By Isabella Fraser
David Hayman asked his friend, playwright Chris Dolan, to write him a play around the topic of Scottish Independence: The Pitiless Storm is the result of that request. A one man show, it unfolds on the eve of the referendum when Hayman’s trade union official, Bob Cunningham, is preparing to give a speech at a special event.
While this play is without doubt a political drama, it is also a multi-layered and thoughtful examination into looking at the past and your roots, searching to acknowledge where you came from and to understand how you may have lost your way… or found it. With this in mind, Hayman’s feisty official is much more complex that he initially appears. While at first a little confusing, the voices in his head that we are introduced to (his dead father and his younger 17-year-old self) allow Cunningham the opportunity to remember the man he once was. Do we not all look back and reminisce about what was and what could have been?
David Bowie and his music influenced the younger Cunningham, perhaps somewhat ironically, as Bowie is the man who has famously asked Scotland to remain within the UK. The use of Space Oddity also appears deliberate as the lyrics are particularly apt, describing a (space)man stepping into the unknown, just as Cunningham – and Scotland both on and off stage – may be.
What Dolan’s intelligent and emotionally crafted writing conveys is a sense of self and it effortlessly leads us on a journey of discovery. That we are still unsure right up to the closing argument what the outcome will be, is testament to the subtlety of the rhetoric.
David Hayman Jr (Hayman’s son) has employed understated direction to bring out the pathos and humour in this rousing and impassioned play. Hayman gives a masterful and faultless performance that has the audience eating out of the palm of his hand.
A ten-minute question and answer session at the end of the play is simple and thought provoking. A rare treat, this is one not to be missed if possible, no matter what your voting opinion.
The Pitiless Storm runs until 24 August (not 11) in the Ballroom at The Assembly Rooms at 12.25. Running time is 1 hour 10 mins.