“We do not live in the back of beyond, we live in the very heart of beyond,” argues Roman Stornoway, a struggling musician and the central protagonist in Kevin MacNeil’s theatrical adaptation of his own novel, a “romantic tragicomedy” and arguably a literary description of the Outer Hebrides that’s far more honest than any picture-laden tourist guide. It’s also a novel about alcoholism, and how, “like all over-thinkers”, Roman proves “an enemy to himself”.
A script that's gloriously not afraid of its innate theatricality.
Presented by Dogstar Theatre Company, there’s one distinctive aspect of this particular production: it’s all-female ensemble. Between them, its cast of three women introduce the characters and situations, play the roles, provide sound-effects and perform a number of songs, in both English and Gaelic, that are either heart-rending or morose, depending on your point of view. (“We’re Gaels: misery is supposed to cheer us up,” they say. They have a point.) It’s a script that’s gloriously not afraid of its innate theatricality – directly addressing us on occasions, and more than ready to milk the audience for humour.
Naomi Stirrat is undoubtedly powerful as Roman, grandly expressing the man’s initial glamour and charm, while not overplaying the selfishness underneath; Rachel Kennedy does well as the ultimately good-natured friend – and never consummated love interest – Eilidh, although is clearly able to have more fun in supporting characters such as drinking companion Captain Moses and “Wee Free Kirk” representative The Reverend, ever ready to ensure that “proper values” are “thrashed into you”. Chloe-Ann Tyler, meantime, has the challenge of presenting the seemingly exotic Hungarian student Eva, a short-lived romance that ultimately ends with Roman thrown onto the street.
There is much to enjoy here; not least the irreverent humour, and an honest look at the realities of alcoholism, a part of Hebridean life that one gathers some would prefer not to be shown at all. It’s also a story of people trying to work out who they are, even when “on the margins of the margin”, though there’s a bleakness in the realisation that it’s a challenge not everyone appears able to meet.