FringeReview Scotland 2019
Hannah Lavery gives us a poetic and disturbing dance round a relationship with her father that begins with his death, whilst she was reciting at an event. From there we go on a long card of emotional exposition to do with the relationship she had with her dad and her culture. The way in which we have accepted people of different faiths into our communities but sought to undermine their allegiances, the way we have treated those who we enslaved after we celebrated being enlightened enough not do that again and how a modern Scot with a mixed race heritage can still be patronized by well meaning liberals are all exposed for us to dissect – although the dissection is already undertaken on our behalf, just in case we struggle.
Lavery is onstage as we enter sitting in a chair that would not be out of place by a cosy fireside. What she spoke of, spoke to me, as a theatrical gift. It provided me with a perspective in a way that the spoken word on a page might have faltered. The narrative for me, as a father of five daughters, confronted me was I saw myself in her father and at least one of my daughters in her. Not that we are, any of us, mixed race and my heritage is as obvious as my name is Scots, but the emotional narrative was so precise and brought to the fore with such complex understanding, that I felt spoken into. The text gave me the love and the disappointment wrapped in a little girl who wants her hero and a grown woman who balks at their loss.
With the multicultural storyline, I reflected on my tutoring a number of kids from diverse ethnic backgrounds and the stories of her upbringing in Scotland and the abuse chimed, disgracefully, with the reality of their Scotland today. We are a country that often welcomes people into houses but keeps them away from our hearts. As I was removed from the experience I could nod and agree but this was not my heritage, not my story but clearly it was partly my responsibility.
Solo shows depend much upon the solo performance and here Lavery is such a complex presence to behold. She takes you in, slaps you hard and tenderly drags your agreement in return. The text was filled with poetic devices and clearly the love she feels for her father was ever present but also the ability to make connections was incredibly well drawn in her grace, well directed glances and looks and the set which was clearly set up for a story with abundant twists.
The video segments throughout added some charm to the experience but the ending was where it gave us a final image making the visual, alongside the recorded Hibernian anthem Sunshine on Leith, an effective memory onto which we should hold our own reflections. The empty chair was, however, a tad cliched and some of the lighting changes for atmosphere were a bit unnecessary.
This was an uncomfortable truth being told by one who has experienced it. I felt challenged and engaged with a richly developed text that kept me in the moment. I have always felt we were less than we claimed; I now know I was right. I have always felt I should proactively challenge the casual prejudice; I now know it is not so casual. I have always loved the spoken word onstage; I now remember why.