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FringeReview Scotland 2020

Whatever Happened to the Jaggy Nettles?

Citizen’s Theatre WAC ensemble

Genre: Drama, Fringe Theatre, New Writing, Theatre

Venue: Scottish Youth Theatre


Low Down

A resplendent set that looks part squat and part amnesiac jogger for the 70’s acts as the backdrop to PK’s radio interview for her latest single. Now all pink and electronica, the DJ won’t let her away without questioning her about the 1970’s punk band that brought her out of herself; the Jaggy Nettles. From here and the obligatory storming out of the radio studio, we are sent back to that time and that band. We meet Bonnie Ann, Baby, Kunti, Timpani and Lori who comprise the band whilst Jonny Silver appears to tell the tale of signing lead singer and chief stabber in the back, PK. She leaves the band at their Rock Against Racism gig in Paisley to search for fame and fortune; which she gets. We travel along the way as Bonnie Ann and Kunti plan to move to a squat, Timpani gets caught stealing from his maw and gets his ear pierced, Lori and Baby manage and support the band whilst Jonny Silver gets himself his biggest signing heid nip in PK. All told in a gloriously punk theatre style.


As an ensemble this works very well. There are a few occasions when you can feel a little of the strain that people are trying to hold their stuff together, but the ensemble nature of the piece means that there is always someone there to pull them through. As a group of care experienced young artists, they have learned their instruments from scratch, developed an innovative piece of theatre with a writer, taken subtle and mature direction and developed into a group able to allow each other the space on stage to support, shine and perform to an impressive level. There were some times, though, a few set pieces that were a little too cartoon and lacked some subtlety. Where the rehearsal room had been clearly used to great effect though there were some fantastic wee set pieces. I loved the heist, the ear piercing, the deid boady…

The direction is key here, and Guy Hollands has brought all of his guile and skill to bear. We get rounded characters flourishing with just the right amount of space onstage to develop gaps as well as characterisation. This works exceptionally well for most but particularly for Timpani who combines a subtle performance within the development of a rounded script and given the right amount of delicate touch from direction which meant that the cliché that could have been born was stopped before it caused any issue.

Martin Travers’ script is a real star. It is often the case that any “worthy” theatre can be badly served by a text that asks for more forgiveness than praise but here we get a very articulate run through an era filled with noise and given to us without apology. It bristles with opportunity, taken with both hands by a cast who have clearly spent time learning more than their lines.

The set was part squat, part memorabilia. It gave a particularly decent backdrop to the squalor of opportunity of the times. The performances by supporting cast, Martin Docherty and Helen McAlpine, were spot on for the time. We got the brutality of yer da and the judgementalism and painful disappointment of yer maw; trust me I remember the seventies well…

The music was on point. Punk never whispered and here we had it in glorious attitudinal anger. It has, however to be noted that with an ensemble that has such promise with Genna Allan, Rosie Graham, Shannon Lynch, Cameron McLeod, Kieran McKenzie, Allan Othieno and Chloe Wyper (Andrew Marley does some very decent cameos) that this ought NOT to be a one off. There is promise here that must be developed because  we did not get the biggest cliché of all which would have been “we are care kids doing a care play for care kids about care kids.” This was a drama based upon care artists and as a legacy that should stand tall. Who is going to support it? If I were you, I would get yourself a wee ticket for the next one afore the da comes round and the maw talks aboot ye. Ah the seventies, thank God they’re aw ahin us…