Skip to main content

Davey Anderson, Rachel Chavkin and The TEAM - Anything That Gives Off Light

Enlightenment can come at any time. Just ask the artists behind Anything That Gives Off Light, the international co-production between American wunderkinds The TEAM, the National Theatre of Scotland and Edinburgh International Festival, which opens at EIF this week.

As is usual with the TEAM, the company's artistic director Rachel Chavkin has worked with a group of TEAM regulars to create a show that explores national identity in a post Scottish Referendum, post Brexit climate in which the shadow of the forthcoming American elections has been looming large and increasingly loud.

For Anything That Gives Off Light, Chavkin has been joined by Glasgow-based writer and director Davey Anderson as associate director. The show's writing credits feature Chavkin and TEAM member Jessica Almasy on the American side, with Anderson and actors Brian Ferguson and Sandy Grierson providing input from the Scottish members of the team.

“Because we're in different countries,” says Chavkin, “we've been working on this piece so much off and on that at times so many events have happened in the world that it's been hard to keep up. We started working on it before indy referendum one, now we have Brexit and a call for indy ref two, so who knows where we'll end up?”

Anderson too acknowledges how the white heat of history has overtaken the play.

“We did a work in progress presentation in 2014, just before the independence referendum,” he says, “and there was a real feeling of hope in the air. Now this summer following the fallout of the EU referendum, there's a real sense of trauma and people going around asking who are these people who voted for us to leave the EU.”

The roots of Anything That Gives off Light dates back to 2008, when the TEAM and the NTS collaborated on Architecting, which in part looked at slavery and the American Civil War through the prism of Gone With the Wind.

“That was a piece that investigated how America's past has influenced its present,” says Anderson, who worked as assistant director on the show, “and through Gone With the Wind how it tried to represent itself after the War. I'd been a huge fan of the TEAM, and during Architecting, Rachel and I started talking about collaborating on a story about American and Scottish history and the shared mythology between the two countries.”

With a working title of The Scottish Enlightenment Project, what emerged out of a series of development periods in both America and Scotland was a story about what happens when an American tourist in Edinburgh and a Scottish emigre in London embark on a road trip to the Highlands of Scotland that takes a few timeslips en route.

“They're trying to find some kind of personal enlightenment in dark political times,” Anderson explains. “The man is bringing his granny's ashes back to Scotland, and is wondering what to do with them when he encounters an old friend he's drifted apart from. There's this wary reunion, and then there's this American tourist who's trying to exorcise her own demons, and these people are all recalibrating in some way, and trying to find an identity.”

Part of the research for Anything that Gives Off Light saw the company embark on a pilgrimage of sorts to Virginia, a place where eighty per cent of its population consider their heritage to be Scots or Irish, and where an annual Highland games is held. Two weeks of interviews with local residents yielded some surprising results.

“Not everyone in America is a gun-toting, loud-shouting, Trump-supporting anti-intellectual,” says Anderson. “I had a lot of really nuanced conversations with people, who were talking about taking political positions that I vehemently disagree with, but which, through talking to them, weren't abstract anymore.”

This taps into the response to the results of both the Scottish independence and EU referenda, whereby vocal liberals have attempted to come to terms with results they don't like. It also points up how many of the finest minds of every generation have been American. As Anderson points out, “There's bits of American culture that comes from Scots, but so much of Scottish and British culture comes from America. Literature, music, film, I adore so much of that, but it also comes from a very dark history. If you feed into it some of the hate and despair that's around just now, you can see what might happen if Trump becomes president.”

Received wisdom about Scotland too looks set to be upended in the show.

“It's been fascinating getting into Scottish history and looking at the complexity of it all,” says Anderson. “The Jacobite Rebellion, Culloden and the Highland clearances are stories we think we're familiar with, but they tend to be told simplistically. Scots tend to identify with the underdog rather than the bad guy, and sometimes I think we have a problem with that in Scotland. Sometime we can go, no, it wasn't us, it was them over there, when sometimes we've been the bad guys ourselves.

As is often the way, the umbilical link between nations can often be found in music. In Anything That Gives Off Light, this is seen and heard in the connections between Appalachian and Scottish folk traditions, and is made flesh by New York based husband and wife led band, The Bengsons.

“The music that's played live in the show will reflect the themes of the play,” Anderson points out. “The band will be made up of both Scottish and American musicians, so the connections should be made explicit.”

If Anything That Gives Off Light is about three people finding out who they are while living through complicated times, it also reflects how post indy and post Brexit those on the losing side respond.

“Do they come out of it transformed?” Anderson asks,”or do some give up and focus on their own world and hope it fans out from there?”

