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.

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Ane City – Assembly Roxy

Written by Taylor Dyson

Directed by Calum Kelly

Runs at Assembly Roxy, August 10th – 26th, 14.20pm

Dundee. Home of Jam, Jute and Journalism. It also just so happens to have the highest cases of drug-death in Europe. Austerity, lowest life-expectancy in Western Europe and yet, a fiercely proud city, in its way.

Drawing inspiration from the town’s motto; ‘Ane City, Many Discoveries’, Taylor Dyson writes about coping with an identity crisis – something concerning a growing number of young adults today, particularly those from a working-class background.

On a night out in Dundee, finally able to catch up with her pals, Taylor finds herself a stranger in her homeland. Disconnecting with her sister, missing out on her friend’s latest stories, but cannot return to her destructive life in Glasgow.

Once you fly the nest, can you ever return home? If you do, chances are it won’t be the same. It’s a bard’s tale, Dyson relying on her uncanny abilities in rhyme and verse with excellently explosive vocals.

If at any point you thought you could miss Fatties, The Overgate or even nights outside Seagate bus station – I’d have said you’re mad. Dyson describes the city of discovery with the honesty it deserves, Hilltown n’ all. Deeply personal, there are no falsehoods to Ane City, putting its heart on the table.

Taking inspiration from ABBA, Ane City’s soundtrack comprises parodies of famous tunes with Dyson’s wording to tie it into the narrative. Vocally, she has an aggressive, emotive voice which is perfect for the tone. Accompanying her is guitarist, also director, Calum Kelly, earning his keep with a pleasant score.

Freshly grown Elfie Picket Theatre are hitting the scene with bold-personal ideas. Despite the flowing language, a grasp of which is enviable for most spoken word performers, it feels loose. Promising strands misalign, the context of jokes will be lost to some, even if the intention is noble.

What is clear is the fiery, artistic anger of the artistic merits of working-class women who deserve to have the chance to strikeout. It isn’t always perfect, but Ane City has a prevailing start, which glints at the company which will take no prisoners and put their spoken word to the people.

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