Blabbermouth 1

Sep 17 2014 | By More

✭✭✭✭✩   Timely love

Assembly Hall Wed 17 September 2014

Today, Scotland held its breath. Ready to put pencil to paper and make a mark which, no matter the result, will change the political makeup of the islands we live on.

Some of the Blabbermouth participants. Photo: Mark Hamilton

Some of the Blabbermouth participants. Photo: Mark Hamilton

And today, the National Theatre of Scotland took time to look back at some of the words which have brought us to this place. Words written by Scots which, whether they are widely known or not, express something of the disparate filaments which make up this nation’s psyche.

This event would be, said Neil Murray, executive producer for the NTS, by way of introduction, “A day of reflection before the Sturm und Drang of the next few days.”

“The readiness is all,” added event creator and curator Graham McLaren, ironically (given the rules for inclusion) quoting Hamlet. Although it was the love in the room he remembered from childhood family gatherings when everyone said their piece that he wanted to replicate.

And by the time Blabbermouth’s first 28 performances had passed, in the first of four two-and-a-half-hour session, the love was certainly there in the room. And it was as Morvern Christie had predicted, as she introduced herself as one of the house performers who would be on stage for all the sessions, when she said her mouth would be blabbering, but her eyes would be greetin’.

If there were themes here, then it was the theme of working people standing together that burled through the first session. Maybe it had to be, with the Makar opening the day by reading (singularly different from singing it, she promised, and it was) Burns’ A Man’s A Man.

The wry, the misty-eyed and the resonant

Of course there was time for the wry, with Alan Spence reading some of his Glasgow Zen, the misty-eyed with Aonghas Macneacail speaking Sorley Maclean’s Hallaig in both Scots and Gaelic, and the resonant with Annieka Rose letting Jackie Kay’s Old Tongue, a lament for lost words, ripple off her tongue.

Not to mention broad humour as Hardeep sing Kohli recited The Puddock by John M Caie and Alex Norton, the MC and Chief Whip for the day, rounded things off with Big effen Bee by Matt McGinn.

But the meat of it was about people standing together and standing up against oppression. So, the friendship between David Balfour and Alan Breck in Kidnapped, which Joyce MacMillan brought forward as a force for understanding, could stand side-by-side with or Gerda Stevenson quoting from the works of Fanny Wright, the first woman to publicly speak out against slavery.

There was John Maclean’s famous Speech from the Dock, delivered when he was tried for sedition after standing up against the first world War – and Arthur Johnstone singing the John Maclean March. And there were newspaper reports from the Glasgow Herald of the Glasgow rent strikes of 1916.

And here, too, was modern history, spoken by those who were there. Jimmie Macgregor remembering the great steam engines leaving the works at Springburn and following one down to the Clyde. One-time Upper Clyde Shipbuilders shop stewards Tom Brotherstone and Jimmy Cloughley saying extracts from the speeches of Jimmy Reid and Jimmy Airlie, from the work-in of 1971.

Whether this could ever be quite as referendum-neutral as Graham McLaren has said he wanted it to be, it was certainly not about presenting one side or the other.

Blabbermouth is continuing even as I write this – my two children for whom I will really be voting in the morning – asleep next door. And if Blabbermouth has done anything, it has put their future in the context of the legacies from our shared past.

Running Time 2 hours 30 mins.
Weds 17  Sept 2014: 12.00, 3pm, 6.30pm, 9.30pm.
The Assembly Hall on the Mound, Mound Place, EH1 2LX


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