It all started when a guy called Billy Elliott phoned me out of the blue in January 1991. “When can you get up here?” he asked. I didn’t know who he was or where “here” was. It slowly became clear, while Billy spoke nineteen-to-the-dozen, that he was in prison, doing life: in HMP Barlinnie Special Unit to be precise. We had a mutual friend, Jamie Burns, who had been working with Billy on Glasgow Boy, a play about his life. Jamie had mentioned me as someone Billy might like to know, since my father was from the Calton, my mother from Cowcaddens, and I was from Possilpark, three places Billy knew well. A play I’d co-written with my brother, From the Calton to Catalonia, had been on at the Pearce Institute in Govan in December 1990, and Jamie had been telling Billy about it. Billy was steeped in the Calton – he had been a member of notorious Glasgow gang the Calton Tongs in the 1960s. Something clicked. We were from similar backgrounds, but I was an aspiring academic and Billy was serving a life sentence for murder, as were other inmates of the Special Unit.

John Maclean in Peterhead Prison Tuesday 9th May 1916

I visited the Special Unit the following day, then the following week, then every week for the following year. I was fascinated by Billy’s stories. Looking back now it’s obvious there was a Pip and Magwitch dimension to the relationship, though I didn’t see that at the time: I was too caught up in his endless tales about growing up in Glasgow. I gradually got to know the other inmates and their visitors and learned about the lives of these lifers. Because of my commitment, my education, and my background, the Governor, Dan Gunn, asked if I’d like to act as a writer-in-residence for a few months. The Unit was famous for attracting people from the arts and Dan felt that since I’d been in the Unit so much and knew the “community” – as the inmates plus staff were called – I would be a good person to work with them on developing some writing projects.

My first task was organising an arts festival and exhibition in the Unit in December 1991. Visitors included artists and writers as well as families and friends and at that event I got to know Irvine Allan, a final year drama student at the RSAMD (Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama). I told him about the plan to put a play on at Mayfest, Glasgow’s community arts festival, a prison drama based on discussions I’d had with Billy over the previous months. Irvine came up to the Special Unit in January with a group of drama students keen to collaborate, to listen and to learn. That led to the spark of an idea for a collectively-written musical drama, No Mean Fighter. The drama students in the cast were joined by Special Unit visitor James McHendrie, a talented writer and actor who brought a streetwise directness to the table.

Carol Raffert & Billy Elliott in Barlinnie Special Unit

No Mean Fighter had begun to take shape around conversations with a group of Special Unit inmates who had served time in Peterhead Prison during the riots and dirty protests there in 1987. Billy had heard that John Maclean, the Scottish socialist leader, had been kept in the same cell as him, back in 1916. That was the seed for the play – a latter-day inmate finding a prison diary that linked the past to the present. We wanted to explore the links between a notable political prisoner and historical figure like Maclean and the conditions that persisted in Peterhead into the 1980s. Social class was a factor in the makeup of prisons, so the politics was there to begin with. Maclean, the renowned Red Clydesider, had famously said, “I would rather be immediately put to death than condemned to a life sentence in Peterhead.” His experiences there seemed to echo those I spoke to who had been incarcerated there. We learned that Maclean was kept out of circulation in prison. He complained of his food being tampered with, and of being constantly fed false information by the authorities about his family and friends.

Tony Curran and Stephen McDowall

Peterhead Prison, built in 1888, had its roots in an 1881 report by the Committee on the Employment of Convicts which declared that the “most likely prospect for benefitting the shipping and fishing interests of the country at large and at the same time profitably employing convicts is the construction of a harbour of refuge at Peterhead in Aberdeen shire.” Peterhead was designated a General Convict Prison for male prisoners sentenced to a minimum of 5 years.

The premise of the play is that two prisoners, John Maclean and another, are in solitary confinement in Peterhead in the same cell at different times. Their experiences are told through speeches, poems, songs and voices. We also hear the views of other prisoners, visitors and a prison officer, interwoven with extracts from the fictitious diary of Maclean. One scene early in the play captures the voices of the women who make the journey from Glasgow to Peterhead to visit their menfolk and distils the history of the prison and its location:

