Sunset Song

Theatre, King’s Theatre – Run Ended, Adapted by Alastair Cording from Lewis Grassic Gibbon´s novel

The King’s Theatre was packed, albeit with few people below 50 years of age, for the opening night of this interpretation of Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s beloved Scottish classic Sunset Song. Lovable heroine Chris Guthrie yearns for books and learning, and the life that will be open to her through the pursuit of her education. But her daydreams of a life better than the harsh toils on the land of her father abruptly turn to embers following a number of family tragedies. Then the First World War destroys the life she has always known and as a widowed single mother, she must confront the new way of life that is battling to take over the Scottish agricultural community in which she resides.

The sound was very well done and every word and musical piece played on stage was heard clearly. This leads to a reluctant point of contention, namely that the dialogue is quite difficult to understand; it is supposed to mirror the spoken language in the small farming community in which it takes place. Nonetheless, Chris Guthrie’s narration is filled with poetry and is majestic and pitiless in its depiction of the harsh conditions endemic to the beginning of the 20th century. There is also an abundance of comic scenes and dialogue, and though it was decidedly of a family-friendly kind, the audience laughed heartily on many occasions. The set is minimalistic but functional, as are the costumes. This design fits well with the themes of the play. Particularly impressive was the crude but striking building that is Chris’ family home.

This play is a successful adaptation of a much-treasured book and it is most interesting when it explores and questions Scottish identity as well as the female condition in the beginning of the 20th century. It is both romantic and naturalistic at the same time; the violent change that the protagonist finds herself swept up in is juxtaposed against her lyrical and dreamy relationship to the Scottish farming land. In conclusion this was an enjoyable play for the right kind of audience.

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