Yesterday The National Theatre of Scotland launched their new season under their new artistic director Laurie Sansom… I missed their Meet The Artists Event so I was pleased to be trotting off to one of their productions (thanks to The Tron – whose lovely staff helped me with a ticket kerfuffle).
Last Dream (On Earth) is a soundscape that weaves together two stories – one about Yuri Gagarin – the first man in space – and one about refugees from Africa trying to reach Europe.
In the spirit of verbatim theatre (which this has bits of) – I’ll transcribe my notes – most of which were written in the dark (so might go weird).
(NOTE – the audience was given headphones to be worn through out the performance. We took them off to clap at the end – because you can’t connect with stage actors when your ears are muffled).
Five microphones. 2 musicians in place playing music – the other 3 performers will come on during the first few minutes.
Oh, God no – it’s prog rock.
World music instruments – a guitar – jamming – Oh, God – it’s Peter Gabriel prog rock.
The lights have gone down – we’re getting deep space sounds, and a bit of mission control crackling – this is an improvement.
Water is going to be a significant recurring theme. And Spain.
It’s like – a radio play, The Ninth Wave by Kate Bush, the gospel readings in Holy Week (but about space instead of Jesus).
I love the performers… they’re brilliant (although a skinny white guy on guitar and an adorable older man on bongos is making me feel I’m trapped at WOMAD – with Peter Gabriel fans).
The audience laughed at a really contrived joke involving fake banter – why do I never find this type of thing funny? What’s wrong with me?
It’s a bit like an ASMR video on YouTube or a Hypnotherapy session… the music is very relaxing considering one story is about running the gauntlet of Soviet Authority to get into the lonely vertigo of space… and the other is about a desperate journey from poverty and violence to an unfamiliar and often unwelcoming new continent…. Maybe that will be part of the point?
I really love that The NTS does edgy, experimental, musical stuff. It’s wonderful and weird that the lower down the Scottish Arts you go the more conventional they become and what should be the underground is at the top.
We’re in space with Yuri and on a boat with the refugees – there’s space and choppy seas on a giant video screen… It reminds me of a National Trust installation that tries to re-create an ancient battle or the life of pirates… I don’t feel like I’m there and I’m not getting enough character to care that Yuri and the refugees are there… Needs more drama.
Admire the professional execution.
No idea what I’m meant to feel about space travel.
I have no idea what the ‘dream’ is never mind why it’s the last one on Earth… Do we dream of travel? Is it meant to be so primal it’ll still be the last thing we’re yearning for just before we become extinct?
I feel sorry for the refugees – but then I’m a left-winger who likes multiculturalism – I’m not sure if the play is enough to evoke that feeling in me.
I’m surprised that there’s no agit-prop speech about what nasty, Imperialist, racist bastards we are – spending money on space travel and ignoring the plight of the poor (that’s because I’m OLD – and remember the days when all plays were about what total bastards we all were).
It’s not about Scotland – which is great. The only thing worse than feeling you can NEVER write about your own country is feeling you can ONLY write about your own country… In fact – I’m not sure there’s even any Scots in the show. This is a hopeful sign that we’ll be an open-minded, inclusive, diverse place that won’t set everything on an 18th-Century croft FOREVER.
Some of the ‘dreamy’ music at the end is reminding me of ‘The Rocky Horror Show’ and ‘Return To The Forbidden Planet’ (for a few moments).
We almost got Ye Olde Political – there was a snippet of a speech meant to be read to the American Public in the Event of a Disaster that focuses on heroes, searching for new worlds, the night sky, mankind etc… and a informal speech about being lost at sea, drifting, risking death, the daytime… I wonder if that’s the take-home contrast – Yuri went from Russia to the vastness of space… the refugees went from the vastness of the ocean to Europe.
Blackout. Must put notebook quickly in bag and clap… I think… is it..? YES..! CLAP. (this is a recreation of thoughts in my head – I didn’t write this bit down).
So – I admired it. I liked it… I thought it was a tad dull but not worthy – since it was too friendly to get on its moral high-horse and spit accusations and statistics at us… which was nice… we all got tired of lectures… but that also meant it had no real bite.
It needs bite.
I heard a woman say it was ‘brilliant’ though… so the punters were happy.