BEFORE THE REAL DEBATE…TRY THIS…
Every afternoon at ten past five, a kilted 24-year-old woman in blue-and-white facepaint emerges from the leprous tenement of the Underbelly on a bicycle with a horse’s head on the front. She moves a short way along the Cowgate followed by a bemused crowd, and in a handy loading bay wobbles round in circles on her horse-bicycle declaiming William Wallace’s rousing speech to the rebel army, as delivered by Mel Gibson in that absurd film Braveheart. “Will ye fight?” she cries, to which the crowd obediently shout “No. We will run and we will live” and then moments later change their mind and cheer her. WIth rather more courtesy, as a rule, than when this intrepid she-Gibson did the same to a rowdily Unionist Rangers crowd outside Ibrox Park.
It is the culmination of an endearing hour in which performance artist Rachael Clerke attempts to define her identity as a “mongrel” now living in Bristol but proud of ancestry, childhood and Scottishness. And for all its flippancy and personal comic amusements, the hour probably says most of what is true about the dilemma which Alex Salmond and David Cameron have together wished on Scotland. Few, I suspect, will vote either way on coldly pragmatic economic lines. It is all tied up – as she points out – with tumbling cliffs, wide vistas, red haired heroes, football teams, songs, grudges, pessimists, victims, and inventors of the bicycle, the mackintosh, Dolly the Sheep and Tunnocks’ Teacakes. It’s visceral, emotional.
Clerke’s story – chosen by IdeasTap to showcase here – is a teasing personal take on it all, delivered with shyly cheeky likeable anecdote. Requiring National heroes, she tries out three. The first, with black irony, is Donald Trump – American, plutocratic and absurd, son of a Gaelic-speaking mother and governmentally named a “global Scot” for his planned investment on the East Coast. Which was to be a vast golf course, ruining the old sand-dunes of Clerke’s childhood where her family scattered a grandfather’s ashes. Enraged, she stole and framed a lump of turf.
She then, before our eyes, dresses up as Trump in a crazy wig and golf outfit, and shows a video of herself impersonating him. But he won’t do: so next a cushion is shoved up the shirt and pads into the cheeks to make her Alex Salmond, in which persona she roams around the Parliament, gives imaginary answers on Desert Island Discs and enacts a wild dance to The Proclaimers “Five Hundred Miles”.
Then she turns herself into Mel Gibson, in that film where as she points out “the clothes are a hundred years too late and the face paint a hundred years early”. If there is a conclusion, it is that between that imaginary past and Salmond’s imaginary future there is little to choose. “Identity is only an idea, and deeply personal”. And as an artist she likes creative vagueness. So there you are. Either this sort of bafflement in thousands of hearts has nothing to do with the vote September 18th, or else it will be the most important factor in it. Who knows?,
http://www.edfringe.com to 24 August
rating: three McMice