Tron Theatre, Glasgow, until Sat 12 May
In selecting Grae Cleugh’s The Patriot as the first production of his reign, the Tron Theatre’s new director Gregory Thompson clearly had the zeitgeist in his sights. Unfortunately, the only thing he has shot is his own foot.
Cleugh has created a play of breathtaking theatrical and political vulgarity, a one-dimensional work of Scottish nationalist agitprop from which the SNP should run a Royal Mile. University student Claire Finlay (Claire Dargo) is placed at the heart of a metaphorical arm wrestling contest between New Labour Holyrood minister and guardian Tom Gordon and embittered, ferocious young nationalist Paul Kennedy (Grae Cleugh), Claire’s new boyfriend.
The no thrills drama that follows is pitifully schematic, as the heavy-handed metaphors tumble from Cleugh’s pen like great dollops of steaming polemic. Claire (a female stand-in for Scotland itself) has an inappropriately sexualised attachment to Tom (a virile symbol of both the Labour Party and the Union). However, in a moment of eye-gouging awfulness, she also gets sexually aroused by Paul talking about the Battle of Stirling Bridge. Iraq, Protestant sectarianism and the playwright’s unambiguous contemplations of the Union are introduced (like the drama’s supposed ‘twist’) with all the subtlety of Michael Winner mud wrestling a hippopotamus. It must, surely, be the worst new play produced by a professional Scottish theatre company in the last 15 years.