Who doesn’t love an underdog? When Brora Rangers played eight-times Scottish cup winners Hearts in March, they enjoyed a perfect David-and-Goliath victory. The part-time team from a town with a population of 800 beat the side with the fourth biggest budget in Scottish football. For their fans, the Highlanders’ 2-1 victory was a tremendous pay-off.
Playwright Gary McNair would understand their dogged loyalty. Produced for David Greig’s Sound Stage series of audio plays, and loosely based on Ron Ferguson’s book of the same name, Black Diamonds and the Blue Brazil is about supporters of Cowdenbeath, whose chant “We’re shite and we know we are” reveals a merry acceptance of defeat.
That’s just as well: the 1992 season it describes had no giant-killing moments. Viewers who do not want to know the score should look away now.
McNair uses lower-league misery as a backdrop to an audio play about a high-flying businesswoman compelled to return to her native Fife for her father’s funeral. Sally (played by a vivacious Cora Bissett) has rejected the former mining town, just as she has suppressed feelings about her father (a benign Phil McKee), whose love of his local team eclipsed all others. Their posthumous reconciliation takes a whole season.
The tone is jovial and the shouts from real fans on the terraces are convincingly done. Working against the play, though, is the relentlessness of Cowdenbeath’s downwards trajectory. In dramatic terms, losing to Clydebank is much the same as losing to Kilmarnock or to Meadowbank Thistle. That limits the emotional range and, even though it takes all those matches for Sally to appreciate the values of camaraderie, belonging to a place and supporting the underdog, it pushes the play into extra time.
Available online from 23–25 July from Pitlochry Festival theatre and the Lyceum