Help! I Think I’m a Nationalist

Aug 12 2023 | By More

★★★★☆      Nuanced

Lyceum Theatre Studio (Venue 593): Tues 8 – Sun 27 Aug 2023
Review by Hugh Simpson

Help! I Think I’m a Nationalist at the Lyceum is a deceptively clever, well-crafted and intriguing piece of comic theatre. If you are wary of it because the title might have different ramifications in Scotland from Cornwall (where it originated), or because you are sick of the whole subject – rest assured it is well worth a look.

Co-produced by writer-performer Seamas Carey and imPOSSIBLE Producing, it starts off much like many of those funny-serious pieces of stand-up crossed with information that were all the rage a while back – what you might call the school of Dave Gorman.

Seamas Carey in Help! I think I’m a nationalist. Pic Steve Tanner

It is not giving too much away, however, to say that things take a different turn. Cornwall is presented on television as a land of clotted cream, idyllic scenery, grumpy but well-meaning doctors with eccentric patients, and high-end seafood. Yet there is also deprivation, and locals priced out even of renting by second- and third-home owners. Many of the inhabitants are understandably keen on asserting themselves as specifically Cornish, and regard Cornwall as a nation in its own right.

The trouble with nationalism, though, is that it is a slippery beast. Wherever you are from, you may say your brand of nationalism is special, solely based upon valuing your culture rather than the ‘othering’ of outsiders. The drawback is that everyone else says the same, including some world leaders of the present and recent past it is preferable not to name.

There is a continuum from simple pride all the way out to intolerance, and it is not always easy to know when you are on that scale. It is healthy to value diverse cultures, but sometimes if you are too invested in (and too defensive about) your own, you just might end up excluding the people who don’t feel they are sufficiently ‘born into it’.

intelligent, nuanced performance

Carey’s stage persona is ideal for what is an intelligent, nuanced performance; he is personable and strong on connecting to the audience, meaning that we go with him into some places we might otherwise balk at. There is some audience participation that, while low-key, may have more significance than we realise at the time.

Similarly, the skill and significance of Agnieszka Blonska’s direction creeps up on us unawares. Rebecca McDonald’s design and Imogen Senter’s lighting are similarly unobtrusive and highly effective.

The show is notably well staged, filling the time and space better than many one-person shows, and coming across as a fully realised piece of theatre. Born out of a deep love and an equally deep unease, this will make its audiences think hard. And those who won’t at least examine their position are probably the ones who really should.

Running time: One hour and 15 minutes (no interval)
Lyceum Theatre Studio, Grindlay St, EH3 9AX (Venue 593)
Tuesday 8 – Sunday 27 August 2023
Daily (not Mons) at 2.30 pm
Tickets and details Book here.


Lyceum website:

Artist website:

Instagram: @seamascarey

Seamas Carey in Help! I think I’m a nationalist. Pic: Steve Tanner


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  1. Alexandra Pickford says:

    A great review and typical of Agnieska Blonska’s entertaining and thought provoking work.
    Alex xx