A MORE than crowded house at Oran Mor for this new play by Val McDermid – and for those unaware of publicity details, maybe an expectation of the violent crime stories that McDermid is known for.
Is the eponymous Margaret going to save Scotland by engineering the demise of political figures in Westminster? Not a bit of it. This Margaret – inspired by a now deceased friend of McDermid’s – is a wee girl who lives in Yorkshire but who, after a family holiday, returns to Keighley with Scotland evermore written on her heart.
What follows is a tale where truth eclipses fiction, although McDermid – with director Marilyn Imrie onside – has tweaked aspects of what actually happened for comic, poignant and certainly sentimental effect. The nine-year old Margaret decides that Scotland should regain its freedom, makes it her mission to rouse that nation to rise up … and runs away from home to kickstart a campaign for independence. The year, by the way, is 1958.
Politics aside, you’ll find it hard not to be inveigled into the little girl’s enthusiasms. Tori Burgess’s Margaret – very much a 50s schoolgirl in neat uniform, short socks and sensible shoes – is a mettlesome wee besom who, even if her historical sources get criss-crossed with the romance and derring-do of films like Casablanca, is determined to keep faith with her dreams.
Upbeat, thoroughly engaging performances, too, from Clare Waugh and Simon Donaldson as her well-meaning parents, switching bits of costume and accents to play the other characters along Margaret’s way. They play a variety of musical instruments too, for this is a one-act where songs – Over the Sea to Skye, among them – are a vibrant part of McDermid’s tender, whimsical tribute to her friend Margaret.
Presented in association with Aberdeen Performing Arts and Traverse Theatre.
The Scottish author was once described as the ‘leading pathologist of everyday evil’.
Scottish crime writer Val McDermid has said she believes terrorists are not evil.
The best-selling author, once described as the “leading pathologist of every-day evil”, said nobody is “all good or all bad”.
Kirkcaldy-born McDermid warned making such judgements “gives you the licence to act at will” and leaves “no room for redemption”.
“People sometimes characterise terrorists as being evil; they are not evil,” she said in an interview with Indian news website Scroll.in.
“They are people who have done a terrible thing. But they probably love their young ones, they probably love their wives. They are not the guys painted in pictures.”
She added: “I think it’s very dangerous for us to go down those routes of categorising them as evil because then that gives you the licence to act at will and there is no room for humanity, humane behaviour for redemption, to change.
“So I really believe that there is some evil within us and some good, and all we can do is to try to keep that balance on the side of the angels I suppose.”
McDermid has reportedly sold more than ten million books in 30 languages and is best known for her Tony Hill series, the basis for the TV show Wire in the Blood.
UK – Scottish crime writer Val McDermid told an audience at Impact 2018 that the best research and insight into people’s lives comes from the answers to the questions you haven’t asked.
Interviewed by Martin Lee, Acacia Avenue’s co-founder and strategist, McDermid was speaking at the climax of this week’s MRS conference.
She talked about her childhood in Kirkcaldy in Fife, how a sole Agatha Christie novel (sitting alongside a bible) at her grandparents’ house sewed the seed of her crime fiction career, and how a love of libraries allowed that seed to grow and flourish.
Born into a working class family, McDermid later became the first student from a Scottish state school to be admitted to St Hilda’s College Oxford.
But this course of her life hinged on a strategy of deceit during her childhood. As a nine year-old, she had to fabricate her mother being ill in order to take adult books out of the library. The ruse worked for years and McDermid’s muse was fed by works including those of Christie.
But that minor crime came back to bite her. When she attended an event at the library, her mother in tow, and the two librarians whom she had lied to were there, apparently very surprised. “Mrs McDermid,” they said to her mother, “we thought you must be dead, being an invalid all those years.”
McDermid’s literary beginnings were not in crime, but in an attempt to “write the great English novel”. A failure, but one that was subsequently transformed into a play, and saw McDermid gain an agent and the accidental status of playwright at age 23.