Suffering from Scottishness – Assembly Roxy

Written by Kevin P Gilday

Runs at Assembly Roxy until August 26th (Not 13th or 20th), 17.10pm

Irn Bru, Grand Theft Auto, Nessie, Haggis, the Telephone, Lewis Capaldi, Pride, Sense of Humour and the highest drug death rate in Western Europe Annie Lennox. With all of these things, why the hell wouldn’t you want to be Scottish?

Ever thought to yourself; “I know what would fix this country”, well, now you have the chance to prove yourself in envisioning a brand-new Scottish Citizenship Test. It’s an honour, you know. To be lucky enough to have a hand in fashioning the history of this magnificent country’s borders.  

Suited and booted, Kevin P. Gilday is here on behalf of a government body to gauge our responses to a vital question: Just what does it mean to be Scottish? Suffering from Scottishness is a part of HighTide’s Disruption, which sees six contemporary pieces presented in partnership with Assembly. In a turn of Orwellian ingenuity, Suffering from Scottishness is both social experiment and theatrical plaything.

If you’ve never seen Gilday before, you’ll quickly realise why he is an award-winning writer and spoken word artist. In particular, his control of poetry is a selling feature of the production above its unique concept. A well placed spoken word can turn a sea of people in a way a written one can only dream.

Nationalism. It’s a bit of dirty word these days. Wasn’t always, still has redeeming qualities, but quite often it now goes hand in hand with a sense of blindness. Blindness to see that Scotland has issues, so does the rest of the world, but we’re ignoring several life-threatening ones on our doorstep.

Audience interaction. The make or break of a production. Luckily, Gilday knows precisely where to gauge the level. Instead of directly involving the audience, he looks for their assistance, still seating, it draws us all in closer.

Everyone is now on even footing, we’re engaging together, not watching separately. If anything, there isn’t enough involvement – one suspects more is the plan, after testing waters.

Light-hearted, uplifting and a bit of fun, Suffering from Scottishness also has a ripple of commentary. It’s a mirror, which at first capitalises on Scotland’s idiosyncratic features – only for the glass to shatter, revealing the motive underneath. It’s a compelling play, with a profound poet notion, not only to its words but its concept.

Tickets available from: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/suffering-from-scottishness

Unfortunate: The Untold Story of Urusla the Sea Witch

Book and Lyrics: Robyn Grant & Daniel Foxx

Director: Siobhan Cannon-Brownlie

There have been wicked witches, mistresses of evil, and fashionistas with a fetish for puppy fur. There is, however, only one Ursula. Plus-size, fabulous, proud and sick of your shit – this sea witch is going to give us the down and dirty. This Sea Witch is on a mission to save the oceans from the humans above, fight for the ugly, downtrodden sea-creatures and most importantly, reclaim her agency as a strong, independent, fat purple woman.

Fat Rascal Theatre has a name for transforming unique narratives into a hot, vivacious mess of colour, song and commentary. Unfortunate: The Untold Story of Ursula the Sea Witch is no exception. Bombastic scoring, belting vocals, and a host of eccentric reject puppets serve up the premiere musical of this year’s Fringe.

The year is 1989, the Walt Disney Company are facing a catastrophically poor decade of sales, faith and mediocre film receptions. They have to return to what made them a household name. Casting away the shackles of originality, taking chances and dark tales – they had to go under the sea.

Returning to Princess fairy-tales, Hans Cristian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid was their choice, and it was a staggering success. Most successful, something no one would have suspected, was an Octo-Woman based on the Drag Queen Divine. Large, scene-stealing and given life by Pat Carroll, Ursula was a return to form for Villain royalty and sits as an LGBTQI+ icon.

So how on earth do you capture such an iconic character? Robyn Grant not only oozes ambitious, authoritative control of the stage, but she also pays tribute to Carroll’s creation of the role in every sense. This is the Sea Witch, living, breathing, grinding and bundles more flair and energy. Vocally, Grant has sublime control, managing to break the fast-paced show into hypnotic, freezing moments as you soak in the atmosphere.

If you’re in the front row, a cautionary warning, this production may conjure states of unexpected arousal. No one on stage requires magic when they have this much rampant desire, filth and depravity. The script is laden with innuendo, firing out at you left, right and centre, sometimes obvious, often hiding in plain sight.

A Queen in every right, Grant must, unfortunately, share her crown with another. Allie Munro has boundless energy, staggering range and dedication to her performances. The pace in which Munro adapts from Jamaican, via Donegal, crab Sebastian into the sultry, sensually seductive Vanessa leaps above impressive.

No one leaves miserable – the only Poor Unfortunate Souls are those begging for tickets outside the door. With no-where else to turn, they listen to cackles, sniggers and on occasion the genuine heartfelt moments and rally cries against suppression. Unfortunate: The Untold Story of Ursula the Sea Witch is another exceptionally well-constructed production from Fat Rascal. It’s wicked, it’s saucy, it’s modern, but above all – it’s nasty.

Tickets available at: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/unfortunate-the-untold-story-of-ursula-the-sea-witch