Cat A Theatre Company during rehearsals

Scene 4
1st WOMAN: They used to send them to Australia. Had them building roads and railways hell-knows-where.
2nd WOMAN: Now they’ve got them caged at the other end of the country.
3rd WOMAN: Getting there from Glasgow is a nightmare. Travelling all day. And for what? To look at a broken man through a glass partition.
1st WOMAN: A couple of hours once a month. Twelve hours on a bus for that.
2nd WOMAN: They built the prison there so that the prisoners could build the harbour.
3rd WOMAN: Now the harbour’s built, and the quarry’s closed, but the men are still there.
1st WOMAN: Isn’t there something in Glasgow they could build?
2nd WOMAN: Like houses.
3rd WOMAN: They don’t build houses anymore, just jails.
1st WOMAN: They’ve made prisoners of us too.
2nd WOMAN: Breaking up families.
3rd WOMAN: Like stones in a quarry. Smashed to pieces. Good for nothing but breaking glass.
1st WOMAN: Dirty protests.
2nd WOMAN: Hunger strikes.
3rd WOMAN: Solitary confinement.
1st WOMAN: Rooftop protests.
2nd WOMAN: Ugly suicides.
3rd WOMAN: Cries for help we never hear.
1st WOMAN: Voices in the wilderness.
2nd WOMAN: Like a seabird in a storm.
3rd WOMAN: They come out worse than they went in.
1st WOMAN: On an elastic band.
2nd WOMAN: No future.
3rd WOMAN: Shell-shocked.
1st WOMAN: Further away from us than ever.
2nd WOMAN: Pacing up and down.
3rd WOMAN: Turning outside in.
1st WOMAN: They had them making nets. To catch fish.
2nd WOMAN: Cold eyes staring into space.

Gillian Hamilton & Kate Dickie

The writing team included Kate Dickie, Billy Elliott, John Gordon, James McHendrie and myself, with poems by Tommy Campbell and Hugh MacDiarmid. All the songs were written and performed by Derek Lang, with lyrics to “John Maclean” by Billy Elliott, based on a melody by Joe Kidd. I was script editor and contributed the words to the title song. Cast improvisations directed by Irvine also fed into the final script, and there were extracts from printed sources including The Gateway Exchange “Independent Inquiry into the Peterhead Riots”, The 1990 Scottish Prison Service Report, a report from the European Committee for the Prevention Of Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, John Maclean’s “Condemned from the Dock” speech, and James D. Young’s John Maclean: Clydeside Socialist. With so many fragments in front of him, Irvine had to be much more than a director. He proved to be an expert tailor who took the patchwork of speeches and songs given to him and sewed them into a magnificent banner. Irvine reflected on the creative process at the time:

“Some say great plays come through individual genius. The making of No Mean Fighter […] has been a collaboration involving many people in research, writing, improvising and song-writing. It was my job to find a shape for the myriad of ideas, scripts, poems and songs which emerged, and to harness the creative energies of all involved. During this process I have tried to circumvent the strict divisions of labour which normally apply in the creation of a play, by allowing all those who wanted to contribute the chance to do so.”

Irvine Allan directing Derek Munn, Suzie Fannin and Tony Curran

Theatre, like all the arts, is full of egos, but there was something about this play and this project that made a diverse and strong-willed set of individuals want to work together and sink their egos into the collective pool. I mentioned cast improvisations. One cast member, drama student Kate Dickie, contributed to the script at a crucial stage when we were looking for a series of intercut monologues before the big ending. Kate came in with a standout speech that she performed, one that nailed the inside/outside relationships that the play sought to explore:

“WOMAN: You’ve got that look in your eyes again. It’s getting stronger every time I come. What’s this place done to you that you can’t even trust your wife? You keep saying I don’t understand. Of course I don’t. How could I. But I am trying. I am trying to see what they have done to you that’s making you a stranger to me. My eyes are searching yours, looking for some sort of sign, but the shutters are down. I can’t see past the ‘Trust no-one’ signals that are flashing as strong as the love that once used to be there. Of course I long for someone at night, to wake up in the morning and feel wanted instead of lonely, to love and be loved. But you won’t believe me when I tell you again and again it’s only you I yearn for. Have these bastards degraded you so much that you don’t feel human anymore? That you don’t believe I could still love you as wholly and as consuming as before. The mental barriers are closing down slowly, bit by bit until one day I know I will be told to go away. It’s you that’s leaving me not the other way round. I hope those bastards can sleep at night, cos I can’t.”

