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Anything That Gives Off Light

Edinburgh International Conference Centre
Four stars

It feels like a wake at the opening of this transatlantic collaboration between New York wunderkinds The TEAM, the National Theatre of Scotland and Edinburgh International Festival. As Brian Ferguson steps out into a deserted pub to consider what's Scottish, the top soil is still fresh on the floor as his character, also called Brian, makes a prodigal's return from his London home with his granny's ashes in tow. Hooking up with his old pal Iain, an uneasy reunion unlocks a shared history of anti Poll Tax demos and anti Thatcher protests before Brian 'sold out.' When they're hit on by American tourist Red, the trio take a road trip to the Highlands, where hard truths come home to roost.

What sounds like a conventional road movie style yarn lurches into a whisky-fired fantasia that sees the three role-play the Highland clearances before heading stateside to the country roads of West Virginia past and present. This makes for quite a ride in Rachel Chavkin and Davey Anderson's production, penned by them with cast members Jessica Almasy, Ferguson and Sandy Grierson.

As is usual with the TEAM, literature, pop culture and politics are folded into a wilfully messy narrative, but here are reined in with more languidly paced conversational longeurs. These are
peppered throughout by nouveau Appalachian-Scots fused numbers composed by New York duo, Shaun Bengson and Abigail Nessen-Bengson, and performed by piper Annie Grace, drummer Cat Myers and singer/guitarist Maya Sharpe. As the Scotch mist clears, what is left is a slow-burning meditation on a past that refuses to lie down and stay buried, even as it's mythologised along the way.

The Herald, August 19th 2016

ends

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