Sunset Song (4 stars)

Sunset Song

Seen at His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen. On tour until Sat 4 Oct


It was some time in the early-60s when His Majesty’s Theatre, Aberdeen, last produced a play of its own, barring the annual pantomime. To return to the fray with a ten-strong company and a mainstage tour after so long was ambitious but, thanks to an assured production by ex-Royal Lyceum director Kenny Ireland, vivacious performances by a cast led by the excellent Hannah Donaldson and a set of picture-postcard landscapes by designer Hayden Griffin, it’s a gamble that has paid off.

To open an adaptation of Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s novel – voted Scotland’s favourite read in 2005 – in Aberdeen is, of course, playing to the home crowd. The rich Scots language and loving evocation of the Mearns landscape, in all its cruel beauty, speaks powerfully to those in the north east. More deeply, however, it resonates with all of us in a society which, 100 years on, still feels the repercussions of the end of small-scale farming, the arrival of mechanisation and the drift towards the cities.

Encapsulating this pull of the modern era is Chris Guthrie, the novel’s teenage heroine, who is both at the heart of her village community and, through education and disposition, always at one remove from it. Likewise, at the heart of this fluid, ensemble production, Hannah Donaldson has a keen understanding of a character who is tough, unsentimental and rooted in the landscape and yet also filled with a radiant romanticism. You might miss some of the author’s rich poetry, but the production does much justice to the shape of his book.

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