For the three people in the play, the choices are the same.

“Each of them changes in a different way,” says Chavkin, “and I think we've managed to steer clear of any kind of epiphany they might have, but basically they have to ask themselves, as we all do, okay, if I've rewritten my history, where do I stand?”

Anything That Gives Off Light, Edinburgh International Conference Centre, August 16-25, 7.30pm (except August 21); August 20, 24, 2.30pm; August 26, 12 noon, 4pm.
www.eif.co.uk

The Herald, August 18th 2016

ends

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Big Gold Dreams – A Story of Scottish Independent Music 1977-1989

Disc 1
1. THE REZILLOS (My Baby Does) Good Sculptures (12/77)  2. THE EXILE Hooked On You (8/77)
3. DRIVE Jerkin’ (8/77)
4. VALVES Robot Love (9/77)
5. P.V.C. 2 Put You In The Picture (10/77)
6. JOHNNY & THE SELF ABUSERS Dead Vandals (11/77)
7. BEE BEE CEE You Gotta Know Girl (11/77)
8. SUBS Gimme Your Heart (2/78)
9. SKIDS Reasons (No Bad NB 1, 4/78)
10. FINGERPRINTZ Dancing With Myself (1/79) 
11. THE ZIPS Take Me Down (4/79)
12. ANOTHER PRETTY FACE All The Boys Love Carrie (5/79) 
13. VISITORS Electric Heat (5/79)
14. JOLT See Saw (6/79)
15. SIMPLE MINDS Chelsea Girl (6/79)
16. SHAKE Culture Shock (7/79)
17. HEADBOYS The Shape Of Things To Come (7/79)
18. FIRE EXIT Time Wall (8/79)
19. FREEZE Paranoia (9/79)
20. FAKES Sylvia Clarke (9/79)
21. TPI She’s Too Clever For Me (10/79)
22. FUN 4 Singing In The Showers (11/79)
23. FLOWERS Confessions (12/79)
24. TV21 Playing With Fire (4/80)
25. ALEX FERGUSSON Stay With Me Tonight (1980)

1. THE REZILLOS I Can’t Stand My Baby (Sensible FAB 18/77) If it wasn’t for T…

Clybourne Park

Adam Smith Theatre, Kirkcaldy Four Stars
It’s a case of whoops, there goes the neighbourhood twice over in Rapture Theatre’s revival of Bruce Norris’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play, which opens in 1959 in the same Chicago suburb where Lorraine Hansberry’s drama, A Raisin in the Sun, which appeared that year, is set. Here, Robin Kingsland’s Russ and his wife Bev, played by Jackie Morrison, are preparing to move out of their now almost empty des-res following a family tragedy.
Unknown to them, the bargain basement price tag has enabled a black family to move in, with Jack Lord’s uptight Karl a self-appointed spokesperson for the entire ‘hood. Russ and Bev’s black maid Francine (Adelaide Obeng) and her husband Albert (Vinta Morgan), meanwhile, bear witness to a barrage of everyday racism. Fast forward half a century, and a white family are trying to buy the same house, albeit with a heap of proposed changes which the black couple representing the block’s now much more diverse community aren’t…

Losing Touch With My Mind - Psychedelia in Britain 1986-1990

DISC 1
1. THE STONE ROSES  - Don’t Stop 2. SPACEMEN 3  - Losing Touch With My Mind (Demo) 3. THE MODERN ART  - Mind Train 4. 14 ICED BEARS  - Mother Sleep 5. RED CHAIR FADEAWAY - Myra 6. BIFF BANG POW!  - Five Minutes In The Life Of Greenwood Goulding 7. THE STAIRS - I Remember A Day 8. THE PRISONERS - In From The Cold 9. THE TELESCOPES  - Everso 10. THE SEERS  - Psych Out 11. MAGIC MUSHROOM BAND - You Can Be My L-S-D 12. THE HONEY SMUGGLERS  - Smokey Ice-Cream 13. THE MOONFLOWERS - We Dig Your Earth 14. THE SUGAR BATTLE  - Colliding Minds 15. GOL GAPPAS  - Albert Parker 16. PAUL ROLAND - In The Opium Den 17. THE THANES - Days Go Slowly By 18. THEE HYPNOTICS  - Justice In Freedom (12" Version)

1. THE STONE ROSES Don’t Stop ( SilvertoneORE1989)
The trip didn’t quite start here for what sounds like Waterfall played backwards on The Stone Roses’ era-defining eponymous debut album, but it sounds like it. Vocalist Ian Brown and guitarist John Squire met in 1980 at Altrincham Grammar School. With bassist …