The Cheviot, the stag, and the black, black oil. By John McGrath. This play revitalised Scottish theatre. A Scottish history lesson delivered as ‘a good night out’. Higher English The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil learning resources for adults, children, parents and teachers. 2 Apr The reason The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil still works is undoubtedly down to the exuberant performances of the company.

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I give them beads, baubles, VD, diphtheria, influenza, cholera, fire water and all the benefits of civilisation. Prior to developing this perspective, however, it may be helpful, particularly to readers who may not have had access to cheivot television adaptation let alone the original theatre productionto give a summary account of The Cheviot and subsequently to detail features of its adaptation for television.

Once the television audience is invited inside Dornie village hall, the performance is presented as if taking place as a theatre piece in front of the live audience.

He was impressed by the talent of the theatre company and struck particularly by the impact the piece had on a local audience just amd of Glasgow. A key strategy identified and advocated in A Good Night Out involves drawing on popular theatre traditions which in ‘high culture’ accounts are frequently effaced from history.

Television director John Mackenzie saw The Cheviot and, like many others, was enthralled by the piece.

The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil review – a superb revival

I shall return to the question of etag language and the capacity of television for intervention in the socio-political process but, on the face of it, a play on television cannot meet these conditions. The Cheviot was not initially written for television so in some respects it is inappropriate to judge it as a non-naturalistic TV drama. And I said it would have to be done in front of an audience because it was about the interaction between the stage and the audience.

Whilst the theatre version of The Cheviot draws on documentary material, it is reported by the actors. In an effort to recreate something of the sense of shared space and identity created by the form, content and performance style of The Cheviot in its ceilidh setting, individual audience members are picked out by the camera in a variety of responses. Red herrings in the Minch’ 7: It wasn’t a Brechtian stage play, but it was a Brechtian way of approaching television.


Indeed, as noted at the outset, McGrath consciously adopted Brechtian strategies only in the adaptation. Moreover, being predominantly not Scottish, tje of the audience are unlikely to know the songs or share those aspects of Scottish nationalism on which The Cheviot undoubtedly draws to create that sense of ‘open conspiracy against authority’.

The close relation between form and content, paying attention to local circumstances and entertainment modes, and the correspondence stg the means of production and reception, promoting an egalitarian forum for exchange of ideas, no doubt made The Cheviot the great success it proved to be on its rural Highland tour.

The Cheviot, The Stag and the Black, Black Oil Tour

And there are reasons both for the initial success and for the duration of The Cheviot in memories: And there are reasons both for the initial success and for the duration of The Cheviot in memories:. The question of the function of theatre, film and television in this context became a topic of hot debate in the early-mid s with the legacy of Brecht being frequently invoked.

In the medium of television, however, this ‘sense of locality, of identity, of cultural identity with the audience’, 27 so central to the 7: I simply cannot understand socialist playwrights who do not devote most of their time to television The play briefly mentions the modern day exploitation of the Highlands by the tourist industry then makes political comparisons between the past and Tradition and innovation Polemic and comedy Gaelic, Scots and English.

On reflection then, it might seem puzzling that, having turned his back on national television 7 because of its limitations in terms of socio-political intervention see below that McGrath would entertain the idea of a TV Cheviot.

A theoretical debate about cinema form was, however, in progress. The glack adaptation follows the published Cheviot playscript quite closely, some small changes in the narrative order clarifying the line of the story.

BBC bitesize – The Cheviot The Stag and The Black Black Oil on Vimeo

Socialism and entertainment His work in all shag areas was hlack by his socialism — the need to highlight the injustices of capitalism and offer hope for a better future. Scotland from miles above chevuot Earth. Each sketch and reconstruction is supported by a continuous narration of facts and statistics, presenting an account of Scottish history from to As noted, however, there are sufficient theatrical and televisual elements in the TV Cheviot to make it readable by an audience steeped in television’s habitual naturalism.


The historical moment offered choices for radical writers concerning form, venue and medium. In a programme note to Joe’s Drum McGrath reflected on his kind of theatre: The shooting of the stag is linked in sound montage to the shot of the gun which ignites the oil flare of the rig’s exhaust pipe.

Technically the strategic inter-cutting between Close-Ups of the performers and members of the audience is a simple and apparently seamless device. In a programme note to Joe’s Drum McGrath reflected on his kind of theatre:. The first recounts the eviction of highland crofters from the land to accommodate Cheviot sheep whose qualities of endurance and fine wool offered anr prospects of lucrative incomes to landowners.

The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil review – a superb revival | Stage | The Guardian

Before the television audience ‘enters’ the hte it is confronted by a shock of images. To take one specific moment, there is a whoop of delighted recognition of the represented ineffectualism – not to say the perceived collusion with the American invaders – of the representatives of the British government.

This play has influenced generations of playwrights and directors, in Scotland and sgag. Or do they want us to fly people in to do the job for them? In summary, MacCabe’s argument is that the very form of a ‘classic realist text’, 39 controlled by an unacknowledged metalanguage, resolves all its constituent, conflicting discourses and accordingly fails to place the reader in a position of contradiction.