Sunday, April 22, 2007

"Re:Union" - April 2007

“To celebrate the 300th Anniversary of the Act of Union between Scotland and England and the upcoming Scottish Elections, 7:84 has commissioned four writers to examine the theme of Separation and Reconciliation with four momentous historical events as a backdrop: Ireland 1921; Pakistan 1947; Croatia 1991; Scotland 2007.” So read the promotional blurb for “Re:Union”.

As a fan of political theatre I was looking forward to this production by 7:84 at the Citizens Circle Studio. The piece was made up of 4 distinct playlets each performed by some or all of the cast of four.

First up was “Wound” by Nicola McCartney “inspired by events in Ireland 1921”. This was a fairly standard piece of kitchen sink domestic drama. Angry and violent teenage daughter (Ionia Ni Chronin) wants to leave her adoptive parents (Jacqui Chan & Billy Riddoch) to find her birth mother who may or may not want her back. Umar Ahmed also featured as a paramedic caught up in the domestic strife. Chan gives a strong performance with her anguish clear and her decisions believable. It worked well enough if taken at face value and was well performed but even after brushing up on my Irish history I’m afraid I have no idea how this was meant to relate to the political situation.

Next was “Eclipse” by Haresh Sharma which was performed as a monologue by Umar Ahmed portraying three generations of a family. This spoke directly of the Partition of India/Pakistan and provided a couple of nice surprises along the way. While descriptive of the effects of Partition it was clear from the narrative that other factors such as war and personal weakness played more of a factor in the difficulties the family faced. Ahmed’s performance was incredibly watchable and at times very moving and really drew the audience in, but any political message was muffled at best.

Ahmed was certainly earning his performance fee for this production as he featured again in “A Time To Go” by Selma Dimitrijevic inspired by events in Croatia 1991. A two hander with Riddoch and Ahmed playing father and son this was the most effective of the four pieces at face value. A very nice structure with father and son providing their own parts of two similar and related conversations they have shared at family occasions over different timeframes. It’s a poetic piece of writing and brilliantly performed with an element of movement playing a large role as well. A lovely piece of theatre but any link to 1991 Croatia was way beyond my understanding.

The last of the four pieces reunited all four cast members for “Doch-an-Doris” by Linda McLean looking at the potential separation of Scotland from England in 2007. Seen through a couple on the verge of divorce (Riddoch & Chan) having a “can’t live together, can’t live apart” moment while their two children try to bring about a reconciliation. A nicely observed piece on the end of relationships and well performed by all - particularly Ionia Ni Chronin as the daughter. Sadly though, even for this most topical and locally important piece it didn’t work for me beyond the personal level.

Between each of the pieces we had a series of short questions about the future of Scottish society raised on TV monitors. All vital concerns, and it’s just a shame that the playlets didn’t really make any useful contribution to addressing them.

Had I been coming along to see four playlets addressing family issues and conflict I have no doubt I’d have left the theatre very happy, but as someone who thought I would be seeing a production with something to say for itself politically, I left disappointed and a little confused. Maybe its message was too subtle for me, maybe my historical knowledge wasn’t sufficient to decode it, or maybe it just missed the target. It wouldn’t put me off seeing a future 7:84 production but I don’t think I’d have the hopes for it that I had for “Re:Union”.