Theatre review: McLuckie's Line, Citizens' Theatre, Glasgow

It's a rare beast in current Scottish - or British - theatre, this new monologue co-created by actor Martin Docherty and writer Martin Travers. Proudly billed as 'a working-class story for working-class people', it tells the semi-autobiographical tale of a lad from one of Glasgow's roughest, toughest schemes who decides '“ after the death of his best friend '“ to make his escape, eventually trying his luck in the world of theatre.

Martin Docherty in McLuckie's Line
Martin Docherty in McLuckie's Line

Theatre review: McLuckie’s Line, Citizens’ Theatre, Glasgow ****

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

He finds his vocation, trains as an actor, and launches into a career that has its moments, but also involves long years of unemployment and bar work, trying to make it in London; but then, back home in his Forties, fate catches up with him in the most serious of ways, challenging him to decide whether the addictive thrill of acting – the “McLuckie’s Line” of the title – really means more to him than life itself.

What gives the show its vitality, though, is not so much McLuckie’s account of his acting career – full of sideswipes against the class and cultural attitudes of casting directors, and the decline of radical popular theatre in Britain – as his stunningly vivid evocation of life on the frontline in working-class Glasgow.

From the noisy, convivial atmosphere of his childhood home to a surreal return visit to an old greyhound-betting friend whose fridge contains just one pubic hair, his stories of the community from which he comes have an energy and poetry that is funny, angry and elegiac; and asks tough questions about whether that life still forms a living part of our national narrative, or is now confined to the personal memories of a dwindling band of artists who themselves grew up working-class.