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

The Pride Plays: Captivity @ Traverse Theare

Image Contribution:
Shift Theatre

Created by Drew Taylor-Wilson

Theatre isn’t as diverse and accommodating as it ought it be – it has just as many issues with representation as film or TV. One company looking to change that is Shift Theatre Company with their launch of Scotland’s first LGBTQI+ Playwrights’ festival, Pride Plays, featuring Drew Taylor-Wilson’s black comedy Captivity.

Captivity plays around with a fascinating concept: that forcing two subjects of the same identifying sex into an enclosed space will lead to them exhibiting traits appertaining to homosexuality (for ‘research’). It’s about falling in love (or lust) and the notion thaat cynics, or those obsessed with a ‘gay agenda’, are delusional to their own sexuality. 

Its weakness lies in the drive for tension – it’s a developing piece which invests heavily in its performers. The script, setting out these issues, is tight but seems too fearful of its audience becoming distracted. We’re taken in by these characters – we care about them. What we don’t need is forced drama in the final 15 minutes. The sci-fi element of the script is pushed too firmly with locked houses and forced sexual situations.

Despite being a rehearsed reading, there is movement – though it seems unnecessary. The performances range in their comedic delivery, with the likes of Colin Jamieson and Neshla Caplan offering witty remarks throughout. David Paisley’s portrayal of the secluded Ben sells the climax. His desire to remain shut away results in a combustion of emotion so stirring that it sucker-punches from the dark. 

Pride Plays is allowing creators such as Taylor-Wilson the ability to thrust their stories to an audience who may never have had the chance to hear them. With their first outing at the Traverse a seeming success we look forward to a wealth of unsung writers, performers and talent stretching their wings and ruffling some feathers. 

Original Run: Ended

Review originally published for The Skinny:
https://www.theskinny.co.uk/theatre/shows/reviews/the-pride-plays-captivity-traverse-theatre-edinburgh