Borders playwrights have a bit of a banter

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Borders Banter, a comedy double bill written by two local playwrights Oliver Eade and Dorothy Bruce, begins its three week tour around the Borders next week. The first of the five performances, which run from Friday November 23 to Saturday December 8, will take place at Smailholm Village Hall, starting at 8pm.

See Them Rats by Dorothy Bruce, written in lively local Scots, is about three determined men who live in a discarded bus, and for whom things change unexpectedly when a famous woman sculptor appears seeking creative inspiration. Her ‘rat pack’ of three hearty men live cheek-by-jowel with midden rats, determined to make the most of their meagre lot.

The play is the first foray into performance writing for Dorothy: a short story writer who co-ran the Robin Jenkins Literary Award, and an annual ten day walking and arts festival. She is also the author of a book about Vincent Van Gogh’s friend, Alexander Reid, whose art dealer son lived for many years in Gattonside.

Curiously, a massive earthquake that Oliver and his Chinese wife experienced in China inspired his comedy The Gap, in which things change big-time for the dysfunctional Moscrop family, when the world splits in two along the Greenwich Meridian, and across the landing of their Peacehaven home.

Oliver, a retired Borders General Hospital physician, also writes short stories and novels. Of his published children’s novels, two link the Borders with mythological China, and one of which, Moon Rabbit, was a winner of a national competition.

Dorothy and Oliver welcomed the opportunity to see their work staged at Carlops, Smailholm, Selkirk, Westruther and at the Wynd Theatre, Melrose: “Most amateur drama groups stick with well-established playwrights from north or south of the Borders,” Oliver said, “so it is very refreshing to see something new emerge from within our region and very encouraging for local theatre.”

Both one act plays will be staged by a drama group, Odd Productions. Directed by Kath Mansfield, whose productions of Romeo and Juliet at Traquair House and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie won acclaim, the cast of professional and amateur actors promise to bring to life local drama for Borders audiences.

Kirsty Jobling, in ‘The Gap’, is a professional actor. Originally from Northumberland, she trained at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. Appearing on stage, television and in films, her work has taken her to various places including London and Italy.

Richard Nisbet from Peebles, known to many for his appearances in Shakespeare at Traquair, and Kath Mansfield, in her role as an actor, are also in The Gap, whilst Elsie Horobin, David Bon, Tom Hudson and Andy McGregor perform in ‘See Them Rats’.

Tickets cost £7 (£6 for under 16s), and the performances’ venues and dates are as follows: Smailholm Village Hall, Friday, November 23 (Tel: 01573 460666); Carlops Village Hall, Saturday, November 24 (Tel: 01968 660388); Selkirk’s County Hotel, Friday, November 30 (Tel: 01750 721233); The Wynd Theatre, Melrose, on Saturday, December 1 (Tel: 01896 820028 or 01896 822013); Westruther Village Hall on Saturday, December 8 (Tel: 01578 740265 or 07817 604153).