Kate Dickie delivering her monologue, one of the standout pieces in the play

Because it was a drama and not a policy document we had different voices offering different perspectives. For example, in one scene a prison officer sick of dirty protests and violence among the inmates gets it off his chest:

“PRISON OFFICER: Scumbags the lot of them. No loyalty among thieves. Sell one another for a cigarette. Too many bleeding hearts these days. What about the victims? What about their families? There’s open visits at the cemetery. They do it to their own kind as well. No fucking loyalty. Colleague of mine lost an eye. Some monster with a coat hanger. Can’t trust them with anything. If they’re no wanking and working-out, then they’re up to something. Okay, so I’m bitter. But that disnae mean I’m bad, does it? We’re not all brutes, ye know. We’re not the way we’re made out to be. I take my kids to the pictures. To the park. I prefer the park. I like open spaces. Truth be told, I’m a bit of a fresh air fiend. A bit of a one for the great outdoors. Well, you don’t get much fresh air in the tin pail, do you? Not when there’s people emptying their pisspots o’er you. Kicked a young fella to death, so they did. Nobody lifted a finger. They won’t grass. Grassing’s worse than murder in their book. If they want the prison population reduced and our job made easier, then give the public what they want. Bring back the noose. The only place they bastards should be kicking is at the end of a rope.”

James McHendrie, Stevie Cooper, Tony Curran, Stephen McDowall and Derek Munn during rehearsals

The voices of prisoners are heard too – tender and paranoid in visits, frightened and threatening in solitary, angry and dangerous out of their cells, addressing the audience directly on one occasion:

“PRISONER: You fucking looking at, eh? What are you fucking looking at. What do you know, eh? What do you care? Who the fuck are you? See me. I’ve done more time than Big Ben. I’ve had more porridge than Goldilocks. I’ve done more solitary than Howard Hughes. What do you know about me, eh? Do you want to welcome me back into your community? Oh, welcome home, son. All is forgiven. Well, answer me this. What fucking community? Eh? What fucking community? Community care? Community charge? Community policing? Community service? That’s all that’s left of your fucking community! Reform? Rehabilitation? Resettlement? Care? Who cares? Reform yourself, ya slag! Rehabilitate yourself, ya bastard! Resettle you, ya hopeless case! It’s got to be bad in here. Sure it’s bad in here. It’s got to look bad in here. That way it doesn’t look so bad out there. Am I right? Just tell me! Where do you live? How much freedom have you really got? How much time? How much space? How many visitors? How do you sleep? What’s your number? I don’t envy you. I don’t need your sympathy. The only place I want your bleeding heart is on the end of a fucking skewer. What are you fucking looking at, eh? Don’t look at me. Look at you. There’s your fucking prisoner! You’re doing life, ya mug. You’re doing a seventy stretch, but you don’t even know it! Who rattled your cage?”

Irvine Allan on the phone, beside Gillian Hamilton

We formed a company around the play called Cat. A, named after Category A prisoners, “those that would pose the most threat to the public, the police or national security should they escape”. In other words, the kind of men who ended up in the Special Unit. The cast – Tony Curran, Steve Cooper (aka Stephen Clyde), James McHendrie, Derek Lang, Carol Rafferty, Claire Miller, Suzie Fannin, Kate Dickie, Stephen McDowall, Michael Connolly and Derek Munn – did an outstanding job, putting in performances that lit up the stark set, and we had a hugely supportive crew in Gillian Hamilton, Fraser Kerr, Colin Begg, Gary Brunton, Suzie Fannin, Mark Stevenson, and Jake McIlvenna. Pavla Milcova and Mark Stevenson took some striking photos.
Cat A Theatre Company 1992

The play was performed first at Mayfest in 1992, with a run at the Arches Theatre as well as a community and prison tour. Joyce McMillan’s review in The Guardian on 8th May was the first sign that we had something special on our hands:

“The Category A theatre company’s No Mean Fighter at the Arches Theatre – a devised piece by a team of five writers and a 12-strong cast, including professional performers and people with direct experience of the Scottish prison system – is one of those shows which could have been a self-indulgent shambles. Instead it emerges as a powerful, strikingly well-acted polemic against the regime in Scotland’s top security prison at Peterhead, using the words of the great Glasgow political activist John Maclean – himself a prisoner in Peterhead 70 years ago – to expose the brutalisation and agony the system imposes on prisoners, their families, and prison officers alike.” (1).

