Although based on true events, the story of Calum’s Road is so unique that it comes with a strong sense of some greater story being told, one of mythical proportions. This isn’t just a tale of one man’s determined labour to keep his family, community and culture together, but also the universal stories of leaving and returning, of the power of memory and the past to still affect the present. It even touches on the uncaring blindness of distant authorities that, for example, decide to build a road only so far and then stop nearly two miles from a community which, at the time, consisted of around 100 adults and children and, just half a century later, had crashed to just two—Calum and his school-teacher wife.

It’s fitting, therefore, that David Harrower’s script (based on the book by Roger Hutchinson) instills its characters with certain iconic personas; the hard working crofter turned road-builder, the fiercely independent daughter, the returned exile, and so on. And, given its Hebridean location, the story flows and turns between past and present like the tide, building a narrative force through the reiterations of family sayings, and the rhythmic retelling of particular scenes and aspects that echo the old Gaelic work songs. The staging by director Gerry Mulgrew, however, is sharp and clear, even as an excellent cast of six switch between the main characters’ childhoods and parents.

That one man successfully carved almost two miles of road out of the rocks and trees of north Raasay is remarkable, almost unbelievable to urban eyes, but while this production touches on the familiar touchstones of Highland and Island culture—depopulation, injustice, and decline—what comes through most strongly in this production is a sense of hope. Calum Macleod—crofter, fisherman, postman, lighthouse keeper, knitter and road-builder—might appear to be some Don Quixote railing against the inevitable, but even though his work (which the local council belatedly resurfaced and sign-posted) is now chiefly a visitor attraction, the audience is left with a sense of that with people like him, such island communities can still have a future.

Reviews by Paul F Cockburn

Multiple Venues

Nests

★★★
Dundee Rep Theatre / Macrobert Arts Centre

The Yellow on the Broom

★★★
Underbelly, Bristo Square

Tom Neenan: It's Always Infinity

★★★★
Assembly George Square Studios

Police Cops in Space

★★★★★
Gilded Balloon Rose Theatre

Rik Carranza: Still a Fan

★★★★
Gilded Balloon Rose Theatre

Marmite

★★★★

The Blurb

Calum MacLeod, having battled for years the inaction of authorities on the remote Scottish island of Raasay, sets off alone with a pick, a shovel and a wheelbarrow to build a road that will connect up the island. His unpaid labour of love comes to dominate the last 10 years of his life and leave behind a legacy—both practical and poetic—carved into the landscape he loved.