Gav Prentice, Kieran Hurley, Julia Taudevin
The National Theatre of Scotland put out a social media call (it’s like a press preview but with added bloggers) and in my quest to gonzo up my content by ‘doing stuff’ I went along.
I was to meet Clare at 11.45 am by the Box Office. Embarrassingly I misread the email and sat in reception looking eager where I was mistaken for Emma & tried to bond with a hipster who turned out to be arranging a club night. In a panic at the emptiness of the room I decamped to the cafe/bar and overheard that one of the performers, Drew Wright, also known as Wounded Knee, was unwell and would be ‘cured by Dr. Theatre for the dress rehearsal’.
Someone who was blatantly Clare arrived and instead of introducing myself I sat convulsed with social agony, bought a cappuccino, and envied a youth who went straight for the red wine the minute the clock turned 12. Clare went back to reception and after much faffing (from me) we finally chatted and went to the theatre space.
the coffee of shame!
The set is cosy with a sofa and fairy lights. It’s like a living-room or a coffee shop. It has that small, comfort aesthetic that Michael Bracewell saw as a compensation for the corporate slash and burn of the 1980s. Gav Prentice and Julia Taudevin perform a song called ‘The Invisible Hand’ that Kieran Hurley, who is also the writer and director, interpolated with a short monologue. Then I get to ask questions.
The play is about 75 minutes without an interval. It’s a series of interwoven stories about people who live in Scotland, their lives, their experiences, their cultures; making up a multiplicity of Scottish identities, counterpointed by a mix of new and traditional songs. It came out of the Auteurs development programme, a collaboration between the NTS and The Arches. Kieran says his plays have ‘often depended on music’, and he wanted to take that further. Noting a thematic overlap with Over The Wall’s Gav. Prentice – solidarity in post-industrial working-class Scotland – they teamed up to create a 21st Century ceilidh show, adding the talents of singer Wright, and theatre-maker Taudevin.
It’s not directly about the Scottish Independence Referendum but it’s prompted by the conversation. It’s not about ‘yes, no or don’t know’ and it doesn’t have one past, present or projected future; it’s more thoughtful. There’s a homage to the agit-prop style of ‘The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black Black Oil’ but it’s pluralist and inclusive rather than prescriptive. It ends with an adapted version of Internationalist anthem ‘Freedom Come All Ye’ that calls for us to be friends with the rest of the world rather than colonisers.
Rantin’ is more concerned with the divisions caused by class, economics and power than it is with ethnic borders. If it was nationalist it would be civic. It challenges the idea that Scotland is somehow inherently socialist by recalling our role in the Enlightenment, a movement that saw money-making as a way of escaping old tribal feuds and superstitions. ‘The Invisible Hand’ is Adam Smith’s Machiavellian belief that we do the most good for others when we’re busy doing good for ourselves; a proto-free-market trickle down theory that nurtured the alienation and anatomisation of our lives that feeds into a need to belong and be part of a bigger narrative.
What that narrative consists of is surprisingly open. To acknowlegde that openness the NTS is running ‘Dear Scotland’, a living record of 2014 composed of our thoughts about the nation – hostile or hopeful, written or spoken – that will culminate in a major project. (To take part go to http://www.dearscotland.net or hashtag #dearscotland on twitter.)
Preview finished I did some awkward lurking, babbled like a person who doesn’t know their own personal history and got a free coffee (Clare is very forgiving).
I like Rantin’ alot. It’s warm and complex. The singing is beautiful and Kieran has an edgy intensity that precludes sentiment. Many of the shows are sold out so hurry to book your tickets!
More info is here : http://www.nationaltheatrescotland.com (search for Rantin’).