Adam Rowland, Blood Orange, Catherine Major, Dumfries, Edinburgh Fringe, Electric Theatre Workshop, Fascism, Graham Main, Jordan Chisholm, Justin Hyslop, Politics, Racism, Scott Findlay, Scottish Defence League, Summerhall, Theatre Review
An expedition to the Summerhall is still always very exciting, even though it is over a year since this venue first opened. The Summerhall seems a bit too trendy to feature readily in Tychy@ the Fringe and once inside I know my place, scuttling around the corridors with my eyes lowered. The complex represents Edinburgh’s bourgeoisie at its most radical and yet also its most gushingly quintessential. It is a subverted postmodern ruin, an exhibition space, a creative hub, and a maze of theatres and studios.
I’m here today to see a Scottish Defence League rally… oh no, only joking readers! This is “Blood Orange,” the latest production from Dumfries’ Electric Theatre Workshop. Written by Graham Main, a Dumfries writer, it recounts the events which led up to an SDL demonstration in this hitherto peaceful backwater.
First off, let’s establish that Main’s play is not really about the SDL. The cast admit that the SDL arrived in Dumfries in buses and then left again for the next protest. You should not consequently look to “Blood Orange” for any explanation of the movement, or to voyage into its political origins. The substitute for this, however, is not wholly adequate. When the hero Zander gets into trouble, it is because of some backstory involving grief over his mother’s suicide or his alienation from an anorexic girlfriend. I don’t know why people join the SDL, a forlorn, half-senile grassroots movement which has peeled away like a scab from the old Left, but it’s probably for political reasons. It’s unlikely that anybody from the SDL would recognise themselves in the mirror which this play holds up.
I’ll just add, in the language of street-fighting politics, that I’ve always thought that we should leave off with the SDL because they’re just not worth it. Mind you, I have a pal who once received a police caution during an Edinburgh standoff with the SDL for starting a mass singalong of “You Can Shove Your Union Jack Up Your Arse (and we don’t want it back when you’re done).”
To realise what this play is you need to locate its place in history. I’d say classic 1996, the same year as Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet and Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting. Joining the SDL in “Blood Orange” is rather like hanging out with the Capulets in Luhrmann’s movie. They are macho guys in smooth suits, they speak a wonky, cod-Shakespearean dialogue, and they seem to be accompanied by one of Luhrmann’s own multi-genre mixtapes. They are also very-clever-but-a-bit-silly Scottish hard-men, who go clubbing, which is where Welsh comes in.
But shh! If you listen carefully, you can almost hear them:
Zander: Sweet flower Jasmine, not fat-faced fat-girl. All droops in bipolar garden, with flowers anorexic. Imbibed you weedkiller so that poison, diving down to roots, gives huge hard-on to mole, burrowing, under petals fragrant?
Jasmine: Fuck-faced cupcake, the cruel skinhead scum, marching, under Mein Kampf spunk-cloud, will ejaculate besplatter the mosque cunt.
Zander: Well, off they must fuck, forsooth!
Yes, I’m exaggerating. The dialogue in this play may be as comical as a penguin, but it is also, in its own way, absolutely wonderful. In the midst of turmoil and intimidation, “Blood Orange” achieves an unexpected tranquillity.
[Three Weeks likewise has a crack at the script.]