Secret Wrapped in Lead by Braw Clan
Review by Pat Byrne
I’m really glad we made the effort to travel down to Symington, South Lanarkshire, last month to catch Secret Wrapped in Lead, Braw Clan’s debut theatrical production .
We actually set off more than once to drive down to Clydesdale for the show – thank heavens we eventually made it! Seldom have I seen such a memorable piece of theatre and such talented actors. Members of the company all live around the area near Leadhills where the story is set. It’s remarkable and fortuitous that such a gifted team are more or less neighbours with a shared passion for theatre and the promotion of the Scots language.
Martin Travers, the writer, draws on the history of the area and based his play on a visit to Lanarkshire in 1803, including Leadhills, by Dorothy Wordsworth, her brother William and the poet Samuel Coleridge. The focus is on an overnight stay at Mrs Otto’s hostely – it’s not a factual account. Intead Martin treats the audience to some ‘dark havering’ with his macabre and eerie tale, including the strange practices surrounding a fatal disease of the lungs that afflicts so many of the local lead miners.
All three of the actors in the play present well formed, distinct and intriguing characters: Dorothy Wordsworth (Helen McAlpine), Mrs Otto (Fletcher Mathers) and Primrose Otto (Morven Blackadder) are perfectly cast and inhabit their roles perfectly.
We meet them when the cheerful and businesslike Dorothy attempts to book a room for herself and her two companions at Mrs Otto’s. At the entrance she picks up two intriguing pellets from the step and puts them in her pocket (we suspect these objects are significant). There is no-one around to deal with Dorothy and the bell doesn’t work.
Primrose Otto enters but she appears not to understand Dorothy and doesn’t respond to her questions. She is a strange, troubled, young girl with a fey other worldly aura.
Then we meet Mrs Otto, the forceful and hostile landlady. “Dae ye juist inveet yersel intae ulka body’s hame?”
When Dorothy explains that the bell didn’t work. Mrs Otto replies – “daed ye no ‘hink tae ding hit aff the waw?”. This particular Scots phrase seemed so familiar to me; the word ‘ding’ took me back to my childhood and settled me into opening up to absorbing much more than the gist of the story. It also seemed to me a fine example of the onomatopoeic quality of the language
I don’t know if you listen more carefully and concentrated more than if the performance was in English but the play successfully draws you in, albeit, you don’t know every word.
The organisation of the audience surrounding the stage and the absence of a curtain had the effect of creating an immediacy and intimacy and the audience were completely caught up in the performance from the beginning until the end,
If the play had lasted another hour we would have been up for it. Afterwards we enjoyed the Q and A session with the three actors and the creative director, Pauline Lynch, with Clare Yuill, marketing director, acting as a very charming host. What came across from the team was their obvious camaraderie and enthusiasm for the production and their shared aim in promoting the Scots language.
It was a great way to spend an evening and I’ll look forward to Braw Clan’s next production. In the meantime I’m going to brush up my Scots – the language brought heightened drama and also added some humour. Who can deny that ‘hochmagandie’ sounds much more enjoyable than ‘fornication’? And ‘keek o day’ certainly holds more promise than a mere ‘dawn.’
I can only see Braw Clan going from strength to strength – I’ve signed up for their Newsletter.
Pat Byrne, August, 2023
Braw Clan Company Members
Pauline Lynch, Artistic Director
Martin Travers, Creative Producer
Clare Yuille, Marketing Director
Fletcher Mathers, Actor
Helen McAlpine, Actor
Robin Laing, Actor
Morven Blackadder, Actor
Anthony Bowers, Actor
Michael Mackenzie, Actor
James Mackenzie, Actor
Cristina Ertze, Filmmaker
Jack Henderson, Sound Designer, Composer
Gordon Dougall, Sound Designer, Composer
Hazel Henderson, Costume Designer
Paul Rodger, Production Manager
Joyce Falconer, Actor
Joyce Henderson, Company Movement
Linsey Johnstone, Stage Manager
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