This blog documents Oh My God - I'm Scottish too!!, an independent performance research project conducted by Rachael Clerke in the autumn of 2011 which aimed to examine and critique the nature of Scottish identity politics on both a personal and national level. This investigation resulted in the creation of three alter-egos as 'The Big Men of Scotland' (Alex Salmond, Donald Trump and William Wallace as portrayed by Mel Gibson in Braveheart), the publication 'Oh My God - I'm Scottish too!! (which can be viewed at the top of this blog) and a performance lecture entitled 'How to Achieve Redemption as a Scot through the Medium of Braveheart', which premiered at Glasgow Buzzcut festival on 17th March 2012.
The blog's quiet, and so am I - tucked away furiously writing and talking to myself (quietly, in the library) to get this presentation done. I'll post a full transcript of the talk up here once it's over for anyone who's interested. For now - here are some other places I would like to Braveheart.
1. Braveheart for Celtic fans 2. Braveheart at Stirling Bridge 3. Braveheart for tourists
Now I must get back to writing and talking to myself quietly.
So I'm now working on putting together my presentation for this project, which does not mean that it is the end by any means, but does mean that it is the end of my Contextual Enquiry Project, the module that this was for as part of my degree. There are 30 minutes, and although in many ways a traditional presentation, there is a considerable emphasis on the fact that this is a performance in its own right, incorporating engaging performative elements whilst getting the message across clearly and concisely. And if you think about it, 30 minutes is really concise for a project that has spanned ten weeks.
This is the running order that I'm working on at the moment. I am posting it up here for the simple reason that I quite like the way it reads.
WHAT I’VE HAD
SCOTLAND – PROJECT BACKGROUND
ABOUT SCOTLAND AND
MOVING TO GLASGOW –
THE START – BEING LOST
I WAS 14 AND THOUGHT
I WAS SCOTTISH
RESEARCH AND HALF
ARSED ATTEMPTS AT BEGINNING
BACK FROM LONDON AND
RUN AWAY TO ABERDEEN
MAKE A MOCK NEWS
SHOW THE DONALD TRUMP
TALK ABOUT SELF IN
ART (IT HAS TO BE ABOUT ME)
CINDY SHERMAN AND
THE BIG MEN OF SCOTLAND
BECOME DONALD TRUMP
SHOW THAT VIDEO IF
THAT IS SCOTLAND FOR
ME BUT WHAT ABOUT OTHERS
SO I WENT TO FIRST
MINISTERS QUESTION TIME
BECOME ALEX SALMOND
SHOW THE ALEX SALMOND
TALK ABOUT WHY THAT
WAS A BIT CRAP
DISCOVERIES THAT I
TALK ABOUT BRAVEHEART
A WEE BIT
WALLACE (AS PORTRAYED BY MEL GIBSON IN BRAVEHEART)
SHOW THE BRAVEHEART AT
THIS WORKS AND IS
IT HAS A FUTURE –
SHOW BRAVEHEART IN
GARDEN FILM AND OUTSIDE PERFORMANCE CENTRE
On Thursday 24th November I came through to Edinburgh to go
to 1st Ministers Question time at the Scottish Parliament. It’s not something I
would recommend, as it gives one that uneasy feeling in the stomach that
politics shouldn’t be like this. In a sentence, it’s a big, fat, snidey game
and operates much like playground teasing and bullying.
That aside, it is quite entertaining – very entertaining, if
you just enjoy the fact that these guys are putting on a bloody good show and
don’t think about the fact that this is how your country is being run.
I was keen to find something that identified Alex Salmond, a
way of typifying or caricaturing him. However, upon watching him in Parliament
it is undeniable that he is a very astute politician. This is something I
battle with. I dislike him because I dislike (however much of an open mind I
have tried to keep throughout this project) nationalism. I think it is
unimportant and blinds us to the things that are really important. Also, it
unnerves me that the main objective of the SNP government is independence. It’s
a bit like letting one of those single policy ‘Save Hartlepool Hospital’
parties run your country.
But the SNP have done good things. They have been a more
successful government that Labour, and than the Lab-Lib coalition. They have
gained popularity during their time in power, returning with a huge majority
just this year. Whilst you can argue – and I would – that their main policy has
failed, as there is now less support for independence, they have managed to
maintain free university education, free healthcare for the elderly, no
prescription charges and keep the EMA support for low-income 16-18 year olds.
It’s a stark contrast to England.
So how can I be him? What is funny? What is poignant?
I’m not sure I found it, performance wise. All I could
really find to draw on was Salmond’s annoying habit of answering every question
with the umbrella ‘for the benefit of the Scottish people’, that and his
absolute confidence in the fact that life will be better after independence.
Which isn’t particularly clever/complex/brilliant to be honest.
Fereuse and Frazer came to parliament with me and we
conducted a series of interviews, with the premise that they can ask any
question and I will answer with, “for the benefit of the Scottish people” or
“independence”. It was quite good fun, but windy and cold and we giggled a lot.
This is a lazy edit for a bit of a lazy performance, as I need to play with the
sound lots to get it all working with the questions in it etc. Sigh.
