“I don’t think I am an urban writer”, Sue Glover admitted in an interview, and her 1991 play Bondagers paradigmatically performs one of the embedded meanings of her words. This paper intends to show how the dramatic language and situation of this work engage with the controversial issues of social change and cultural nostalgia in a country like Scotland, whose national and political identity is still so strictly linked with the very nature of its landscape, its traditions and language(s). The expedients Glover deploys in order to foreground the intricate relationship between past and present, the enduring force of tradition and the inevitability of change, are essentially two and it is on them that the paper will focus. Firstly, and interestingly echoing the language question at the core of Friel’s Translations (1980), she has her main characters speak a “rural Lallans language” (Horvat 2005) evoking an oral culture and mythical dimension with implied socio-political connotations. With its many references to folk music and dance, the play is almost a dramatic translation of the Scottish Ceilidh tradition, as it is also haunted by echoes of Robert Burns, Alan Ramsay and Lewis Grassic Gibbon. Secondly, by staging mainly female outcast figures, altogether bonded by shared experiences and values, Glover gives centrality to a communal female voice, and empowers the “bondagers” to stand for a subaltern yet also authoritative condition. Ultimately, the melancholy tone of the last scenes, combined with the ambivalent meaning of bondage, suggests the effort of preserving Scottish values in a world which seems to develop along different lines. Does Bondagers therefore stage a backward look at the roots of Scottish culture while ignoring the routes it has trodden or it may tread?
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