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Roderick Buchanan – Understanding versus Sympathy

St Patrick's Church, Edinburgh until August 28
Four stars

The words 'In Memorium' may be carved above the entrance to the chapel in the Edinburgh Cowgate church once at the centre of the capital's 'Little Ireland', but Roderick Buchanan's new film installation that forms part of Edinburgh Art Festival's Commissions Programme is anything but an elegy. As the film's subject, Irish-born but Edinburgh-based historian Owen Dudley Edwards talks about James Connolly, the Cowgate-sired radical who rose to fame through his role in the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin, an entire history is rolled back and has fresh life breathed into it.

Over almost two hours of close-up conversation broken up by Brechtian style captions, Dudley Edwards talks about church, state, politics and power in Ireland, Scotland and the bridges between the two. There are thumbnail portraits of Edinburgh and Dublin's psycho-geography past and present and a nod too to Connolly's great grand-nephew, journalist Ian Bell, who sadly died in December 2015.

Each answer a now seventy-something Dudley Edwards gives to interviewer Johnny Rodger is a gloriously discursive monologue that twinkles with anecdotal flourishes bolstered by a wisdom that makes its points with razor-sharp insight in this essential study of history makers past and present.

The List, August 2016

ends


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