No Mean Fighter at The Arches for Mayfest 1992

A review in Scotland on Sunday two weeks later was equally enthusiastic:

“No Mean Fighter has the directedness and strength of a protest song. It is a series of scenes, monologues and ballads about prison life which have been tightly meshed into an emphatic performance by the director, Irvine Allan, a final year student at the RSAMD. […] The issues are familiar enough: the brutality of the system breeding monsters amongst both prisoners and staff; the suffering of wives, mothers and girlfriends torn between two worlds; the inhuman stupidity of society’s sledgehammer solution to crime. The performance rises above the level of documentary, however, creatively channelling its anger into expressive, vehement theatre.” (2)

Edinburgh Fringe Flier for No Mean Fighter 1992

After Mayfest and a tour of community and prison venues the play went to the De Marco Gallery for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The play was extremely well-received in Edinburgh. Flagged as a Critics’ Choice in The Sunday Times on 30th August, it justified its billing, winning a Scotsman Fringe First for Outstanding New Production. I was credited as Project Co-ordinator and got my name on the much sought after Fringe First wee bronze plaque (now lost, but the memories are golden). John Linklater’s review of the play says a great deal both about the production and the background against which it was staged:

No Mean Fighter reverse of Edinburgh Fringe Flier 1992

“Employing an effective spareness of set and lighting, Cat A Theatre Company recreate the degrading world of Peterhead Prison with individual inmates occupying small square pallets spread like rafts around the open stage. There are no iron bars or cages to introduce the false notion that the lives portrayed in this collaborative piece, and the issues raised by it, can be conveniently dubbed up and forgotten. Society imprisons itself if it ignores the inhumanity of its penal system, and you can quote no less a source than Churchill to that effect. […] The impressive thing about Cat A’s treatment is that it focuses strongly on the damaging effects of imprisonment for wives and family, and its emphasis on the men’s responsibilities in this area is just one of the strands which saves the piece from polemic. Neither is the piece blind to the needs of its audience. Songs performed by the ensemble, with Derek Lang on guitar, are of high quality, and there are some splendid theatrical touches. The women confront the audience with their grievances. The men throw theirs down in a game of cards. The riot scene at the end is loud enough to drown out the bulldozers outside on Blackfriars Street, thoughtfully provided yesterday by Lothian Region for road operations in the final week of the Festival.” (3)
Stevie Cooper and Tony Curran getting ready to riot

Reflecting on Festival highlights in a Guardian review a few days later, Joanna Coles applauded “the excellent No Mean Fighter by Category A”. (4) On the same note, Jackie McGlone, writing in The Herald pointed to the play as a dramatic high spot: “It has been a vintage year for high-voltage performance, with the acting honours going to Cat A’s powerful ensemble drama No Mean Fighter”. (5) A further run followed in the spring of 1993, with dates at The Tron Theatre in Glasgow and The Lemon tree in Aberdeen, as well another community venue and prison tour. That tour was accompanied by an exhibition with research by Julia Allan and layout by Celine McIlmunn and Gerry Clark.

No Mean Fighter Tron Theatre, Community and Prison Tour 1993

During the spring 1993 tour of the play Irvine was interviewed by his former mentor George Byatt, known for This Man Craig, The Troubleshooters, and Sutherland’s Law. Irvine told George: “There has got to be something wrong with a society where you can go to prison for months if you strip the lead off a roof but can get a knighthood if you strip the assets of a company.” George thought the play Irvine had woven out of workshops was a form of political theatre that deserved a wider audience and praised the new company for its social awareness and class politics: “No Mean Fighter with its authentic and committed writing, passionate acting and powerful presentation, lives up to the company’s aims as described by Irvine Allan. If any group deserves to inherit the mantle of John McGrath’s 7:84 (Scotland), it is this one.” (6)
One of the most insightful reviews of No Mean Fighter was penned by Stewart Hennessey, who homed in on the play’s movement between political drama, prison drama and domestic drama:

Cat A Theatre Company with the Edinburgh Fringe First Award

“This impressionistic drama, whose seven writing credits include inmates of Barlinnie Special Unit, works as a hard-hitting fast-paced catharsis. However, the in-your-face action and emotional outpourings don’t always square tidily with the wide ranging attitudinising which underpins the play. The unrelenting energy, while pulling the play along at an entertaining rate, is less persuasive and moving than the tragedy implicit in the love-sex dynamics. The first-rate performers (including students from the RSAMD), imbue the visiting scenes with an almost awesome futility. Lonely, impoverished wives waiting years for degraded men, amid stifling suspicion and bitterness, lend eloquence to the play’s one consistent and indisputable contention; isn’t it enough punishment to lose liberty? Aside from gratifying the base urge for revenge, what purpose does it serve to treat men as animals? And why be surprised if they then leave jail ready to commit more crimes?” (7)

