Edinburgh Fringe 2019
We are part of a focus group and Joseph wants to thank us for coming. We are now part of the democratic process of working out the new citizenship test. Through several areas, including can we drink like a Scot and what about the language in the test, we are asked and have to vote on what is in and whit is oot of that test. By the end it is clear that the test itself has left us aw scunnered.
This is a great idea and one that manages to tread a difficult path without ending up being hijacked by the obvious temptation to be all tartan indignity or trapped in a shortbread tin whilst celebrating Irn Bru as a dietary necessity. The script is very clever. Gilday treads that path – not always managed so successfully by so many other writers with aplomb. The use of his own poetry and the very clever rap really lifts the piece. That is the bit of the whole experience that I truly loved. His phraseology and delivery captures my attention and then spreads it far and wide as his tongue bitten prose dances through and not round his topics. The fact is that he has a very strong sense of what he wants to say and I have an equally strong desire to hear it.
Gilday is a great presence onstage, as himself. What does not always work as well is taking on a persona. There is a hesitancy, a nervousness that makes trusting him as an audience a bit of a challenge. His vulnerability is like being unable to engage fully with the character he has brought with him and therefore we do tend to struggle alongside him. I think it is fair to say that I may not queue up to hear him read the phone book but if he had written it, I would have bought it.
The technical aspects of the show are heavily invested in. the cards for our votes impressive, the stage set equally so. The videos used to promote the ideals of Citizen Scotland are as illuminating as they turn sinister. His New York, New York parody for Glasgow has sharpness and pathos in equal measure shown when he stops singing and lets the images and the words onscreen carry the message. For this is no advert for the country but a critical friend offering some home truths. It is not a caustic attack but a subtle reminder that, whilst we may scoff at the antics of our neighbours and mutter that “that would never happen here”, we are never too far away from avoiding the truth that may smack us in the face if we’re no carefu.
I enjoyed that reminder of our own vulnerabilities. The story of his father – we are left unsure as to whether it is Gilday’s or McDaid’s – a particular tour de force as a narrative device that really drives the message deeply into our psyche. I left with a sense of a highly important issue having been properly examined. There were areas where I think it could have been better structured and I would love a Kevin P Gilday show to hear it. At least the next time we might not have the three people in the audience attempting to talk right through it – all three of them looked over 65 – see the elderly these days… nae respect…