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


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A: John McGrath Pf: 1973; Edinburgh Pb: 1973; rev. 1975, 1981 G: Pol. drama in 1 act; prose and songs S: The Highlands of Scotland, 1813–1970s C: 7m, 2f (playing approx. 36 roles)After a song telling of the love of the Scottish Highlands, a series of historical episodes reveal different phases of exploitation by the rich. The ‘Clearances’ in Sutherland from 1813: the absentee landlord arranges for the removal of the Highland crofters to make way for the Cheviot, a hardy breed of sheep; all resistance is brutally suppressed. Enforced emigration: Highland families are displaced to the British colonies, where they in turn oppress the native populations. A revolt initiated by the people of Skye, 1882: a small victory was achieved by remaining tenants who forced their landlords to treat them better. The Highlands become the playground of the nobility: emulating Queen Victoria at Balmoral, the rich and powerful come hunting the stag in the Highlands. This continues into the 20th century, with the Highlands becoming a holiday theme park. The discovery of oil, 1962: with the construction of oil rigs off the Scottish coast, the lives of the Highlanders are further disrupted, and in a grotesque conclusion the tourists now come to see the polluting oil refineries.

A: John McGrath Pf: 1973; Edinburgh Pb: 1973; rev. 1975, 1981 G: Pol. drama in 1 act; prose and songs S: The Highlands of Scotland, 1813–1970s C: 7m, 2f (playing approx. 36 roles)

In 1971 McGrath co-founded the 7:84 Theatre Company, its named based on the statistic that a mere 7 per cent of the population of Britain owns 84 per cent of its capital wealth. Two years later, McGrath began touring Scotland with 7:84 (Scotland), and this piece is the best known of his many works for the company. Turning away from the naturalism of his earlier plays, he created a theatre ‘which makes longer connections’, using agitprop episodes within the framework of the traditional Scots ceilidh, offering an unsubtle but enjoyable history of Highlands oppression.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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