Equally insightful and even more incisive was the response of Ajay Close, who went to the heart of the play’s tensions and contradictions in a review as hard-hitting as the drama it described:

“Politics encloses No Mean Fighter like electrified wire, leaving the audience two choices: inside or outside. Only fools and masochists sit on the fence. Cat. A is one of the success stories of the Barlinnie Special Unit, a theatre company whose purpose is to ‘agitate, educate and inform.’ Its current concern is the brutal prison regime which provoked the Peterhead riots, and this stirring piece of theatre certainly makes an unanswerable case for change. But by placing John Maclean, Glasgow’s Bolshevist consul, at the heart of the drama, the argument goes beyond penal reform into social analysis, identifying crime as a product of capitalism and projecting a utopian future where no one need lose their liberty. Sympathisers who wimp out of the complete package are liable to find themselves straddling 1,500 volts. Devised by inmates of the special unit and drama students at the RSAMD, the play is a collage of songs and scenes which betrays its collaborative origins by never quite forming an organic whole. This is both its failure and its strength, allowing the polemic to be subverted by odd moments of raw truthfulness. Tony Curran, all milk white skin and sinew, eyes glittering like some medieval martyr, does his best to bring Maclean’s words to life, but they’re no match for the best of the contemporary dialogue. The most powerful scenes in the play concern the pressure prison places on emotional relationships, the interplay of love and resentment, the longed for visits passed in bickering or silence. Both Stephen Cooper and James McHendrie make uncomfortably plausible hardmen, ‘saft as shite’ with their women until crossed, then petrifying into fist clenching domestic tyrants. Archetypes abound in this production: hardmen with soft centres, feisty, yet self sacrificing wives. It’s easy to dismiss this as crude stereotyping, but it is a cliche of life, not art. For me it provides one of the play’s more interesting insights: the lifeline between myth and powerlessness, the sustaining but ultimately limiting comfort of the old roles. The Glasgow hardman is simultaneously deplored and celebrated, at once the brutalised product of the system and a magnificent challenge to it. Never mind the contradictions: when capitalism crumbles we’ll have a whole new ball game. Which is fine as long as you can wait for the revolution. Director Irvine Allan can afford to ignore such cavils; he knows his audience and, to judge by the foot stomping applause and fulsome tributes at the public discussion afterwards, they loved it although, amid the praise, some questioned the relevance of John Maclean to prison life 70 years after his incarceration. But then, isn’t that that the crux of No Mean Fighter, whether you’re inside or outside the wire: the world has moved on, but the message hasn’t? The play ends with the entire cast belting out a rousing anthem complete with clenched fist salutes and the chorus line ‘Why don’t they get to fuck and leave us all alone?’ Not, I fear, a realistic blueprint for political change.” (8)

During the 1993 run of the play, Loudon Wainwright III visited the Special Unit and performed with the cast, inspiring a wonderful review of the event by Keith Bruce in The Herald:

“The tall American singer-songwriter propped his battered leather guitar case against the treadmill. Over a 20-year career, it was the first time he had ever been asked play in a prison. […] In his rugby shirt, denims and horn-rim glasses, Loudon Wainwright III looks more like a lecturer in film and TV studies. He is best known for singing about dead skunks, golf, and not being Bob Dylan, but for his appearance at Barlinnie’s Special Unit he dredged up an oldie, Samson And The Warden, about the trials of being shaved and shorn for jail. If he forgot the words it didn’t matter — his audience knew them all. Wainwright was between two sell-out performances at the Renfrew Ferry as part of Mayfest. […] He […] lent his guitar to another visitor, Derek Lang, who was joined by members of the Cat A Theatre Company for songs from the play No Mean Fighter, co-written by [Billy] Elliot. […] Over his stay, Wainwright spent more time listening than playing, and his fans were as keen to tell him about their creativity as to compliment him on his. ‘I had trouble understanding what they were saying, but I get the enthusiasm,’ he drawled. ‘It was a powerful experience, but I don’t want to trivialise it with words …’. A song on the next record will do fine, Loudon.” (9)

Loudon Wainwright III’s Johnny Cash moment was just one of many highlights on the road with No Mean Fighter. He had more than one relevant lyric in his locker too. In 1976 he had released a song entitled ‘California Prison Blues’. But perhaps the most significant song was the one he released 20 years after visiting the Special Unit, a cover of “The Prisoner’s Song” by Vernon Dalhart, first recorded in 1924, a year after John Maclean’s death. The closing lines capture something of the spirit of No Mean Fighter:

“Now if I had the wings like an angel
Over these prison walls I would fly
And I’d fly to the arms of my darling
And there I’d be willing to die.”

