The Scottish independence question is one on which this site maintains a neutral positision. Being based in Scotland, however, many of our contributors have a vote and an opinion, and it would seem remiss not to cover at least one of the many arts events happening around the country to celebrate this great flowering of democracy in our home country.
So when we received an invitation to attend a preview of Rob Drummond: Wallace, it seemed the perfect opportunity to do just that.
Rob Drummond: Wallace is part of the Arches’ EARLY DAYS festival, looking at that Scottish question from a variety of points of view and with a selection of unique interpretations.
Wallace‘s first act is a panel discussion, chaired by the ever-professional Roberta Bishop.
Speaking for the Yes campaign are Sarah Bailey MSP, rising star of the SNP, and controversial foul-mouthed comedian and self-styled Man of the People, Bruce Carrick. On the No campaign side of the studio, sits Scotland’s solitary Conservative MP, Sir Edward Hammer and former Sunday Herald journalist and current Sun columnist, Petra Lang.
As the debate continues the relationships, machinations and motivations of the panelists are revealed, language and the masks of professionalism slip, and soon Roberta finds herself chairing something more akin to Celebrity Jeremy Kyle than a serious independence debate.
Before the decent into chaos, questions are invited from the audience and the cast should be credited for both their improvisation and their research of the issues. From oil and the environment to border controls and social union, each player convincingly answers both unsolicited and seeded questions in the manner of their character and #IndyRef allegiance. All the while they interweave the tensions and dialogue that explore the themes of relationships and tradition, secrets and cooperation, union, separation and boundaries not just between the component parts of the UK, but between each other.
When the eponymous Wallace eventually shows up he triggers a series of events which ultimately find their resolution in the third act as our hero considers his predicament and the consequences of his actions.
We’re taken back in time for act two, to 1291 and the arbitration at Norham. The events involving Robert the Bruce, John Balliol, King Edward and others are reimagined to mirror current events in microcosm.
They are contemporary, complex issues transposed onto simpler times with a barbaric complexity of their own, illustrating the historical events which marked the first step in a 723 year cultural journey which may end on September 18th. The acting here is gripping, the writing very clever, and the audience is left with an oddly unjust cyclical feeling; that of history repeating until wrongs are righted, and we are left to mull it over as the act closes for intermission.
Post-interval we return to the present. From the sparse 13th century village hut in Norham we find Wallace in his more modern, if rather less desirable, flat. It is a little on-the-nose, even for the purposes of emphasising his character; a task managed as far as was necessary by the middle of Act 1. A tartan shawl-draped chair, empty Irn Bru cans, discarded takeaway containers and a 6 pack of Tennent’s Lager litter the stage; stereotypically Glaswegian, all that was missing was a borrowed copy of the Evening Times.
The title character takes centre stage for the final act and carries the audience on a thought provoking mental journey, the evolution of his character reflective of the decision Scotland must make on this coming, fateful Thursday.
Wallace is highly entertaining. It is very funny throughout, and although at times skirting the bounds of decency it is in keeping with the Frankie Boyle inspired character of Bruce Carrick and ably balances humour with the seriousness the issues demand. The complexity of the characters is convincingly conveyed, where such a small production could easily have fallen into the trap of labouring the point by contriving important aspects of the character archetypes, these feel natural and are, for the most part, entirely believable.
Superbly acted, wonderfully written and capably produced, I would recommend Wallace to anyone planning to vote on September 18th.
Rob Drummond: Wallace, stars Moyo Akande, Rob Drummond, Lesley Hart, James McAnerney, Gaylie Runciman, Benny Young, and Kieran Baker. It runs from the 14th to the 19th September at The Arches. Age 18+ only.