Review: The Laird’s Big Breaxit

Netherbow Actors Co
Scottish Storytelling Centre – until August 27th
4 Stars (4 / 5)

The rt hon toff Gussie McCraig gives a private address at the Caledonian Stags, a secret club for “sTories” – Scottish tories, if you will. He reveals his secret plants to do away with Holyrood and bring Scotland back under its rightful rulers in London. He wants to emancipate fox hunters, give government handouts from the public purse to landowning farmers, double the size of the military, and cut virtually everything else. Show those welfare parasites to their uniforms.

In this satirical tale, the premiere of a new script by Donald Smith, actor Christopher Craig shows his breadth and natural flair for creating a believable villain. The script being a little overblown in places, suitably so for the medium, there is nothing in Craig’s performance that makes you think he’s about to cartoonishly twiddle a mustache. He becomes Gussie McCraig.

While the script is largely comical, there are some welcome variations in tone. The shady Illuminati elitist even sheds a tear over the loss of his daughter as he becomes progressively more drunk, and for a few tender moments the audience feels deeply sympathetic towards him.

While The Laird’s Big Breaxit is a success as far as it goes, there is something irritating about this form of political theatre and its prevalence. It’s not that it only aims at pleasing the choir, that is unavoidable in political theatre, at least to an extent. It’s the wider fact at stake, which is that the left doesn’t argue any more. They just laugh. They don’t engage in debate. They don’t demonstrate their vision a la Bertolt Brecht. They just mock. For the most part, they don’t really know what their opponents believe in, less why they believe in it – and they’re rarely willing to take the time to question or find out either. They resort to to overblown caricatures of who they would like to think their enemies are. They laugh their position back into the norm. A more compelling challenge would be a piece inquiring into the psyche of the anti-Brexiteer faithful. Explore his stated justifications and expose his fears regarding his country and the supposed death of his culture. Granted, it would require a little more research. It would also be harder to draw such a belly laugh from the audience. But at least it could never be accused of picking at low-hanging fruit.

Donald Smith is a highly competent and contemplative writer. I call him to the challenge.