The story doesn’t end there. No Mean Fighter became the first part of a trilogy that would include Dirt Enters At The Heart (1993) and Doing Bird (1995). Cat A., under the direction of Irvine Allan, went on to do more than a decade’s worth of work with prisoners and young offenders. If they didn’t quite inherit the mantle of 7:84 that was partly because the funding landscape for theatre became bleaker as the 1990s progressed. Times change, but not that much. The ghost of John Maclean invoked in the play, and played beautifully by Tony Curran, was also conjured up in a song by Derek Lang, “The Ghost of John Maclean”, that captured the spirit of the piece:

“I can feel your heartbeat next to mine
Though we live in different times
Oh how times have changed
But in Peterhead, they’re still the same
I can feel your pain
Tell me who you are, John Maclean
John Maclean …
I can feel your anger towards me
Johnny can’t you see
No-one knows like me
What it’s like to be insane.
I can hear you breathing in my sleep
Pacing up and down will you greet
You were just a working man trying to lend a hand
I understand.
There is no answer I can give to you
They lock you up for what we do
Knock you black and blue
Yes that’s what they do, well it’s true.
I can feel your heartbeat next to mine
Though we live in different times
Oh how times have changed
But in Peterhead, they’re still the same.”

No Mean Fighter wasn’t my only involvement in collaborative theatre in 1992. From the Calton to Catalonia, the play that prompted Billy Elliott to call me in the first place, was revived for the Edinburgh Fringe. The Lions of Lisbon, the comedy I co-wrote with Ian Auld about Celtic winning the European Cup in 1967, roared from Mayfest through the Arches and the Tron all the way to the Pavilion in September of that year, playing to 10,000 punters in the process. As well as these three plays I was involved in co-writing, I had another iron in the fire that summer. I was at Glasgow Arts Centre during the 6-week rehearsal period for Rain Dog’s dazzling production of Macbeth, directed by Robert Carlyle, and was credited as “Academic Advisor” in the company’s publicity. But 30 years down the line, No Mean Fighter retains a special place in my heart. It came out of the blue and made a huge impact, on audiences and on all those involved. It was traumatic as well as dramatic. Prison drama presents its own demands, and working with prisoners serving life sentences for serious crimes was something that was new and challenging for all of us, but rewarding too. The play’s the thing, and in the end what was produced was a model of collaborative theatre in action.

Cat A Theatre Company Edinburgh Fringe First Winners 1992

2023 sees the centenary of the death of John Maclean. It will be an opportunity for a timely reassessment of his outstanding contribution to international class struggle. Maclean’s arguments for socialism and revolutionary internationalism remain as relevant as ever. 2023 will also, coincidentally, witness the 50th anniversary of the unique penal experiment that was Barlinnie Special Unit. Who knows, maybe No Mean Fighter, a prison drama that turned political theatre inside out three decades ago will get another outing. (10)

(1) Joyce McMillan, ‘The Evil That Good Men Do’, The Guardian (8 May 1992).
(2) Scotland on Sunday (May 24, 1992).
(3) John Linklater, review of No Mean Fighter at the Demarco Gallery, Edinburgh, The Herald (1 September 1992), p.11.
(4) Joanna Coles, ‘Edinburgh Festival: From the Obscure to the Vicious: The Highs and Lows of the Edinburgh Festival’, The Guardian (September 5, 1992), p.24.
(5) Jackie McGlone, ‘That Was the Fringe That Was’, The Herald (September 5, 1992), p.9
(6) George Byatt, ‘Lean, Mean Theatre from Behind Bars’, The Scotsman (2 April 1993).
(7) Stewart Hennessey, ‘No Holds Barred. Mean Fighter, Tron Theatre, Glasgow’,
The Herald (April 1, 1993), p.14.
(8) Ajay Close, ‘There’s No Room for Indecision on a Visit to Cat. A Theatre’, Scotland on Sunday (April 4, 1993).
(9) Keith Bruce, ‘The Not-Bob-Dylan Show Gets a Special Welcome’, The Herald (May 10, 1993), p.7.
(10) The title of the play is taken from a biography of one John Maclean’s comrades, Harry McShane: No Mean Fighter, by Harry McShane and Joan Smith (London: Pluto Press, 1978). There were also echoes of No Mean City: A Story of the Glasgow Slums, by Alexander McArthur and Herbert Kingsley Long (London: Longmans, 1935).