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Mark Fisher
Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Follow me on Twitter at MarkFFisher, WriteAboutTheat and LimelightXTC I am a freelance journalist and critic specialising in theatre and the arts. Publications I write for include the Guardian and the Scotsman. I am the author of The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide: how to make your show a success and How to Write About Theatre: A Manual for Critics, Students and Bloggers. I am also editor of The XTC Bumper Book of Fun for Boys and Girls: A Limelight Anthology. From 2000-2003, I was the editor of The List magazine, Glasgow and Edinburgh's arts and events guide.
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Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Theatre review: Rantin

Published in the Guardian
National Theatre of Scotland on tour
Four stars


"I'M not going to talk about doubts and confusion," sang the Proclaimers in The Joyful Kilmarnock Blues. The song comes at the start of this melange of music and monologue – a kind of state-of-the-nation ceilidh – even though the stories it tells are characterised by exactly that. Doubts and confusion abound in a snapshot impression of a country atomised, uneasy and restless for change.
Looking us straight in the eye as they welcome us into their homely if dishevelled living room, Kieran Hurley, Gav Prentice, Julia Taudevin and Drew Wright (aka Wounded Knee) create an aesthetic that's like the Fence Collective performing John McGrath's The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil. On the one hand, it's all beards, acoustic strums and nu-folk stylings; on the other, it's an encapsulation of a Scotland that stretches from the Stornoway ferry to a private dining room in Edinburgh, via Donald Trump's Menie Estate and a supermarket in Port Glasgow.
Less politically strident than McGrath's seminal play for 7:84, though with a quietly radical energy of its own, Rantin echoes the sentiment of another Proclaimers song, Scotland's Story, with its all-embracing philosophy of a nation united in its diversity.
It's also about a struggle for social connection: Miriam, a Palestinian refugee, longs for her fellow passengers on the 61 bus to rise up in song; MacPherson, a narcissistic drunk in a Methil pub, rages at the world's unspecified injustice against him; while Howard flies in from the US hoping to reconnect with "the land that inspired Disney-Pixar's Brave" (and also Trainspotting).
Suffering Adam Smith's "invisible hand around our throats", it's a nation on the cusp of becoming alienated from itself. Yet in a National Theatre of Scotland production that implicitly values community and the act of singing along, the message that "all our futures are shared" is ripe with promise.
© Mark Fisher 2014 
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