A homegrown musical tackling serious subjects while using the songs of one of Scotland’s best-loved bands.
It’s a blueprint that proved successful with Sunshine On Leith and now it is hoped the same can be said for The Stamping Ground.
While the former was propelled by the music of The Proclaimers, The Stamping Ground uses the songs of Runrig to soundtrack its story and already it is being hoped it will come to be the Highlands version of Sunshine On Leith.
Written by award-winning playwright Morna Young, the play stars former Casualty star Steven Miller and Neshla Caplan as a couple who return to their rural village home after many years in London only to find a lot has changed.
“We play Ewan and Annie, who fell pregnant in their early-teens and ended up in London for 16 years,” Miller explained. “It’s about going home, family, grief and ultimately not facing up to grief. It’s an interesting perspective on what it takes to be part of a community, and it’s a beautiful piece written by Morna.
“Both myself and Neshla were in Sunshine On Leith in the past and, while we don’t think of this in the same way at all, there is a strong parallel between The Stamping Ground being a strong, positive force for the Highlands like that was for Leith.”
As a child of the 1980s, Miller knew of Runrig’s music but now has a deeper appreciation for it.
“It was never at the forefront of my youth and if you’d asked me my favourite song of theirs five years ago, I would have said Loch Lomond because I heard it at every party and wedding. But, having dug into the material for this production, I’ve realised the band wrote such gorgeous poetry and I couldn’t pick a favourite.
“The band has passed over creative licence. Calum and Rory (MacDonald, Runrig founding members) came in to watch rehearsals recently and it was a treat to see their faces.”
Many of the Isle of Skye rock band’s songs are in Gaelic and the language will feature in the musical, too.
“It needs to work for an English-speaking audience as well as a Gaelic one, so I think there’s just enough of a nod to Gaelic in it,” Miller continued. “We’ve had a Gaelic coach, but I get off lightly as I only have a few lines.”
Like his character in The Stamping Ground, Miller left Scotland to move south and now lives in Colchester with his wife and seven-month-old son after 20 years in London, so he’s enjoying spending time back home while working on the production.
“The whole theme of coming home and all that business really resonates with me,” he explained. “I live away but a big chunk of my heart is always here. I tried out for the Bristol Vic when I was thinking of going to drama school and I got in, so the next step after Bristol felt like London, and now we’re in Colchester to be in close proximity to Lucy’s family. But it does also make me feel like I’m not close enough to my own parents to give them time with my wee boy.”
This is Miller’s first stage production since the pandemic and he is happy it’s in Scotland, and hopes more opportunities arise in film and TV projects closer to home, too, as Scotland’s screen sector goes from strength to strength.
“I hope there are more opportunities to come back up,” he added. “I spent a decent amount of time touring with The James Plays and Sunshine On Leith, and I’d love to do more TV and film work up here, too, if it’s expanding.
“I’m looking forward to performing The Stamping Ground in Inverness. In terms of the show’s future, I’m sure the producers have big plans for it and they seem pleased. I think The Stamping Ground will do the same thing as Sunshine On Leith but for a different part of Scotland.”