JOYCE MCMILLAN on WHY SCOTLAND? WHY EAST KILBRIDE? at the CCA, Glasgow, for The Scotsman 5.7.13.
3 stars ***
THE 1970’s must be the most maligned decade in British history; frequently typecast as a period of economic decline and industrial chaos, the Seventies in fact saw the highest levels of income equality and equal opportunities ever achieved in Britain. It was just before that wave of optimistic postwar modernisation began to recede that East Kilbride Development Corporation commissioned a short film called Why Scotland? Why East Kilbride?, to encourage people from England to relocate to Scotland. And it’s that film that has inspired Glasgow-based composer and academic J. Simon van der Walt to create this new one-hour show, featuring the film itself, a seven-piece rock band, quieter musical and electronic sequences, and some live scientific experiments, designed to capture the technology-driven spirit of the age.
The result is a fascinating if sometimes slightly whimsical show, in which the seven musicians first enter dressed like high priests of some ancient religion, and the story revolves around the imagined figure of one Dr. Teddy Edwards, a scientist of ever-shifting gender who, in 1977, is said to have been working at the National Engineering Laboratory in East Kilbride, after an early career that provided technology for the legendary BBC Radiophonic Workshop
In that context, it’s not clear that the heavy rock music sequence that opens and dominates the show, accompanying the film, offers much insight into the ambient sounds of the age. By the end, though, van der Walt’s show becomes pleasingly fragmented, as the film reels back and forwards and begins to break into single frames, and the music drifts and varies. In the end, the plane of the two fictional visitors to East Kilbride seems forever stranded in the air, just about to land at Glasgow airport; like the image of a future that could have happened, but somehow just failed to materialise.