Photo credit: Eoin Carey

Photo credit: Eoin Carey

Photo credit: Eoin Carey

Photo credit: Eoin Carey

Photo credit: Eoin Carey


Shed 36, Port of Dundee

October 2016

Crude, written and directed by Ben Harrison, had been in the planning pipeline for ten years. Centred on the lives of offshore workers in the North Sea and the impact of their work on family life, the production travels to include activism in the Arctic Circle, insurgency in the Niger Delta and a consideration of our global reliance on, and complicity in, the products and production processes of hydrocarbons. A stellar cast of eight, backed by an incredible design, technical and production team with Becky Minto on set and costume, Paul Claydon on light, Pippa Murphy on music and sound design and Finn den Hertog on video created a vast industrial platform within the huge Shed 36. The site was flanked by three exploration rigs moored up outside, adding further scale to Scotland and indeed the world’s most controversial industry. The production was acclaimed by audiences and critics alike, racking up three five-star reviews and three four-star reviews.

Mark Fisher, The Guardian

It’s not a velvet curtain that rises on Grid Iron’s Crude, but a great roll of corrugated iron. It ascends with an industrial grind and clatter, opening the doorway to Shed No 39, a warehouse on the Port of Dundee estate, a little-seen landscape of cranes, exploration rigs and fiercely lit ships. It takes a space this enormous to get the measure of writer/director Ben Harrison’s theme: oil, the liquid gold with its vast profits, vast risks and vast environmental costs; oil, the black stuff without which we would have neither chairs to sit on nor lights to see; oil, our dirty secret, our addiction, our drug. Staged by a company famed for its site-responsive theatre, Crude is at its best when it transcends the human scale, with Lewis den Hertog’s excellent video projections splashing across the sheet-metal surfaces of Becky Minto’s set, while an oily aerialist spins on chains and the seven-strong cast strike up a raucous song. With its geographical leaps and collision of theatrical forms, Crude has the kaleidoscopic quality of a Robert Lepage production.

Joyce McMillan, The Scotsman

Spectacular…Crude is a show so timely in its theme, and so ambitious in scale…an unforgettable experience. Phil McKee and Kirsty Stuart deliver fine performances as oil man Mike and his discontented wife, Tunji Lucas is impressive as Niger Delta freedom fighter Joel. And the verbatim evidence from the Piper Alpha disaster inquiry, interspersed through the text, is heartbreakingly powerful; in a show remarkable for its bold acknowledgment of both the destructive power of oil, and its huge, seductive appeal, as an energy source powerful enough to transform lives and nations, and to rebuild a whole world in its own gleaming image.

Neil Cooper, The Herald

IT IS like Christmas and a trip to Blackpool at once… Real life testimonies from the Piper Alpha disaster, a dream sequence involving aerial acrobatics and the odd song complete a dramatic collage … In terms of the political intent of such an enterprise, the show’s fluidity goes some way to exposing the tangled global web that is woven in order to extract money from the earth, whatever the human cost

Mure Dickie, Financial Times

Crude, written and directed by Grid Iron’s Ben Harrison, consciously echoes The Cheviot’s polemical blend of drama and music. The new work even borrows its forerunner’s cheerfully rapacious oil man Texas Jim to tell the tale of capitalist exploitation. But this is no slavish copy. Crude tells its story through a series of vignettes featuring people in and around the industry. It centres on Mike, an oil worker suffering the familial effects of brutal North Sea shifts, who then falls victim to the discontents created by drilling off western Africa. When a Niger Delta militant demands to know what Mike is doing there, it is a question the show as a whole is seeking to answer…Kirsty Stuart is terrific as both Kerry and Angela, one a grasping wife pushing Mike back offshore, the other a hard-driving oil executive using him for casual pleasure…Shed 36 itself is another star of the show. It brings its own drama to the production, especially when the spotlights picking out a character suspended from a climbing rope also illuminate the complex steel gantries above her head. Harrison thought of producing Crude on an offshore rig, before deciding that even loyal fans would be deterred by the cost of helicopter hire and safety training. His programme notes hint at regret, but Shed 36 is a worthy substitute.