The lovely Brunton Theatre in Musselburgh is the secret gem of the Edinburgh theatrical scene, & last Saturday put on a wee treasure of a play, Hector by David Gooderson. It tells the story of ‘Fighting Mac,’ i.e. Sir Hector Macdonald a crofter’s son who rose through the raggy ranks to the richness of life afforded to a Knight of the Realm. In the perhaps to draggy first half of the play, we follow McDonald’s career as it led from active service in the Sudan, through the conscience-pricking imperialism of the Boer war, to his appointment as General Officer Commanding in Ceylon (Sri Lanka). Unfortunately, the posh old-money folk of the service in Ceylon didn’t take too fondly to his brash Gaelic honesty, & concocted a story which smeared McDonald as a paedophile.
Steven Duffy portrays the lead with the controlled, forthright decorum of a career Officer, a favourite General of Queen Victoria. His Hector in Act One is rather stiff and detached, but he allows the emotional intensity to surface in Act Two with fitting guarded despair. Gowan Calder moves between roles as Hector’s wife Christina and the Machiavellian Lady Ridgeway with fluid authority. The cast impresses in dual roles throughout, and handle the brief but charming song and dance with impressive skill and gaiety. The standout performer may be Stevie Hannan, whose charisma and confidence shine throughout several roles, including Governor Ridgeway, whose friendship and later scandalous decision making are the catalyst for Hector’s downfall.
Hector is most definitely a play of two halves. The first period is a tad too slow in creating within the audience any meaningful dramatic expectations, & it felt as if we were flicking through the Wikipedia entry for Mr McDonald. The second period, however, was a much brighter, edge-of-your-seat, emotionally-tugging work of art, a wee masterclass to be honest. Thus, with the first half warranting a three at best, & the second half rising to the four, it seems appropriate to award this clever & often times moving play THREE STARS.
Reviewers : Damo Bullen & Emily Oakman