The tale of a spirited northern lass on her great mission to ‘Free Scotland’ is a tame but pleasant lunchtime piece of theatre at A Play, A Pie and A Pint. International and best-selling author Val McDermid introduces us to Margaret, a nine year old girl from Keithly, Yorkshire with a strange but endearing fascination with Scotland, its music and its history. A seemingly happy family takes a trip back to a part of Scotland where Margarets mother was posted during the war and this is where Margarets love affair with Scotland begins. Scolded by her father for insisting that the Scots should be free from English tyranny (garnering some wry smiles and laughs from the audience) she leaves for school one morning and hitches a ride with a tattie farmer from County Angus all the way out of the Yorkshire Dales and into Scotland. Chaos ensues as her despairing parents frantically begin the search for her, but no trace has been left. Upon arrival the wife of the tattie farmer jumps as a small girl tumbles from her husbands truck and announces that she will be staying with them until she completes her ‘mission’.
There is skilful multi-rolling by Simon Donaldson and Clare Waugh who play both sets of ‘parents’ and a few other minor characters, made clear by simple costume changes and the use of both Yorkshire and Scottish accents (which must be a feat to keep up I’m sure). Margaret is played by Tori Burgess who is endearing and brings the characters sunny yet determined attitude out brilliantly.
Unfortunatley despite the charm of this little girl the piece is rather tame. Its not hysterically funny or tragic or even has a great moral lesson to it, nor are the aesthetics or musical talents of the actors particularly spectacular. It is just rather plain. The comedy in hearing well known Scottish folk tunes sang in broad Yorkshire accents is giggle worthy. But the injection of this music as transitions between action comes across very standard grade drama and doesnt really add to or inform the action, it was just pretty music. As the performance draws to a close Margarets father declares that they will never again cross the boarder, foreshadowing the obvious return of an older Margaret to the country she so loves. The projection of a singer confuses as the whole of the rest of the show is sung live so I assume that women I see before me is the real Margaret Hoolt but then an image of the Scottish Houses of Parliament appears and Burgess reappears as the older Margaret and is seemingly sworn into the Houses of Parliament. Under which party or what role I am not sure and what was an attempt at a rousing ending fell very flat indeed.
Written by @Lucy_Newbery