Yes Yes UCS by Townsend Theatre Productions
Yes Yes UCS is a new play with music that follows the true story of the work in at Upper Clyde Shipbuilders in 1971-1972 and with P&O ferries in the news this week for laying off their staff this show seems very apt still!
During Yes Yes UCS we meet 2 characters, Eddy whose family has been working at UCS through many generations and Aggie who is new at UCS. These 2 characters tell the story through a mixture of song, monologues and naturalistic scenes, all to a backdrop of vivid projections. Despite the huge political backdrop to this play the stories remain personal and having Aggie and Eddy as a guides to the events help humanise the work in and the impact of it.
Aggie is played by Janie Thomson and she has a real panache for character work, she manages to inject humour into this otherwise very serious topic. Thomson depicts Aggie as straight talking and a little naive at the start of the show but someone who develops a real passion for the union. The first time the audience meet Aggie we are told her employment backstory which helps us understand how she ended up at UCS. She has a flair for storytelling and quickly has the audience listening to her every word.
Eddy, by contrast, is far more worldly wise than Aggie. Eddy is played by Heather Gourdie and her part is more understated than Aggie and the audience get to know her initially through poetry but we soon learn about her father and the cancer he has developed as a result of working for UCS.
As someone unfamiliar with the history of UCS I thought the build up an the explanation of the set u of UCS was very well explained within the context of the story. I did however begin to struggle with the historical and factual background when the ‘work-in’ began.
There is a variety of songs peppered through the show. These are more to set the scene than develop the plot and they range from original music written by Beth Porter or Neil Gore, to traditional music, right through to rock anthems. The music helped in creating the atmosphere brilliantly although at times it felt superfluous to the flow of the piece itself. Both Thomson and Gourdie are talented musicians with them both on vocals as well as Cello and percussion it adds another string to their bow.
Yes Yes UCS despite being set 50 years ago today is remarkably relevant today. When the play points out, both explicitly and implicitly, what an impact politics can have on an individuals life this, the message is heard loud and clear in 2022.
Yes Yes UCS is currently touring the country. You can find out more on their website.