Published in the Guardian
There's lots to be said against the motor car – its atomising effect, its ugliness, its environmental fallout – but none of that is the concern of Ignition. Wils Wilson's extraordinary show for the National Theatre of Scotland and Shetland Arts presents the car not in opposition to the culture but the very definition of it. Here in Shetland, home of the Sullom Voe oil terminal and a rare number of under-age drivers, the car is the factor common to every life experience, from the dash to the antenatal ward to the last hearse-driven journey of all.
That's why we experience Ignition primarily from inside our own vehicles. It is from the back seat that we watch a parkour crew leapfrogging a Volvo as ballroom dancers waltz by. It is while driving from site to site that we pick up a hitchhiker who sings a ukulele lament. And it is within someone else's parked car, one of them gloriously entwined in wool like a giant tea cosy, that we hear stories of seaside escapes and roadside breakdowns.
In this way, Ignition is not about cars at all, but about the life they make possible. It is a community looking at itself in the rear-view mirror and seeing something unexpectedly fascinating. Drawing on true-life tales gathered by Lowri Evans in the guise of the folkloric White Wife, the show presents us with a culture in all its human variety; we are fellow travellers with athletes, dancers, knitters, singers, poets, musicians, the young and the old.
It's not a perfectly smooth ride, it takes time to get into gear and suffers the odd "are we nearly there yet?" moment, but when we reconvene in the village hall where Hugh Nankivell's band leads us through songs about road signs and sea views, we feel the heart-warming rush of shared experience and a journey well made.
At Bigton Hall, Shetland, 26–27 March (01595–745555) then touring until 30 March. Details: www.nationaltheatrescotland.com