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.
David Kettle, The Arts Desk
Grid Iron’s masterful exploration of the seductive, destructive power of oil…with its colossal machinery, towering roof and, most importantly, three gigantic oil exploration rigs twinkling like weird waterbound UFOs in the dock outside, Crude has one of their strongest connections between theme and place yet…a complex, multi-layered work that slides slickly between its various elements, and views our relationships with the sticky black stuff very much in the round – the seductive power of the money and power it brings, the devastating destruction it causes, the sheer sexiness of feeling a well gushing between your hands. Harrison reminds us of our complicity in the oil industry – if we’ve ever used plastic or taken a pill, we’re involved – and a speech on veganism providing a stronger way to fight climate change than renewable energies is unsettlingly persuasive. But he refuses simply to damn, seeing our dependence on oil instead as an addiction, a terror of what a world without it might look like. His cast is extremely strong – expecially Phil McKee as conflicted rig worker Mike, and Kirsty Stuart as swaggering oil PR harridan Angela. And they deal nimbly with anything that Harrison throws at them – be that song-and-dance numbers, aerial ballet, history lectures or tender emotional scenes. Becky Minto’s brutal but beautiful set fits right into Shed 36’s post-industrial space with its bare metal, chains and tubes, complemented brilliantly by evocative video backdrops from Lewis den Hertog, and a sumptuous soundscape from composer Pippa Murphy… Crude is a breathtaking piece of theatre, at once alluring and appalling, raising uncomfortable truths but addressing them with intelligence, sophistication and compassion – and with a swaggering sense of self-confidence that’s a brilliant match for its subject matter.
Ricky Brown, The Edinburgh Reporter
takes full advantage of the cavernous, industrial performance space offered by Shed 36 in the Port of Dundee…Grid Iron’s subject is huge, and the scale of Crude‘s ambition reflects that…Ben Harrison’s script is at its most engaging when it keeps the humanity of the off-shore rigger and his daughter, the protestor, the activist, and the executive front and centre. The sentiments these characters speak are real, reflecting Harrison’s extensive interviews with people working in the industry. . .when the play draws to a close, that audience doesn’t stop clapping a charismatic cast among whom Phil McKee and Kirsty Stuart particularly excel. Harrison’s direction, Becky Minto’s set & costume design, and the music, sound, and video design of Pippa Murphy and Lewis den Hertog provide a setting that lets them all shine… theatre that is not just accomplished, but important.
Allan Radcliffe, The Times
As the country’s leading purveyor of site-specific theatre, you would expect Grid Iron to come up with an impressive venue, and Shed 36 at the Port of Dundee does not disappoint. With three imposing exploration rigs docked outside, the shed itself is vast and eerily empty…The required human element comes in the writer/director Ben Harrison’s script in the form of Mike (Phil McKee), an oil worker who has endured 15 gruelling years offshore, only to be unceremoniously turfed out of his job when the North Sea industry’s fortunes take a turn for the worse. Mike’s story, alongside verbatim accounts from Piper Alpha survivors, proves the compelling heart of the piece… copious visual delights…from the image of an oil rig overflowing with money to the aerialist Sarah Bebe Holmes’s lofty performance as the beautiful “oil mermaid”… the ambitious show provides a timely reappraisal of our dysfunctional relationship with, and overreliance on, the black gold.
Katrina Patrick, Dundee Courier
Texas Jim, played brilliantly by Neil John Gibson, takes us through the history of the oil industry in exuberant monologues…director Ben Harrison’s extensive research has paid off, and his play gives the audience something to think about: is this sexy, lucrative black gold worth the human cost to extract it?
Thom Dibdin, The Times
There’s no doubting the ambition in Ben Harrison and Grid Iron’s Crude… Harrison sets up a twisting, multi-stranded tale of adventurers, workers, families left behind, activists and terrorists. It’s a heady mix…Technically stunning on all levels, from Paul Claydon’s lighting to Pippa Murphy’s deep throbbing sound, it sucks you in along a path of white hardhats to a stage area with glistening video wall, polished black pipelines and hanging chains. Outside, there are real exploration rigs, giving scale to the whole endeavour.
Mark Brown, Sunday Herald
very well researched…a talented ensemble…we are also offered an array of (often sobering) facts about oil and a series of horrifying recollections from survivors of the 1988 Piper Alpha disaster in which 167 North Sea workers died. One admires the ambition of Crude…