Theatre Review: Margaret Saves Scotland by Val McDermid, Oran Mor, Glasgow…

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.

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