Theatre

My Country; A Work in Progress

Citizens Theatre, Glasgow

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Neil Cooper

four stars

IT IS half an hour before a suited and booted Britannia turns the power on during the National Theatre of Great Britain's meditation on the life and times of the UK in a post-Brexit world. Down the street from the Citizens Theatre, opposite the Mosque, a chap with a pukka English accent has been explaining to a young Asian man how the pelican crossing works. Both seem amused by such a seemingly alien means of controlling traffic flow.

As Article 50 is finally activated, such an incident seems to offer hope beyond the confusion expressed in the patchwork of voices in the NTGB's play, woven together by poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy and director Rufus Norris from 300 hours of interviews with voters from Britain's nations and regions. As Britannia pulls together six other similarly sober-looking ciphers to give them voice, the population's everyday fears are punctuated by the platitudes and promises drawn from the real-life politicians who led us into the current mess, but who have yet to lead us anywhere meaningful.

This makes for eighty minutes of opinionated crosstalk which, as national and local stereotypes edge into view as they might on a building site peopled with migrant workers from all over the country, at times resembles a pub lock-in on a reality TV show. Arriving so soon after major events in Holyrood and Westminster over the last week, beyond all the fear, frustration and hand-me-down prejudices that are brought to life with dignity and humour, the seven-strong cast embody an oddly moving poetic polyphony that isn't a howl of rage. It is a quiet plea to be heard.