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

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

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

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.