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REVIEW: Maggie & Me, National Theatre of Scotland

Maggie & Me by Damian Barr and James Ley, National Theatre of Scotland NTS. Photo credit: Eoin Carey

Maggie & Me

Written by Damian Barr and James Ley

Adapted from the memoir by Damian Barr

Directed by Suba Das


23 May 2024

Cumbernauld Theatre

⭐⭐⭐⭐


Maggie & Me is award-winning writer Damian Barr’s memoir about growing up gay in Scotland during the 1980's. Looming over his adolescent life are a troubled family, the Ravenscraig Steelworks and Maggie Thatcher. Adapted for the stage with Scottish playwright James Ley for The National Theatre of Scotland, Barr's memoir is full of comedy, heartbreak and nostalgia. Deftly directed by Suba Das, it's a rollercoaster ride through a recent, turbulent period of Scottish history that absolutely must never be forgotten.


Gary Lamont as DB and Beth Marshall as Maggie Thatcher in Maggie & Me. Photo credit: Mihaela Bodlovic

When Damian Barr was successful in securing a book deal for his memoir, the only obstacle was writing it. Opening a portal to old memories, old friends and to his younger self, Barr soon comes to realise that you can't change the past, no matter how much you may want to. In the stage adaptation of his novel we travel with Barr back to his home in 1980's North Lanarkshire and together we relive the joy, anguish and chaos of that time.


As a North Lanarkshire resident, but one who moved to the area long after the Ravenscraig Steelworks had been silenced, I was fascinated by the stories of how the plant consumed Damian's dad's life and those of thousands of people across the region. Of course I am aware of its past, but I know Ravenscraig primarily as a local sports centre, and so I was awed and delighted to see the iconic Ravenscraig tower and the glow of the steelworks rise out of the set of Maggie and Me.


Kenneth MacLeod's set is one of the most impressive I've seen from National Theatre of Scotland. At first a deceptively simple row of bookcases stacked with old (small, yet somehow bulky) TVs of days gone by, and a fascinating mix of 80's and 90's toys. The bookcase soon opens up as a gateway to Damian's past, revealing imposing landmarks that loom over the audience just as they would have a small boy exploring them for the first time.


The cast of Maggie & Me. Photo credit: Mihaela Bodlovic

Before the performance of the play we were treated to the world premier of a documentary film "The Making of Maggie & Me" - a collaboration between The National Theatre of Scotland and film and video students from New College Lanarkshire. Through this beautifully shot and edited short we gained an insight into Director Suba Das's work and had a sneaky peek behind the scenes of the production with the cast and with Barr himself. Barr explains that a memoir, when written, tends to be a linear series of events, but a play must be so much more entertaining. And in adapting Maggie & Me for the stage for the first time the creative team have been truly successful in this. They weave an intricate narrative and keep us guessing and entertained throughout.


It's always a difficult job to condense the contents of a book into a 2 hour stage play and I did feel the second act ran long here, with one particular quiz show scene too drawn out for my own liking. But the decision to include Maggie Thatcher herself as a character in the play, rather than simply use her quotes and hear of her influence as we do in the book, is inspired. Beth Marshall's Maggie Thatcher steals every scene she is in. From her contemptuous facial expressions to her pristine blue M&S suits, she's overbearingly awful. It's a brilliant portrayal.


Beth Marshall as Maggie Thatcher in Maggie & Me. Photo credit: Mihaela Bodlovic

Gary Lamont and Sam Angell are remarkable as DB and Wee DB respectively. They both lay down impressive, poignant performances that take us, convincingly, through the memories of a carefree eight-year-old boy to an awkward, traumatised teen and a quiet, anxious man. Incredible work from them both and from the casting team.


Barr's story is one of hardship and trauma, but it's written and presented in a way that is also captivating and hilarious. It must've been an awful process for the author to not only recall but to document the worst times of his life, but I do hope it was also freeing for him. The sharpness and wittiness of the script is a real highlight, and with pop-references and pop music that took me straight back to my own youth, I felt it's sting personally and deeply.


Maggie & Me is a look at a significant period of recent history through the eyes of one traumatised boy, but it is also a story of friendship and survival. It's both joyous and jarring. Much like Maggie herself, it's an unforgettable piece of work. Catch Maggie & Me on tour now Full dates and venues here


⭐⭐⭐⭐


📸 Production photos: Mihaela Bodlovic



 

Maggie & Me - cast and creatives

Maggie and me cast

 

DB Gary Lamont

Wee DB Sam Angell

Maggie Thatcher Beth Marshall

Mum Nicola Jo Cully

Dad Douglas Rankine

Heather Joanne Thomson


Co-writers Damian Barr and James Ley

Director Suba Das

Set and Costume Design Kenneth MacLeod

Lighting Design Katharine Williams

Sound Designer Susan Bear

Video Designer Tim Reid

Movement Director/Associate Director Struan Leslie

Casting Director Orla O’Connor

Assistant Director Matt McBrier


 

Maggie & Me Tour dates


The National Theatre of Scotland’s popular Theatre for a Fiver scheme will be available for 14 to 16-year-olds and those on Universal Credit.


Gary Lamont as DB, Grant McIntyre as Mark and Sam Angell as Wee DB in Maggie & Me. Photo credit: Mihaela Bodlovic

Tron Theatre, Glasgow

Tues 7 to Sat 11 May


One Touch, Eden Court

Tues 14 May to Wed 15 May


Perth Theatre

Fri 17 May to Sat 18 May


Cumbernauld Theatre

Gary Lamont as DB and Beth Marshall as Maggie Thatcher in Maggie & Me. Photo credit: Mihaela Bodlovic

Thurs 23 May to Sat 25 May


Dundee Rep Theatre

Thurs 30 May to Sat 1 June


Royal & Derngate, Northampton

Thurs 6 June to Sat 8 June


Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

Tues 11 June to Sat 15 June


 

Maggie and Me - review, NTS, National Theatre of Scotland, Damian Barr, James Ley, Margaret Thatcher.



📸 Find Lisa in the Theatre on Instagram and Twitter / X 


🎟️ Disclosure: I was invited to review this show and received a complimentary ticket in exchange. Neither the venue nor show has a say in what I write. I'm completely independent and invites have no impact on my analysis or star ratings.


Lisa in the Theatre, Scottish Theatre, UK theatre blogger, reviewer, critic

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