THIS is the night train crossing the Border, or rather, it’s two night trains, one crossing the Border at Berwick, the other at Carlisle.
Robert Dawson Scott’s debut play for the lunchtime Play, Pie and Pint season – due to travel to Aberdeen next week – is set in the high summer of 1895, when Britain’s two great north-south railway companies, the North British and the Caledonian, became involved in a battle for the title of fastest railway service between London and Aberdeen. The Caledonian’s west coast line was longer, heading up through Preston and Glasgow before it joined the east coast line at Kinnaber, near Montrose, but the Caley also had faster engines, and a more ruthless attitude.
Dawson Scott’s cheerful 50-minute show – like a jolly summer panto with added history – spins endless fun out of the classically contrasting Scottish characters of mouthy Glaswegian Cammie, the Caledonian man, and stuffily respectable Norrie, of the North British.
The Great Train Race is no-one’s idea of great drama. It’s a little heavy on factual exposition – much of it carried by Joyce Falconer, who plays the Kinnaber signal box with great dignity – and its theatrical style has a touch of 1970s theatre-in-education about it. The play has two gold-plated assets though: first in the superb and hilarious performances of Iain Robertson and Grant O’Rourke as Cammie and Norrie – and also as Norrie’s sexy wife and Cammie’s wee boy – and secondly in the sheer energy of Dawson Scott’s writing.
Robert Jones’s fine, witty production has the Oran Mor audience yelling with laughter – and, of course, ruthlessly taking the side of Cammie and his west coast trains against those snooty types from the east.
Rating: * * * *