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The Blood is Strong, Finborough Theatre

David Hutchison

Directed by Bruce Guthrie
★★★★
Pros: A terrific script and a few top class performances.
Cons: The play lags in places with a number of slightly confusing moments.
Our Verdict: Well worth a look. The topic of Scottish independence is very of the moment and you won’t find a more entertaining exploration of it than this.
Courtesy of FinboroughTheatre
“In 1950’s Scotland, Nationalists were the kind of people who, if they saw a roadside cliff face adorned with the proclamation ‘The Lord Jesus Saves’, would paint it over with the demand FREE SCOTLAND!”
Set in the present, The Blood is Strong explores nationalist sentiments in today’s world. Jean, a member of the Scottish Nationalist Party, is running in the general election, much to the irritation of her father, the kilt-clad ‘Voice of Scotland’ and national music hero, Alec Baillie. Jean was brought up in a strongly musical family, by a father who does not side with the SNP. In her youth she was quite a famous accordion player, back when she was too young to realise the embarrassment this would later cause her political ambitions. Jean is still furious with her father for what she perceives as a period of her life she’d rather forget, but this is just one in a long list of issues she has with her father. And then there’s Alec and Maisie and their challenging marriage. Martin battles with alcoholism and although Maisie insists that Martin has never hit her, Jean remains dubious about her mother’s safety.
The Blood is Strong is a story about gaining independence from what is perceived as a strongly oppressive force. What is particularly clever about this script is that it never directly places the father in the role of the bad guy. Rather, it is Jean’s perception of him that creates a sense of unease. Although he is clearly a complicated individual with many faults, we never know if Jean’s bad view of him has any real truth behind it or not. She is certainly justified in her struggle to be her own person and his disappointment in her has certainly caused a rift, but as to the righteousness of each standpoint, that is left to the audience to decide.
One of the strongest elements of this show is Margaret-Ann Bain’s portrayal of Jean. She is immediately likeable, complex, intelligent and charismatic and slips easily between Jean the politician and Jean the person. Margaret-Ann Bain brings enormous energy and truth to the role, stealing every scene she’s in. Similarly, Steven Miller is a force to be reckoned with as independent filmmaker Ian. He has a sizzling chemistry with Bain and his performance is electric. The most important element of these two performances is their truthfulness; both are fully formed characters who feel real and incredibly detailed. Neil McNulty is also impressive and incredibly funny as both Tweedie and Bobby.
Considering the usual high production values at the Finborough, I was slightly disappointed by the set. I’m normally bowled over by the creativity that goes into the set design at this terrific venue, but this time round the stage felt bare. I was also slightly confused over the choice of character changes. A couple of the actors double-up as different characters, but with one in particular the costumes and performances were a bit too similar to be a noticeable change, which caused some confusion.
However, the writing of this play far surpasses any of this. The Blood is Strong is more than a political statement or a story about family rifts. It is a rich script with many interesting insights into love, loss, memories and heartache. It addresses the longing to live in the past and the reluctance to let go and move on. It also deals with sexism, both in politics and within the family structure.
Although it is not perfect, I can’t recommend this show highly enough. The script creates just the right balance between providing political information and allowing the audience to form their own opinions. The cast give enough striking performances to keep the show alive and kicking with lots of good humour thrown in.
Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comment section below!
The Blood Is Strong runs at the Finborough Theatre on 2nd, 3rd, 4th June 2013.
Box Office: 0844 847 1652 or book online at: http://www.ticketweb.co.uk/venue/finborough-theatre-tickets/FINBOROERD/905 

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