SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE GETS A DASH OF ROCK ‘N’ ROLL…

What do you get when an Englishman, an Irishman, a Welshman and a Scot walk into a recording studio?

A compelling and intricate tale of our ever-changing political landscape, that’s what!

Perhaps not the typical answer to the question, but Tim Price’s latest production is anything but typical in its approach.  Set in the simple set of a recording studio, I’m with the band was performed entirely by four characters; an Englishman, a Northern Irishman, a Welshman and a Scotsman as they battle with the financial crisis of their band, The Union (very fittingly named!).

James-Hillier-in-Im-With-the-Band-2.-Image-by-Jeremy-Abrahams-478x359

Image by Jeremy Abrahams.

Of course, the characters all adhere to the stereotypical, highly “un-PC”, portrayals of their nation’s personalities.  You’ve got the Englishman, played by James Hillier, as domineering head of the band, reluctant to take advice and convinced he’s always right.  Then you’ve got the ditzy Welshman, played by Matthew Bulgo, as a harmless chap with little to no self esteem.  Then of course the recovering drunk and bulshy Irishman (note point, the recovering drunk, bulshy, VERY handsome Irishman) played by Declan Rodgers.  And finally, you’ve got the smart Scot, played by Andy Clark, determined to gain his independence from the rest of the band.  Ringing any bells with our current political climate?

Declan-Rodgers-in-Im-With-the-Band.-Image-by-Jeremy-Abrahams-478x359

Image by Jeremy Abrahams.

Although going down the cliche route may seem like an obvious choice, it does provide a hilarious script.  Adding to that, the cast played each character superbly, and portrayed their character in a clever and interesting way.  My only issue with cliches, is despite them obviously being used for comical purposes, they do tend to frustrate me.  The Englishman and Irishman’s utter refusal to accept the Scotsman’s departure from the band – or let’s say, from the other nations – compared to the Welshman’s indifference was slightly uncomfortable viewing.  Perhaps just a personal point living in Wales, but the constant portrayal of the Welsh nation being “dopey” and not as important a component to political decisions is getting a bit tiresome.  I understand these things are done for dramatic purposes, but it is slightly disheartening that these stereotypes are still prevalent.

Matthew-Bulgo-and-Andy-Clark-in-Im-With-the-Band.-Image-by-Jeremy-Abrahams-478x359

Image by Jeremy Abrahams.

Saying that, Price did not rely solely on these stereotypes to provide a winning story.  Told not only through spoken script but also live music, the show was energetic, fast-paced and incredibly witty.  Each scene was introduced as a title of one of the band’s tracks, projected on a screen behind the stage.  I thought this was a really quirky approach, and something I appreciated a lot!  All four characters had equal “stage time”, and were all equally talented.  Clark played a strong character, battling with his journey to independence – a difficult road for the Scotsman.  Price exposed it as a problematic path, with many bumps along the way; really, it only scratched the surface Scottish independence, but for the purpose of this play, I believe it did the job.

James-Hillier-and-Matthew-Bulgo-in-Im-With-the-Band.-Image-by-Jeremy-Abrahams-478x359

Image by Jeremy Abrahams.

Price’s aim for the production was not to say whether Scottish independence is a good or bad idea: it was to highlight the emotional, physical and psychological impacts on the other nations.  And this he does exceptionally.  That is why it was not necessary for him to delve into the history and facts of the movement.  What Price delivered was an inventive and though-provoking piece of work that left you with a different opinion every time you thought of it.  Political undertones aside, it was also fantastically funny, and a play I would happily see again and again.

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