“I honestly thought it was great, and if the run was longer I would have recommended for everyone to go and see it. It was a perfect Fringe show; light-hearted and relatable.”
When it comes to politics, Glasgow University is perhaps better known for having students who are overly opinionated and love to protest rather than creating comedic plays. Ah Dinnae Ken, written and directed by Maddie Beautyman, is Student Theatre at Glasgow’s (STAG) new production for their 11th consecutive year at the Edinburgh Fringe. This year, they perform in TheSpace @ Niddry Street. It is a political comedy inspired by Romeo and Juliet, and it is distinctly Scottish. I knew it was a student production before I saw it, so I was a bit cynical about the chances of it being good, but it was remarkably fun to watch. I laughed loudly several times, and enjoyed the play by some of my co-students.
The story is set in the future; a new Scottish independence referendum has been announced and a family of Yes supporters have figured out how create the 6% swing needed: kill their No-voting neighbours. Both families are played by the same actors, with the two remaining cast members portraying presenters from the “completely unbiased” news channel The Independent Independent. The daughter of the Yes family and son of the No family feel like outcasts and find love in one another. The Yes family invade their neighbours’ household with murderous intentions at the climax. Some of the lines mirrored those of Shakespeare’s most famous tragedy, which was winkingly clever and gave the audience another thing that they could relate to.
The play is filled with funny moments, and the actors imitate the two families in a manner that made me laugh out loud. The father was especially amusing, when he was on the Yes side he was very much like an Alex Salmond wannabe. The whole family played off each other well, and it felt like they were enjoying the performance. One point which I found hilarious was when the son of the No family imitated his pro-independence counterpart (played by the same actor). The slight change in his voice drew a good reaction from the crowd, and everyone in the room was howling. The presenters managed to reflect the smug look and tone of Scottish news anchors that we see on TV.
I was impressed by the directing and overall layout of the play. The stage was a square in the middle of the room, with spectators at each side. In each of the four corners there was an offstage area. The way in which the actors came and went from different directions was interesting and this intertwined with the plot well (there was one specific moment that was amazing, but I don’t want to ruin it for you!) Beautyman deserves plaudits for how she planned everything out, and I am sure that there are lots of impressive directions that I missed as well.
The only part of the play that I didn’t like was a serious part between the two lovers in the middle. It was probably necessary for the storyline, but I found that the actors, and the writing, was better during the comedic parts. During the more light-hearted sections it seemed less like they were acting and more like real people. In this serious scene perhaps it was less easy for them to be natural. This is something that I have seen from actors of all levels, who act too much. It is important to have the confidence that a little can be enough. The direction here was cool, though, as the characters mirrored each other in a way that highlighted their nervousness.
This show was a real surprise of the Fringe for me, and everyone who was there seemed to love it. It is funny, with gags that every Scottish person can relate to, while not mocking one group too much. I honestly thought it was great, and if the run was longer I would have recommended for everyone to go and see it. It was a perfect Fringe show; light-hearted and relatable. Some of these University of Glasgow students may not be pursuing careers in performing arts, but maybe they will consider it after the overwhelmingly positive reception of this play.
The play won the New Works Festival in February 2018, and has received critical acclaim from commentators. As of today, the show has been a sell out run.