ON THE STAGE: Free Press man showcases Cheviot-inspired play

The cast are all local to Skye Pic Willie Urquhart

A Portree man’s new play, which was partly inspired by the legendary The Cheviot, The Stag and the Black, Black Oil, is being performed in his home town this week.

The Chariot, the Flag and the Empty, Empty Houses was written by Daniel Cullen and has been produced by local promoters Seall.

The play, which follows a long term project for Creative Scotland’s Culture Collective, explores issues raised by Skye-based campaign group, Iomairt an Eilein. 

As well as writing and directing the piece, Daniel – who recently joined the Free Press as a community reporter – also performs in the show alongside Rhona Coogan (from Breakish), Peigi Nic A Phiocair (Annishadder), Josh Knowles (Broadford) and Steven MacKinnon (Torvaig). 

A collection of stories, parody songs, poetry and music about the Isle of Skye, the play is in part interactive and explores themes such as housing, transport, identity, language and the consequences of tourism.

The Free Press spoke to Daniel and found out what audiences can expect.

He said: “Hopefully they’ll have a good night out. That was the philosophy of the Cheviot’s author, John McGrath and with really good reason.

“The show will hopefully grapple with some of the issues faced by people who come from or live on Skye, as well as celebrate some of what’s good about it, but I’d like to think it does so in an entertaining, fun and almost raucous kind of way.

“In my view, you can use art to talk about the issues but if people don’t enjoy themselves when participating then they won’t engage.

“If we can give them a good night out, hopefully some of the work can stick and people can go on to discuss the content with one another – and that’s the important part.

“The play is just a way to start conversations really.”

The piece was written following several months of workshopping and development, during which time Daniel worked, alongside other artists, with local community groups, including football and shinty teams.

He added: “When plays like cheviot toured, there were structured meeting points for local, ordinary people in regular use – working men’s clubs, (well used) village halls, small theatres and the like.

“Since the 1980s we have significantly fewer of these spaces, but one area where people do still gather regularly is in sport.

“I thought it would be an interesting concept to run theatre workshops with local sports teams.

“By the nature of team sport, the players are usually fairly young and live and work locally, so discussing urgent issues like access to housing with them and then trying to amplify some of the opinions I’d gathered through a piece of writing is what I’ve attempted to do and so that’s where the play came from.

“It should all be fine, as long as I remember to learn my lines!” 

The Chariot, the Flag and the Empty, Empty Houses was performed at the Skye Gathering Hall last night (Thursday) with a second show tonight (Friday) at 7pm. Both performances are sold-out, but the cast are hopeful of taking the show on tour later in the year. www.seall.co.uk