â€œIâ€™m calibrating my Scottishnessâ€ are the opening words of this play and that is exactly what it purports to be about. Itâ€™s a look at our past and our present, who we are and what weâ€™ve done, a kail- yardstick of our failures and achievements.
Itâ€™s all touched on here – Culloden, the Clearances, Walter Scott, drinking, the kilt, politics and touchy pride. Only the deep-fried Mars bars have been left out. Diversity is shown by a great line up of whiskies on stage, yet somehow the overall impression is more am-dram than Festival malt.
Itâ€™s a pity the play is lacking coherence. Itâ€™s credentials are good – a collaboration between the National Theatre of Scotland and the TEAM, a Brooklyn based ensemble dedicated to making new work about America today. The huge Scots diaspora in America means that Scottish ideas and Scottish influence are everywhere in America and the play tries to make these links. Our Clearances experience of land seized and exploited are mirrored by Appalachian land grabs for mining.
The three actors are also co-writers of the script, along with director Rachel Chavkin and associate director Davey Anderson. Brian Ferguson, Jessica Almasy and Sandy Grierson as three characters in search of a nation give the script their all. She’s the American, they are respectively the Scot who stayed and Scot who went down south. But playing around with up-ended chairs as a car and a boat, and sweeping earth from the stage as land, and using a tartan blanket as a kilt, all look like a level of stagecraft at basic workshop level rather than innovative.
They cast also does its own pulling around of the furniture, in best amateur tradition. Thereâ€™s folksy music provided by three musicians, which is pleasant enough and adds a certain impact to the journey from the Highlands to the Appalachian Mountains.
There are Grannyâ€™s ashes (the past!) to be buried, the central character is sick, the nation is sick, and apocalypse seems just about now. As a state of the nation play, however, I canâ€™t see this one lasting the pace. There just isnâ€™t enough light shed on the subject.
EICC until August 26th