Opera Scotland

Full Circle


Robin Orr (Robert Kelmsley Orr: born 2 June 1909; died Cambridge, 9 April 2006).


Sydney Goodsir Smith (born Wellington, New Zealand, 26 October 1915; died Edinburgh, 15 January 1975).


Radio play The Stick-Up by Sydney Goodsir Smith.



Fiirst performance: Perth (Theatre), 10 April 1968.

First UK performance: As above.

First performance in Scotland: As above.

Scottish Opera première: As above.



Scottish Opera's first world premiere, was seen as a little slice of Clydeside verismo, with its five scenes playing very quickly, with the music cleverly arranged for eight musicians. Robin Orr was known for his symphonies, but not for opera, though he had been a successful chairman of Scottish Opera for several years. His musical background was essentially academic and he was an excellent administrator, as well as a skilled composer. The opera was sponsored by Scottish Television, who broadcast it on 14 May 1968.


Main Characters

Davie, an unemployed man (baritone)

Jean, his wife (soprano)

Andra, their neighbour (tenor)

Stranger (baritone)

Barman (bass)

Policeman (baritone)


Plot Summary

It is Clydeside in 1930, during the Great Depression. Davie has gone to the Labour Exchange, and Jean waits for him to come home. He has not found work, and they wistfully talk of their misery, and what they would do in better times. He has been given a pistol by a friend, and talks of getting some money by using it to threaten someone. Jean convinces him to take out the bullets. Their neighbour Andra now comes in to borrow a candle, and notices the bullets on the table. His suspicions are aroused, and Davie throws him out. Against Jean's advice, Davie retrieves the bullets, goes out and uses the gun to persuade a Stranger to hand over his wallet. He then goes to the pub, orders a whisky, an unusual and expensive choice, and offers a £5 note to pay for it, which is almost unheard of. As he becomes increasingly drunk, the barman throws him out. A policeman is drawn to challenge him because of his drunkenness. Davie now threatens him with the pistol. In the ensuing struggle it goes off accidentally, and the policeman is killed. Back at their flat, a horrified Davie gives Jean a garbled account of events, as though it were a nightmare. Eventually the police come to arrest him.

The Cast

 a neighbour
 a young unemployed man
 Davie's wife

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