Written by Donald Smith
The relationship between Scotland and Number 10 is, well, you know. No matter where audiences’ land on the Independence argument, the historical union has had its advantages, disadvantages and tremendous shortfalls. And the position of an advisor to the Prime Minister is an honour, apparently, and by no means an easy task, have you met those boisterous Jocks? So who is up to the task? Is there anyone left in this ruddy cabinet who isn’t a snivelling, self-righteous cad with an ounce of in… oh, there isn’t? Well, Gussie McCraig will fit in quite nicely.
Maverick of Perthshire, Gussie joins the current Prime Minister (at the time of writing) Boris as the Scottish adviser in Downing Street. And as it comes to no surprise, the palm of Gussie is as greased as possible, sniffing out his latest venture as he rises further up the ladder of Brexit Britain. But as Gussie takes the low road of life, he comes to realise the shortage of friends once the trail becomes uneven.
One hates to say this concerning a Tory, but Christopher Craig is a silver-tongued riot to listen – engaging, almost friendly and approachable, the destructive temptation of this self-serving bureaucrat would be utterly hilarious if he wasn’t so nauseatingly accurate. And if you were to sever Gussie in half, the blue which would trickle out wouldn’t touch the floor before he was pushed to the front of the private healthcare queue.
In talking with the audience, there’s a masterclass in the tactical advantages in recent politics – where the insinuation is not directly drawn, but filtered in a manner that allows the crowd to fill in the blanks. Occasionally you’ll spot an audience member in agreement with Gussie, and though troubling, it’s an example of Craig’s complete surrender into the character.
Donald Smith’s writing is a paradoxical canape of smooth intelligence resting on a crumbled foundation. In some aspects, the brilliance is present, tight and lacerating in evaluating the contemporary climates of Brexit, Independence and COVID. And yet, there’s a slipperiness, a dynamic of wishing to say too much too soon, and as notable as Craig’s performance is, there’s only so much a single performer can carry.
The satire, which at one point was cutting, becomes too damning to the pacing in later scenes, particularly whenever the direction incorporates a humourous, but lengthy Zoom meeting projection.
Pour yourself a brandy, dig out the trust funds and ensure the rabble haven’t snuck in. The Laird Strikes Back has nuggets of gold lurking beneath the satirical lampooning of politics. Much hinders on the engaging wretchedness of Craig’s performance as Gussie, a reputable scoundrel you can’t help but admire, and maybe even share a snifter or two following the show.
The Laird Strikes Back runs at the Scottish Storytelling Centre on August 21st. Tickets for which can be purchased here.
Photo Credit – Stewart Ennis