A mile deep into the heart of a Scottish mountain, in a man-made cavern the size of a football pitch, three spotlit characters stand against a dynamite-scarred granite wall and tell of one of the miracles of modern engineering: the creation of Cruachan Power Station 50 years ago this week.
They are the poet Denise Riley as the amateur artist Elizabeth Falconer, whose gilded mural is only visible to those who work on Scottish Power’s turbine floor, Belfast actor Lalor Roddy as John Mulholland a ”tunnel tiger”, one of the team of drilling and explosive labourers who risked their lives in shocking conditions, and the 450 million year-old granite rock itself played by Edinburgh music student Ceylan Hay.
The radio play, commission by the adventurous Artangel and recorded live in front of a tiny audience, is “vertical in the making, horizontal in the telling”. Writer Maria Fusco, a Reader at Edinburgh College of Art, brings both stone and struggle to life and Roddy’s rich performance grounds the occasion in the hard labour and dirty materiality of this death-defying work.
“Is it possible to shape that which you haven’t seen?” Fusco asks us. Master Rock is about the conundrum of the unseen and the unseeable and thus also about the urgent telling of hidden histories. Falconer despatched the mural from her London studio without ever seeing it in situ. The men who worked and died inside this vast slab of impervious rock were, “gods on the inside of the mountain and just plain men on the outside”.
• Maria Fusco: Master Rock recorded inside Ben Cruachan will be Broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on Saturday October 17 at 22:15 and repeated on Monday October 19 at 14:15.