It’s Friday night, five minutes after the UK failed to leave the EU as planned. Onstage at the end of the National Theatre of Scotland’s multi-artform compendium of short works intended to mark the occasion, Angus Farquhar, late of 1980s percussive provocateurs Test Dept and creators of monumental spectacle NVA is playing marimba with his comrade Cameron Sinclair. This follows a moving personal testimony of what Europe means to Farquhar in a piece called Second Citizen. Set to a techno beat, Farquhar’s performance sees him getting back to his roots in every way.
Co-curated by NTS artistic director Jackie Wylie and Stewart Laing of Untitled Projects, the evening begins with compere Gary McNair asking why politicians can’t be like artists and work to the deadline they’ve been given. This is an all too pertinent gambit prior to opening act Tam Dean Burn appearing dressed as a pirate for Aquaculture Flagshipwreck, a comic dissection of Scotland’s fishing industry featuring harpist Rachel Newton, live painting projections by Tom Morgan-Jones and an inflatable salmon.
Upstairs, Nic Green and Ruairi O’Donnabhain’s d’tus maith is leath na h’oibre/a good start is half the work is a movement-based duet, in which the performers use chairs split in two to convey the the complexities of Ireland’s relationship with itself as much as anywhere beyond.
Nima Sene and Daniel Hughes’ three-screen film, moving through shadows, juxtaposes the everyday experience of people of colour in Poland with the Polish community in Scotland. It finishes with a remarkable live appearance by Nigerian/Polish singer Ifi Ude.
Music is the night’s driving force. Leonie Rae Gasson’s Death Becomes Us puts the audience in the dark with blindfolds and headphones for a soundscape by Susan Bear before blinking into the light of a celestial performance by Beldina Odenyo Onassis, aka Heir of the Cursed. She is joined by a regimented choir of migrant women, who march through the aisles, owning the space to subvert perceived notions of control.
Music is there too in Cadaver Police in Quest of Aquatraz Exit, Alan McKendrick’s piece of agit-prop punk dystopia, in which a near-future band turn jailbreak revolutionaries. As with Farquhar’s piece, all this suggests a quasi-secret republic dancing through dark times to take on the world.
The Herald, April 1st 2019