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Following last year’s sterling adaptation of Alexander McArthur’s No Mean City, the Citizens Theatre Company has turned its hand to a long- forgotten play that documents another obscure part of Glasgow’s history.
A more intimate piece, The Bevellers depicts a group of glasscutters, a manual trade that the advent of mechanisation has killed off. Set and first staged in 1973, The Bevellers was written by Roddy McMillan, who was known as an actor but whose first job as a beveller made enough of an impression to gestate into this play.
Here the staging is exquisite, with the bevellers’ machine shop recreated on a grand scale as a spit ‘n’ sawdust bunker of nooks and gangways, a perfect foil for Jeremy Raison’s tight direction. The six workers are painted as hard and ill-educated characters, but they speak in a crackling flurry of passion and cursing.
The tough realities of life when a simple trade was something to aspire to are not shied away from. First-day apprentice Norrie Beaton is played as a wet and taciturn young goon by William Ruane, yet he must contend with insults, jealousy and, almost, an unpleasant assault by the “Rouger”, Andrew Clark’s psychotic nemesis of everyone in the shop.
Yet Paul Morrow’s foreman Bob Darnley is the flipside of reality. The shop has institutionalised him, but he takes pride in the “art” of his craft.
After a first day of blistering dark humour, homespun philosophy and petty dramas, Norrie is left with an unenviable choice between following in Bob’s footsteps or not. But at least, unlike the others, he has a choice.
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