The Cause of Thunder is a blistering one-man Brexistential crisis full of humour and pathos. The show tells the story of Bob Cunningham (played by celebrated Glaswegian actor David Hayman), a union leader trying to come to terms with retirement, the Scottish Independence referendum and a vision of a man ascending into the sky.
In fact, Bob has collected several stories of visionary transcendence from his wife, Ethel. There’s Amber and Nashmi, who read a magic book and float across Glasgow at night. And there’s Stevie ‘Cannibal’, the gardener who plants marijuana in the flowerbeds of his unsuspecting elderly customers, with his own visionary moments. Each of these characters are striving to rise above personal struggles, and Bob wonders if he made a difference to lives like theirs when he led the union. These vivid sketches of transcendence act as a counterpoint to Bob’s tirades against the system, against Brexit, Trump, conflict in the Middle East, and anyone who voted No in the Scottish referendum.
Bob’s political outrage is tied up with his thoughts about ageing. The union wants him to retire, he walks faster than he runs and, as he puts it: ‘I have piles bigger than my baws’. As he weighs up his life and regrets, he oscillates between wry humour and apocalyptic visions that entangle his own life with the future of the world. He addresses the audience throughout, (‘you’ve got a face like an empty hoose naebody wants to rob’) and they’re vocally appreciative, laughing and shouting out at each line – the script is full of great surprises. After his powerful performance, Hayman does a Q &A, something his audience has evidently and appreciatively come to expect. Nearly everyone seems to have a question and a bit of banter with the local actor.
Hayman chats with us about his work on the BBC’s Taboo, Scottish politics, and his outreach work for Spirit Aid. He tells us that he prefers acting for the stage to filming, because of that unique relationship you build with an audience that makes each performance different. This particular play also has a direct political impact – audience members keep telling him how he has changed their votes and their minds about Scottish Independence. The Spirit Aid buckets are ringing with change as we file out of the auditorium.