Adam Tomkins, Amy Gilmartin, Black Dingo Productions, Censorship, Edinburgh Fringe, Euan Brockie, Freedom of Speech, Jen Adam, Marilyn Wilson, Offensive Behaviour (Football) Act, Politics, Sectarianism, SNP, St. John's Episcopal Church, Theatre Review
Jen Adam’s new play “Warrior” has been brought to St John’s Episcopal Church by Black Dingo Productions. In a bare community room in the back of the church, seated in an uneasy circle, the audience could at first be delegates at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. Yet this arrangement, with the three actors on their feet within the audience’s midst, gives the play a pleasing freshness or some other quality that it would lack if enthroned on stage. The characters are an ordinary Scottish family, recognisable from anywhere in the country, and there is not a false note in their story. It is necessary for the realism to be absolute because the circumstances that this family find themselves in are completely preposterous.
The play’s virtues emerge from a diabolical political context. The funding comes from the Scottish government and you might think good of this because Black Dingo is a local company which is dedicated to coordinating emerging talent. But “Warrior” is not just a play: it claims to be one “of over 35 projects to increase awareness of the causes and methods of tackling sectarianism in Scotland supported by the Scottish government.” The very same government which deems no cost to be too high when it comes to “tackling sectarianism,” whether it is criminalising singing, jailing people for Facebook messages, launching dawn raids on teenagers, or conducting a reign of terror which violates this country’s most basic democratic normality.
Jen Adam’s play largely deflects my hate attack because it is powerfully written and narrated. It is a modest chamber piece, but almost perfect on its own terms. It is also consummately diplomatic, in never biting the hand that feeds but not licking it either.
Evan (Euan Brockie) is the typical Scottish teenager: angular, sullen, and with all the world’s injustice welling up in his unblinking eyes. We all know that look, that way they glaze over when they start to talk about computer games. Evan was twisted up in the bowels of some online netherworld when he abused a fellow player, who had been winding him up, with a reference to spilling Fenian blood. He has no interest in football and there is a very fine implication that he was only repeating some words that he had once overheard his mother using. Like a good Party comrade at a show trial, he laments his “ignorance.” The pigs swoop and Evan is arrested, his computers are confiscated, his parents’ careers are trashed, and jail is stacked on the horizon.
It is, to reiterate the point, completely preposterous. The play is at times almost like an exotic Victorian melodrama, with Evan as the random victim of an Oriental curse.
But Jen Adam will never say that it is preposterous. This is a wire which is lying somewhere on the floor and we brush against it on a couple of occasions, without ever tripping over. Evan’s Dad protests mildly that he, not the courts, could have dealt with his son’s outburst. For Fringe theatre, there is something very radical about the portrayal of Evan’s parents (Adam Tomkins and Marilyn Wilson): they are realistic figures and, at the same time, utterly good. We are allowed to think that Evan’s Dad, rather than the state with all its paraphernalia of terror and humiliation, should remain the paternalist.
I have only one other, rather minor complaint about this show and that is the venue. The organisation was not so hot and there was a mix up when we were queuing to go in. This fucking Fenian cunt pushed right in front of me and I said to him, “hey pal, I hope you’re fucking watching when they hang your Pope. With an Orange rope.” Sometimes I could throttle the whole lot of them.