The story of Hector MacDonald is one of the least sung tales in British military history. For those who engineered this one-time nineteenth century war hero's downfall, this is possibly with good reason. David Gooderson's play, first seen at the Finborough Theatre in London in 2013 as So Great A Crime, and revived here for an extensive tour in this co-production between Eden Court, Inverness, the Mull-based Comar organisation and Ed Littlewood Productions, makes this abundantly clear.
Born in the Black Isle, Gaelic-speaking crofter's son MacDonald rose through the ranks to become Fighting Mac, a terrier-like warrior of the Second Afghan War who eventually became a Major General, serving in what was then Ceylon. Here, among a more leisured officer class, MacDonald was vilified by his peers, who eventually brought him down with accusations of inappropriate behaviour.
In a story where the truth of what actually happened has been all but airbrushed out of official records, it's quite right that Gooderson's play takes a stance. He and director Kate Nelson navigate a cast of six led by Steven Duffy as Hector through a mire of upper crust snobbery and petty jealousies writ large.
When not in a scene, the assorted officers, clergymen and well-heeled ladies watch what's going on in character, silent witnesses to an unfolding tragedy loaded with innuendo and hearsay. They look suitably bemused too when MacDonald reveals that he has kept his wife a secret for eighteen years and has a child. As complex as MacDonald undoubtedly was, this remains a damning indictment of a grand conspiracy that seems to course through the uglier manifestations of the British establishment's blood.
The Herald, October 26th 2015