks up in the second act.
The signature Dogstar quirkiness in creating the world for the production sees ingenious design – for example, a Callanish standing stone doubling as a supermarket till. Multi-media use of the backdrop to translate lyrics works well and the songs performed by the cast give an authentic sense of characters’ lives as well as bringing Gaelic culture firmly into the core of the piece.
Powerful characters are presented by the three female actors who ably handle our ‘hero’, self-obsessed musician and would-be writer Roman Stornoway (Naomi Stirrat), long-suffering best friend Eilidh (Rachel Kennedy) and feisty Hungarian student Eva (Chloe-Ann Tylor), Roman’s love interest and downfall.
Lewis’s huge presence – “the heart of beyond” – powers Roman’s rebellion, alcoholism and suicide.
The ‘white face’ make-up worn by the female actress playing male Roman proved a talking point – a sign the actor’s gender didn’t matter, some thought?
In final exasperation with Roman’s selfish behaviour, Eva’s blunt assessment of her soon-to-be former love is brutal: “I really hope you can find a better way to live, you're toxic.”
But however much we weary of selfish Roman ourselves as the play unfolds, his sincere distress after his child is aborted is affecting enough to make his decision to end his own life, as shocking and tragic as it needs to be.