Udderbelly’s Pasture (Venue 300)
3 stars ***
AS THE NATIONAL THEATRE OF SCOTLAND is about to learn, Edinburgh in August is not the most sympathetic environment in which to explore the wilder reaches of the Scottish national psyche. Half of the audience don’t care, and the other half are often seeking a holiday from the arduous business of Scottishness; which makes it all the bolder of Matthew Zajac’s Dogstar Company, of Inverness, to choose one of the trendiest venues on the Fringe for the launch of Henry Adam’s Jacobite Country.
Set in Adam’s version of post-modern Caithness – a nightmare country that combines the rural trauma of an early Sam Shepard play with the grotesquery of a northern Little Britain – Jacobite Country tells the tale of one Haggis McSporran, who aspires to be a successful stand-up comic despite being confined in the local mental hospital. The rest of the cast involves a hatchet-faced nurse who morphs into a London comedy promoter, Haggis’s hard-drinking associate Eddy, and his decrepit Uncle Angus, a wheelchair-bound figure wrapped from top to toe in white bandages, who nonetheless plays a rousing lament or two on the bagpipes, and seems to represent the living corpse of true Scottish nationalism.
The story leads us ever further into the fevered dreams and imaginings of Haggis, as delusion melts into reality and vice versa; there are reels and laments and garish stand-up comedy sequences. And every one of the characters is played by a woman, with Sarah Howarth giving it best as Haggis himself. The result is a memorable shambles of a show that throbs with life even when it seems to be falling apart, and actually has things to say about the death of national identity and the rise of an insane celebrity culture. And it will be more than interesting to see what audiences across Scotland make of it, as it sets off on a five-week tour that will take it from Peebles in the south to Kirkwall in the north, and to the Tron Theatre in Glasgow.
Until 30 August