Between the 13th and 17th centuries, the Anglo-Scottish border was terrorised by the Border Reivers. Made up of both English and Scottish people, the Reivers raided both sides of the border without regard for nationality.
This period serves as the basis for Reivers – Tales from the Borders, a new three person play written by Steve Byron and produced by the Elysium Theatre Company. The play consists of three monologues from characters living in the North East during the 14th century whose lives are effected by the Reivers and take a stand against them. Usually with any piece of media that is an anthology (be it a film, book or in this case a play), there is at least one bad segment. Thankfully here, all three are of good quality.
The first monologue Blackmail follows a farmer (Micky Cochrane) who is bullied by a Reiver family. When his attempts to seek help from corrupt law officials come to nothing, he plans to take justice into his own hands. The second segment Godforsaken Place is the most humorous, and as a result light-hearted of the three (although still offering plenty of dramatic moments). Steven Stobbs plays a solider from London who is exiled who tries to help a Reiver child who is sentenced to death. Finally, The Widow’s Path, sees a Scottish woman (Karen Traynor) relaying her childhood as a slave and her quest for revenge against the Reivers for the murder of her husband.
Of the three, Blackmail is the best. Cochrane gives a riveting performance that is filled with desperation and intensity. He is so good in fact that he does somewhat overshadow his co-stars. This is no slight on their performances though, which are also excellent. Stobbs shows a wonderful sense of comedic timing and shows a gift for accents, switching from his own character’s working class southern accent to a Geordie accent when quoting other characters seamlessly. He also is able to balance both the humour and drama of the script with ease.
Traynor’s transformation from a loving wife to a cold-hearted woman hell bent on vengeance is chilling. Even the moments of comedy in The Widows Path can be quite dark and have a sinister undercurrent to them. She is also clearly a gifted singer and gets to show off her pipes more than once throughout the production.
Overall, this is an excellent play. It is currently touring across the North East and if you have a chance to see it I highly recommend doing so.
23 Nov – Hatfield College, Durham City www.eventbrite.com
24 Nov – Dufton Village Hall, Appleby https://highlightsnorth.co.uk/
25 Nov – Mickleton Village Hall, Mickleton https://highlightsnorth.co.uk/
26 Nov – Wark Town Hall & Mechanics Institute, Wark https://highlightsnorth.co.uk/
27 Nov – Allendale Village Hall, Allendale https://highlightsnorth.co.uk/
29 Nov – Newcastle Castle, Newcastle-On-Tyne https://www.newcastlecastle.co.uk/
30 Nov – Queen’s Hall Arts Centre, Hexham https://www.queenshall.co.uk/
1 Dec – Dovecote Centre, Amble www.thedovecotecentre.com