Cultures come together in this radio premiere of Pitlochry’s postponed stage production
There’s a sadness to this radio presentation of playwright, and Edinburgh Royal Lyceum artistic director, David Greig’s new play. A co-presentation with Pitlochry Festival Theatre, it forms part of artistic director Elizabeth Newman’s Shades of Tay project, a series celebrating the stories of the theatre’s Perthshire environs.
Captured Roman soldier, Olivier Huband’s Lucius, meets Kirsty Stuart’s Pictish witch and captor Eithne. The play was originally intended to be Pitlochry’s late-summer, main-stage production, in association with the Lyceum. With both theatres now in lockdown and the stage version rescheduled for next year, BBC Radio 3’s broadcast – directed by Newman as a two-hander – is a poignant reminder of the absence of a stage.
The single-scene intimacy of the setting – a Pictish cell – might have been better suited to the stage where a wider sense of place can more easily be achieved.
Lucius reveals himself as a man of poetry and a hapless combatant and Eithne lays out her desire to become a cultured Roman and meet her captive’s commanders on their own terms.
As this mismatched, yet very similar, couple meet with open hearts and minds a tangible expanse of understanding develops between them. Huband’s laconic Lucius warms to the traditional outlook of Eithne’s people – who know rivers instead of roads – while Stuart’s fierce Eithne marvels at Lucius’ poignant memories of the baths in Rome, a sign of the luxurious upside of encroaching civilisation.
A thoughtful and warm-hearted piece, the moment of its transmission elevates the work. Lucius’ comrades have journeyed as far into Scotland as they will reach and the pair meet at a historic point for Rome’s colonial ambitions, at which they must step outside their tribes and decide their own futures.