Fatherland** (Battersea Arts Centre, 23 October 2013)

Posted: October 24, 2013 in Theatre

This review was originally written for The Public Reviews: http://www.thepublicreviews.com

Fatherland, along with its companion piece, Motherland, has been conceived by the performance artist Nic Green to explore her Scottish roots and to enhance her understanding of herself in relation to her origins. She performs the piece assisted by three drummers and a piper. When first appearing, she creates a severe image, sporting a sculptured haircut and wearing a natty business suit, but her soft and sympathetic voice quickly belies that image. The performance begins well with a poem about space, describing distance, proximity, detachment and belonging. Green is assisted by male volunteers from the audience who alternate lines or verses with her. The contrasting voices add resonance to the words, making the reading touching and thought-provoking. It is poignant in its content and potent in its style of delivery. Sadly, the poem is much too short and the spoken word is to play very little part in the remainder of the evening. There now follows a protracted sequence in which Green performs steps from a Scottish jig and draws a large chalk circle, presumably defining her personal boundaries and those of her country. She is accompanied by the beating of drums and only the increasing volume of the unrelenting percussion prevents this laborious process from being soporific. Towards the end, any intervention, even that by bag pipes is soothing to the ears. Once enclosed inside her circle, Green performs what could be described as “The Dance of the Seven-Piece Trouser Suit”, removing almost all of her attire. If this dance, like the jig, had originated from the Highlands, it could surely have led to severe cases of frost bite. She prances across the diameter and around the circumference of the circle in a state of near undress, making us feel as if we have stumbled by chance upon some bizarre aerobics class. She seems to be making a bold declaration of the defiance and vulnerability embodied in the Scottish spirit, but she is personifying much less the dignity of her proud nation. In the midst of all the symbolism, we are entitled to ask whether any of this really informs us or even entertains us. Never mind, consolation is at hand as bottles of Scotland’s finest produce are passed around the audience. It hardly matters that being served spirits by a topless waitress belongs more to the heritage of Soho than to that of Scotland, as no-one is complaining. Soon Green exclaims “I don’t know how to end it”, but the temptation to shout back *as soon as possible” is resisted. By now the golden nectar has begun to cast its spell and a more appropriate response seems to be “another dram please”.

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