Browse reviews

Edinburgh Fringe 2014


Traverse Theatre Company

Genre: Drama

Venue: Traverse Theatre


Low Down

Scotland’s Foreign Minister will soon deliver a keynote speech outlining the newly-independent nation’s relationship with the former UK. But there’s a problem. She’s refusing to speak the words she’s been given. There’s something else she wants to say. At odds with her party, and pursued by a harassed party worker, she has a decision to make: toe the line or take back control. This timely piece moves effortlessly from fierce political satire to surreal, soaring poetry.


In the office of a sovereign Scotland’s newly appointed foreign minister, the tussles of power, control and secession are played out and the anger is palpable. If this play made one thing clear it is that Scottish independence would not be a smooth ride to self-governance. Obviously highly topical, Spoiling is one of the raft of plays at this year’s fringe that explore Scottish independence in all it’s dimensions.

The play begins as a battle between the minister and a party flunkie, delegated to contain this potentially dangerous woman as she prepares to meet and greet her English counterpart in front of the world’s cameras. Clearly knowing they have a live wire on their hands who may be unwilling to toe the party line of gracious cooperation, this young suit has been sent to check she won’t do anything silly. But boy is she angry, and she is gagging to do something radical, especially as she’s seen the leaked English speech, a raft of patronising twaddle that even begins to change the mind of the party delegate. 

A political duologue is not a particularly easy sell, but the importance of the upcoming referendum and the public interest in it had the theatre almost full. I found the naturalistic format of the first 90% of the show a little less than engaging, but this was enlivened by the almost poetic end of the piece, where from fragments of discarded paper she and her colleague created a piece of oratory that was powerful and impassioned in a very real way. 

An interesting dynamic was created between the Scottish minister and the young man, as he was Northern Irish, and a great many interesting and pertinent parallels were drawn between Ulster and Scotland, ultimately allowing him to be persuaded to let her go out and give the impassioned and furious speech she wanted to. The performances were very good, the female minister played by Gabriel Quigley had enough humour to soften her edges and she gave the impression of being someone who’s fought hard to get where she had, whilst struggling to hold firm to her principles. 

Spoiling was an interesting play to watch as an English visitor to Scotland, who has gained only a general and probably quite biased sense of the arguments and politics as we move towards the referendum. However, what watching this play emphasised was the passionate strength of feeling around the issue of independence and the somewhat scary prospect of the result; where whichever way it goes it’s clear that the ripples of unrest will take a while to die down, if they ever do.