First Snow / Première Neige
- Eddie Harrison
- 9 August 2018
Scottish/Canadian co-production about the personal and political
'Grasping the thistle' is the phrase often used to describe addressing the question of Scottish nationalism. It's something that both Creative Scotland and the National Theatre of Scotland have recently been unsurprisingly coy about doing, keen to avoid expressing any political point of view that might lead to questions about their function. It's something of a refreshing surprise, therefore, to find director Patrice Dubois kicking off First Snow, a co-production between NTS, Theatre PAP and Hotel-Motel with direct ruminations of the Scottish referendum of 2014.
That political event is reflected through the eyes of Isabelle (Isabelle Vincent), a woman who came to Scotland, had a child, then returned to her Quebec homeland. She invites her family back to a gathering, with her daughter returning with her new boyfriend (Thierry Mabonga) who hails from the Congo, setting a long fuse on a familial argument that reveals inherent prejudices.
Harry Standjofski plays Uncle Harry, Isabelle's brother, who is broadly drawn as pro-Brexit, pro-Trump and pro-change, while François Bernier plays a Quebecois who views politics from a caustic, ethno-centric point of view. There's much discussion of the dish that Isabelle hopes to serve, a roast-beef spaghetti, a smorgasbord which provides an unwitting metaphor for this bilingual play's failure to merge the viewpoints of three different playwrights.
'If you don't speak French, fuck off!,' says Bernier to the audience at the start, and a streak of alienation runs throughout, with those on-stage directed to constantly deflate the drama, asking if questions relate to them as characters or actors, and deliberately robbing the drama of any tension.
Although fluently played by the cast, the Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? framework is hackneyed to the point of offensive, and the failure to say anything politically other than the blandest 'why can't we all just get along?' hand-wringing marks First Snow as another missed opportunity to grasp the thistle and say something, or indeed anything at all about Scottish or Quebecois politics.
CanadaHub @ King's Hall, until 26 Aug (not 13, 20), 6.10pm, £13--£15.