By Susanna Mulvihill
Liz Lochhead, Scotland’s Makar (or National poet), has been a hugely significant voice in Scottish literature and drama throughout her 40 year career. In an hour long show, Lochhead tells us the story of her life through her work, from readings from her first published collection of poetry (Memo For Spring) right through to some recent ‘phone call’ writings as Makar. The title from this show comes from a W H Auden poem of 1939, but apart from a few references in her poetry everything else is Lochhead’s own.
Lochhead briefly explains her role as Makar to the crowd before taking us right back to the beginning of her writings. She reads to us “The Choosing”, “Warrant Sale” and “Poetry For a’ The Poor Fools”, the words that captured like photographs the life of the young poet. From early on her wry sense of humour is evident, with works like “My Rival’s House” still drawing sympathetic chuckles fro her audience. Lochhead takes us next to 1978 and her first forays into characterisation with ‘Sharon’, a sixth-year school girl with a crush. From these early character pieces we are led into her plays with Corbie’s opening speech from Mary Queen Of Scots Got Her Head Chopped Off. It’s a wonderful thing to hear familiar words like these spoken by the author, hearing the inflections, stresses and pauses as she intended. An absolute highlight was a personal favourite: “Credo”, perhaps a poem which every theatrical practitioner should read before starting a new project.
For those not familiar with Lochhead’s work this is a very good introduction. For those who are it’s a real delight to hear her read her work onstage, with her innate voluble wit and easy manner. A rare treat.