In the hands of Gerry Mulgrew and Communicado, Robin Jenkins' attempt to portray early twentieth century Scotland's social and psychic divisions takes to the stage with gusto and aplomb (a contradiction in terms mirroring those in both play and novel). Fergus Lamont is vintage Communicado, physical and musical theatre of the highest standard matched with sharp and clear-eyed scripting.
From his birth in the slums of Gantock to his apotheosis in the Clydebank blitz, Fergus Lamont's stubborn refusal to conform to the expectations of the various social groups in which he finds himself prove both his downfall and ultimate salvation. Fergus can play the holy fool, and at times bears some resemblance to Prince Myshkin, 'The Idiot' of Dostoyevsky's novel. However, whereas Myshkin retains a sense of humanity, Fergus is doomed to lose his before he can rediscover it.
From 'lad o pairts' taken up by a sympathetic teacher, through World War One hero to put-upon husband and putative poet exiled to the islands before finally regaining his sense of self amid the ruination of the Scotland that made him, Fergus (Sandy Grierson) is heroically stoical and comically repulsive in almost equal measure. His thoughtlessness to childhood sweetheart Mary Holmscroft (Irene Allan) and the ever-loyal Kirsty MacDonald (Lesley Hart) is matched by his treatment at the hands of the equally monstrous Betty. T. Shields (Isabella Jarrett) - a shrewd demonstration that our potentially most civilising of institutions may also give rise to our greatest incivilities.
'Fergus Lamont' atomises Robin Jenkins' work to draw new meanings from Jenkins' harshly loving depiction of the world in which he himself grew up. As an historical testament of the Scotland we have not so much lost as forgotten ever existed, 'Fergus Lamont' has few equals.
The wally closes, shipyards and solidarity of industrial Scotland may have given place to ribbon development, business parks and paint-ball 'team building'; however, as we head uncertainly toward increasing insecurity, and Adam Macnaughton plaintively enquires, 'If ye scrape the veneer aff, are these things still there?' the question finds an echo in our individual and collective search for 'identity'. 'Fergus Lamont' certainly suggests there's no escaping one's roots or heritage, even when we struggle to turn these things into theme parks (or in Fergus' case, poetry) or try to manufacture a past we never had (as Fergus frequently does).
Although Fergus himself spends much of his life denying the value of community, Communcado's production is a celebration of community in itself. Fine ensemble production values complement excellent individual acting, and there's a cleanness of design that might easily have been cluttered. Composition and arrangement of a complex score from Karen Wimhurst is delivered by David Vernon, a rare wee box player.