The Stamping Ground, a new Scottish musical produced by Raw Material and Eden Court Highlands started development in 2018 and a fully-fledged production is now touring around Scotland. Weaving the musical catalogue of the legendary band, Runrig, around an original story set in the highlands, the show frames the climate crisis and its impact on a small but tightly-knit community, in the fictional village of Glenbeag.

At the top of the show, we meet Annie (Jenny Hulse), Euan (Ali Watt) and their daughter Fiona (Caitlin Forbes), who are about to make the big move from London back to Glenbeag, where the couple grew up, for a fresh start. The sombre reasons for that fresh start come to light over the course of the show.

Hulse gives an endearing and caring performance as Annie, enamoured at being back in familiar surroundings, while torn between her own needs and those of her family. Watt plays a frustrated father, struggling to adapt to living in a place where he is haunted by old memories. Forbes gives a fine performance as a moody teenager, Fiona, as she settles into new surroundings.

The Glenbeag locals are quite the gang, including Juliet Cadzow and Robin Campbell’s hilarious performances as Maggie and Malcolm, to the charming and mysterious Summer (Naomi Stirrat), who rocks up in a caravan every summer to lead tours around the peat bogs. Annie Grace plays Euan’s mum, Mary, in a sincere and no-nonsense manner and the scenes in the local pub show off the exuberant energy of the ensemble.

Kenneth MacLeod’s set design comprises a dramatic rock face/coastline backdrop, with the edge of the stage bordered by a beautiful horizon line of light (with other striking lighting designs by Simon Wilkinson). The costumes feel modern, contrasting with the floating fantastical gowns worn by Summer and Annie during a folk festival sequence.

While packed with many Runrig hits, the show itself could do with a little trimming. The ballad-to-banger ratio feels a little high, and a superfluous love story between another prodigal son-type character and Annie felt out of kilter with the rest of the storyline, echoed by lacklustre applause and response to moments of affection between them.

The irony of watching the show about a heatwave in Scotland, during a literal heatwave in Scotland was not lost on this Glasgow audience. The heart and humour within Morna Young’s book balance well with the more serious moments in the show, creating an accessible piece that highlights the issues of tourism-fuelled gentrification, rising temperatures, and the importance of community. A monologue on the future of the lands delivered by Stirrat is particularly moving.

The audience lap up the opportunity to sing along to “Loch Lomond” at the curtain call a wise decision by the creators. Whether you only sing Runrig at parties and weddings or know their back catalogue backwards, The Stamping Ground is a fun night out and adds another contemporary musical to the Scottish musical theatre canon.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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