JOYCE MCMILLAN on WHAT THE F**KIRK at Slamannan Community Centre, for The Scotsman 8.6.15.
3 stars ***
THE RECORD shows that Alan Bissett – novelist, poet, playwright and proud son of Falkirk – can, when he chooses, write a piece of theatre that pretty closely resembles a traditional well-made play. There’s no hint of that, though, in this latest show, put together by Bissett as part of Falkirk’s year-long response to its recent Creative Scotland Creative Place award.
For What The F**kirk – now on tour around community halls in the Falkirk area – emerges as a cross between a documentary and a 55-minute stand-up set, with powerful live music by Adam Stafford, and an attractive solo performance by Bissett as narrator. His theme is the remarkable if little-known history of Falkirk, and the view of Falkirk taken by local people themselves; and so the show interweaves his jokes and commentary with a series of films featuring clubbers, schoolchildren and senior citizens reflecting on what Falkirk means to them.
And the story that emerges, in a light-touch but highly entertaining evening, is often a moving one. What Bissett argues is that the well-worn stereotype of Falkirk as a hard-drinking, street-fighting town is perhaps better understood as a real willingness of the town’s people to stand up for themselves, and for ordinary folk everywhere. Touch One, Touch All, says the town’s motto; and if Falkirk is now on the move – with the coming of those magical Kelpies – it’s to be hoped that that instinct for solidarity will survive; and produce more work that has something to say to all of us about how to retain a sense of identity and dignity, in a world that would often rob us of both.