What I did enjoy, however, was becoming Alex Salmond
visually and I have some great photos of that (see post below). In caricature
it is all about finding the distinctive features and playing on them: in this
case Salmond’s distinctive jowly face and large eyebrows. That and the fact
that he is a wee fat man. It made me realise that actually, the physical
appearance of Salmond is probably the most ridiculous thing about him. It’s
something I’ve really enjoyed about this project, the Cindy Sherman-esque becoming
of someone else and have been surprised at how malleable my face is. My voice,
not so, but I can work on that.
So all in all, not my greatest piece of work during this
project for a number of reasons. Big Man of Scotland number three, I hope I do
you more (and less) justice next time. Feedback greatly appreciated. x
Saturday 3rd December, 2pm (for 3pm kick-off).
Ibrox Football Ground, Glasgow. Rangers vs Dunfermline. Sleet. Braveheart
speech: The Scottish Army – Rangers football fans, Mel Gibson/Braveheart –
Rachael Clerke, Filmed by John Rooney.
Performing at Ibrox was perhaps the most important thing I
have done during this project. It was also bloody scary, bloody cold and
probably a bad idea.
The original premise was to take the Braveheart speech to a
place – a football ground in this case – where groups of men congregate, who
could be William Wallace’s army. The speech was chosen due to it representing a
total stereotype of the Scottish people, and being our ‘export product’ ie. How
much of the world thinks of Scotland. The Braveheart speech was not chosen because of its links with the
current debate about independence. Which to me, now, seems crazy. What a ripe
example of the length of this battle! What a strong political view!
(Basically, I feel like a bit of a plonker for realising
this as a secondary thing, rather than it being the whole reason all along.)
Anyway, all well and good. Here are big groups of Scottish
men. Here I am, on my bike, with my facepaint.
However, Rangers may not have been the best team to pick,
had I wanted a nice apolitical rendition of the speech, in a modern setting,
with enthusiastic fans keen on supporting a young artist etc etc ad finitum.
Celtic, maybe. Hibs, definitely. Rangers… well. I did my thing. And:
“God Save the Queen”
To understand this really, if you don’t know Glasgow, it’s
good to do a bit of reading around sectarian violence and rivalry between
Celtic and Rangers FC. Brief as can be, whilst Celtic is traditionally a team
for Irish or Irish descendent Catholics, Rangers is a Protestant team. And they
hate each other, in a big scary way. Rangers supporters are (and I’m
generalising here) Unionists/Anti-independence. Monarchists.
There is a strong sense of us and them. Over the years its become very tied up in the Northern
Irish conflict, as one of the only places in the UK (the only?) with strong evidence of a modern day sectarian divide
out with Ireland.
Because I was shouting about Nationalism and Independence, I
was therefore in their eyes, the enemy. I was a Celtic supporter, I was
anti-monarchist, I was a Fenian, Irish and a catholic. Whilst William Wallace
was certainly Catholic, because everyone was at that time, and was
anti-monarchy in that he wished for Scotland to be free of British Royal rule,
he was not Irish, and certainly not a ‘Fenian’ – a phrase that only came about
in the late 19th Century. The point is, it doesn’t matter. He, and I
in that case, was ‘other’, was ‘them’. Wikipedia has this to say about the use
of the word:
The term Fenian is
used similarly in Scotland. During Scottish football matches it is often aimed in a sectarian manner at
supporters of the Celtic F.C..
Celtic has its roots in Glasgow's immigrant Catholic Irish population and the club has thus been associated with
Irish nationalism. Other Scottish clubs that have Irish roots, such as Hibernian
and Dundee United, do not have the term applied to them, however.
The term is now firmly rooted within the Old Firm
rivalry between Celtic and Rangers, as a rivalry between "orange
and green" has been replaced by one between "blue and
after cycling home.
I have never before been spat at.
I certainly didn’t expect people to be so angry. I can’t
imagine anyone giving the film Braveheart enough credence to be angry about it.
For one, it is incredibly historically inaccurate.
However, nastiness aside, people did join in – I got my army, and they cheered, if not in quite the
same bloodcurdling way as the extras in Mel Gibson’s movie. A man asked to get
his photo taken with me. Children watched on with curiosity.
They knew what I was doing, and whilst perhaps they didn’t
all agree, many could see the funny side of what I was doing. Everyone knows
the film, knows the speech. And really, it’s questionable whether or not I am
promoting independence and Scottish nationalism by making this speech, as there
is such a ridiculous element to the whole performance (I’m a girl, I’m on a
bike, it’s stupid) that I could just as well be doing the opposite.
This is exactly
the fine line between satire and controversy, stupidity and political
shit-stirring that I wanted to create with this whole project. It’s the only
time I have succeeded. It wasn’t a good performance, more of a rehearsal, and
the film is ropey with bad sound. I cut the speech short because I was too
scared to drag it out.
It’s the thing that tells me this project has only just
started. But I’ve got to find a way to end it, that is less clumsy than simply
removing myself from the context…
p.s. William Wallace wasn't a Jacobite, he was about 400 years too early for that. But it is a brilliant insult.
