The Cheviot, the stag, and the black, black oil. By John McGrath. This play revitalised Scottish theatre. A Scottish history lesson delivered as ‘a good night out’. Higher English The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil learning resources for adults, children, parents and teachers. 2 Apr The reason The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil still works is undoubtedly down to the exuberant performances of the company.
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The aim was to produce avowedly socialist theatre in an entertaining form and, in general terms, this entailed: On the other, they sit outside that space in their own homes and observe from a distance. The Play for Today series.
The result is indeed that educative ‘good night out’ explicated in Lback celebrated book. A key strategy identified and advocated in A Good Night Out involves drawing on popular theatre traditions which in ‘high culture’ accounts are frequently effaced from history.
However, a version filmed for television might seem at odds with several of the key aims of the 7: McGrath subsequently spied an opportunity for a non-naturalist, politically challenging TV drama in a TV Cheviotbut the idea of an adaptation for Play for Today was in the first instance ‘entirely accidental’.
The play details the political history of North Sea oil from the North Sea Gas explorations ofand explores issues of shore and village destruction and pollution, accompanied by shots of refineries and plant. It still sings off the page today, and is vividly remembered by those who saw it. McGrath’s abandonment in the late s of the constraints of TV drama, as he saw them, to search for a new form of theatre performance, a theatre language different from the literary play of the bourgeois theatre, resonates with MacCabe’s critique.
It was probably his long partnership and marriage with Elizabeth MacLennan that fired his interest in, and commitment to, Scotland. As the project developed, then, it is clear why, notwithstanding the constraints of the television medium, McGrath took the opportunity for a TV Cheviot.
Views Read Edit View history. And it’s that fight which it hands on to its highland audience. The accident of a hastily-made television version yielded that juxtaposition of a wide range of modes which McGrath advocates in his critical writing. In sum, ‘we get all the scab jobs’ and ‘they treat us like animals’.
The director faced with a torrent of words can only retreat into the neutrality of the two-and three-shot where the camera, caged from seizing on anything of significance, is emasculated and only allowed to gaze around the room following conversation like an attentive stranger. DiCenzo distinguishes three key routes for left-wing practitioners at the time: Vox Pops are a standard of news-gathering and documentaries, and historical reconstruction is the mainstay of period drama. Political Contexts and ‘TV Drama: The framework of presentation is the popular Scottish entertainment form of the ceilidh.
The first category of these consists of exterior sgag of historical events which are merely narrated in the theatre version.
On reflection then, it might seem puzzling that, having turned his back on national television 7 because of its limitations in terms of socio-political intervention see below that McGrath would entertain the idea of a TV Cheviot. Another innovative feature of the show was the ‘pop-up book’ stage set, designed and painted by John Byrne. But, as he puts it in his essay on ‘Mediating Contemporary Reality’: Teh Performers — a bunch of folk who didn’t seem ready: Prior to developing this perspective, however, it may be helpful, particularly to readers who rhe not have had access to the television adaptation let alone the original theatre productionto give a summary account of The Cheviot and subsequently to detail features of its adaptation for television.
Despite an announcement in a Radio Times by BBC’s then Head of Plays that ‘We are going to teh lots more plays like The Cheviot ‘, 52 however, the promise has lamentably been honoured much more in the breach than the observance in the intervening thirty years. McGrath wrote many plays before ‘The Cheviot, the stag and the black, black oil’, and many after, but ‘The Cheviot’ remains his best-known work.
The television adaptation follows the published Cheviot playscript quite closely, some small changes in the narrative order clarifying the line of the story.
Similarly, the well-dressed gentleman figures of Sellars and Lock are shown in conversation riding fine horses across the land.
A sound cross-fade leads to a Close-Up of Allan Ross, the company’s fiddler, playing the ‘live’ audience into Dornie, identified by the sign on the exterior wall of the village hall.
The TV Cheviot The television adaptation follows the published Cheviot playscript quite closely, some small changes in th narrative order clarifying the line of the story.
In respect of the Clearances, for example, the audience learns that: In the village hall, this strategic chviot of drawing on the audience’s knowledge of rhe songs re-written with explicit political messages serves to involve the audience, indeed to ztag it into complicity with the theatre piece and its sentiments.
It details where the people went: As ‘the highland exploitation chain-reacted around the world’, 14 many of the displaced highlanders found themselves as ‘new world’ settlers further serving colonialist interests. British Film Institute, Though there were occasional tensions between the two Johns over glack, McGrath acknowledges that Mackenzie was ‘one of the few directors who’ve ever asked me into the cutting room because he knew what I was trying to do was not normal’. A theoretical debate about cinema form was, however, in progress.
The post-Rebellion suppression of the clans, andd Clearances, the shooting estates and the oil boom are all dramatised through a mix of quotation from original documents, reportage, Gaelic language and song, music and broad comedy.
First performance at Aberdeen Arts Centre, 24 April Following a collage of shots featuring the logos on the rigs and equipment of Shell, BP, Esso and more multinationals, the second Vox Pops sequences, again almost five minutes in duration, presents local riggers who have first-hand experience of the working conditions. The gig — Kyleaking Village Hall.
In respect of the Clearances, for example, the audience learns that:. The historical moment offered choices for radical writers concerning form, venue and medium. The sudden expansion of English and Scottish capital and estate enlargement — “more money to buy more land” — at the beginning of the 19th century is outlined tge. In the television adaptation, the Wnd Pops technique at that time not over-used to the point of today’s viewer scepticism lends conviction to the information.