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Theatre Review: Heritage *****

Joy Watters reviews an unmissable production.

Sometimes an audience is treated to a production in which each element is finely honed to create a magnificent whole. The latest addition to the repertoire at the theatre in the hills is just such a creation: a flawless piece of theatre directed by Richard Baron which moves, is thought-provoking and looks stunning.

Nicola McCartney’s play, first staged in 1998, is still sadly timely with its theme of sectarianism. Set on the Canadian prairies between 1914 and 1920, the spotlight is on two families, the Roman Catholic Donaghues and the Protestant Scots-Irish McCreas.

The families may have moved to a new country, the Donaghues for three generations, but the religious divisions are still as strong as in the old country. There is mistrust of immigrants from other countries but in Heritage, it is the Irish tragedy and the destruction of young love that takes centre stage.

Ken Harrison’s set combines with Wayne Dowdeswell’s lighting to create a vanishing vista of the prairies bisected by a river, standing as a metaphor for a community rent asunder.

Young Sarah McCrea falls for neighbour Michael Donaghue in a Romeo and Juliet story as they are driven apart. Fiona Wood is outstanding as Sarah, feisty and fun, she even manages to age herself from cheeky teenager to heartbroken young woman, unable to believe what religion has done.

David Rankine as Michael is excellent too, forced into the sectarianism of centuries set against his love for Sarah.

The cast of six excel in the telling of the tale. Deirdre Davis is the matriarch of Donaghues, ruling with an iron will based on a centuries’ old heritage while son Peter (Marc Small) attempts to be a peacemaker.

The McCrea parents (Claire Dargo and Ali Watt) painfully express the shattering of the dream.

Don’t miss it.

In repertoire at Pitlochry Festival Theatre until September 26th.

Tags: theatre

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