An episode that I never got round to writing about…
On Saturday the 19th of November, I attended the
Pavilion theatre in Glasgow to see The
Magic of Scotland. Here is the blurb from their website:
“We make no apology for any nostalgia contained in this
great show, now in its seventh year, The Magic of Scotland returns with a Brand
New Production to the Pavilion Theatre Glasgow from 17th - 19th November.”
I shall do my best to paint the scene for you. The pavilion
theatre is a grand old slightly battered looking red sandstone building right
in the centre of Glasgow, just off Sauchihall street. Going inside, one walks
up the gold banister’d sticky velvet staircase to the muffed sound of hits such
as ‘The Skye Boat Song’ and ‘Donald Whaur’s yer Troosers’. My allocated seat is
a good one, on the front row of the balcony, and I only have to upset three
people to get to it.
It is around this point that I realise I am the only person
in the audience under seventy who is not accompanied by a carer. ‘Great!’ I
think. ‘This is Scotland. These are the people that love Scotland, I’ve found
Actually, I don’t think this at this point, because I am
instead thinking that this show is going to be very, very bad. And very, very
long (if you use the logic that pensioners would not be willing to pay £12 for
a ticket unless they are going to get at
least two hours of entertainment out of it).
Am I being ageist? Probably. Snobby? Definitely. Am I wrong?
No, I am very, very right.
The three hour tirade began with accordionist John Carmichael
and his band, all in kilts, blasting out a few reels and jigs for the
too-old-for-a-ceilidh audience. This was followed by a lone piper, and the only
woman who performed the whole show, and we were then greeted by our host. The
formidable Alastair McDonald who must be somehow famous, to this audience at
least, in Tartan trews and lurid shirt he introduces ‘Clanadonia’, otherwise
known as ‘those hairy guys in kilts who busk on Buchannan street at the
weekend’. There’s probably not much point in mentioning the rest of the event,
as it all involved combinations of the above. Lots of tartan, accordion and
So aside from the fact that it was
all awful, why is it relevant? Well, because as far as I can work out here were
the generation who felt some sort of identity with this classic ‘couthy’
Scottish-ness. Whilst most Scots would testify that they love a good ceilidh, a
drinking and dancing type event, I think you won’t find so many who are keen on
singing along to the Barras song and I’m
a cat, I’m a cat, I’m a Glesga Cat on the same night. But sing along they did,
and it did remind me of this tradition that does
exist in Scotland, where we do all know these songs, and these dances. Even
I know all these songs, and I don’t know many songs.
So have I found it? The tender bit
of meat, the heart of it all? Probably not. But – aviable format for my presentation?? What do you think? I’m
willing to give it a shot.
It’s all going to kick off with
coloured lights, a kilt, a microphone and – of course – Dougie MacLean’s Caledonia. Curious? Its at 9am on
Thursday 5th January. Let me know if you want to come.*
*whoever ‘you’ are, oh mysterious
readership of the internet, I bow to youetc etc ad finitum blah blah blah
be pleased to know that I have now inhabited the life of Donald Trump;
on Donald Trump's golf course, wearing Donald Trump's red baseball cap
and Donald Trump's face.
It happened on Thursday the 1st of
December on The Great Dunes of ScotlandTM near Balmedie,
Aberdeenshire. Donald Trump was accompanied by his assistant,
Blair Bowman, who also interviewed him, and held the camera, and
drove, and was an all round good guy.
Feel like you missed out on this historic event™? Here's a photo.
Still feel like you missed out? The video of this historic eventTM
will be released in the next few days. Unfortunately my
film-editing-machine (computer) has decided to stop working, so
everything is a bit delyed. Also, unfortunately, some of the security staff on the Great Dunes of ScotlandTM
seem to be unable to spot Donald Trump despite being employed by him,
and asked Trump to remove himself from the site - how embarrassing!
Needless to say these staff are no longer in my employ.
Excerpt from Hotel Caledonia, scene 5 Peter Arnott, Alan Bissett, David Greig, Rona Munro, Morna Pearson & Alan Wilkins
Svetlana: But I thought Scotland hated England?
Manager: Aye they do, but that’s just a pastime. Scots save
their real venom for other Scots.
Manager: Right, well, the Huns hate the Tims and the Tims
hate the Huns. The Highlands hate Glasgow and Glasgow hates –
Svetlana: The Highlands?
Svetlana: Does Edinburgh hate Glasgow?
Manager: Naw, Edinburgh hates tourists. The Scots who stay
hate the Scots who leave. The Scots who leave hate the Scots who stay. Scottish
Scots hate the wans who sound English. Anglo Scots hate the wans who sound
Svetlana: This is more complicated than I thought.
Manager: Ye’ll get the hangay it. Let’s try a wee test. What
school did you go to?
Svetlana: Saint Peter’s.
Manager: So you were home-educated! How interesting.
Svetlana: No, I said –
Manager: What football team do you support?
Svetlana: Moscow Dynamo.
Manager: Ah, Partick Thistle! They’re doing well in the
league. What do you think of Scotland’s chances in the World Cup?