David Hayman is an enormously popular actor who successfully bridges the gap between being a star and a man of the people. The theatre programme outlines various interests like his charity, Spirit Aid, and there is a UNITE leaflet slipped inside reminding us of the need for a Scottish National Care Service. These elements transfer to the themes of his one-man play Time’s Plague.
Writer Chris Dolan threads beautiful lyricism into the opening speeches of the curmudgeonly Bob Cunninghame, who finds himself in danger of dying in a sterile hospital room. A worried man, Bob escapes his present by imagining the past through looking out his hospital window.
Buoyed by delicate music choices and with a poetic turn of phrase, he recounts memories of walking the West Highland Way with his young love. Alongside these romantic and sometimes ribald remembrances Hayman throws in opinions about recent events: Liz Truss, King Charles, and the removal of a cap on Banker’s bonuses, offering poetry mixed with polemic from the opening monologue.
The reimagining of this long youthful walk segues into Bob walking the hospital corridors and chatting with other patients. Particularly memorable is the story of Palestinian refugee Nora. As her past is slowly revealed we experience some of the pain and the heartbreak of being forced from your homeland, never to see your loved ones again. There are snippets from the lives of others in the hospital and these are the moments that most pull on the emotion.
However, Bob’s diatribe about the injustice in the world, while accurate, is less easy to digest. His tone becomes accusatory, the facts are damning – one in four Scottish children live in poverty, and a large percentage of children in Afghanistan die before their fifth birthday. Within the script, there is an uncomfortable marriage between his easy Glasgow patter and a soapbox rant.
There is much to be admired in Time’s Plague and in Hayman’s passion. Through the play and the Q&A afterwards, we meet a man who is a believer in Scotland’s future and a proud father who is determined to arouse his audience to follow his example. A fourth one-act play was hinted at. If this materialises, perhaps the creative trio of Dolan, Hayman, and director David Hayman Jr. could persuade us to act if they aimed a little more for the heart.