The Onion of Bigotry – A History of Hatred

Aug 9 2014 | By More

✭✭✩✩✩    Not many layers

Just at St John’s (Venue 127) Fri 1 – Mon 25 Aug 2014

Too keen to avoid offence, Black Dingo Productions’ The Onion of Bigotry ends up having little impact.

The Onion Of Bigotry. Photo Sandrine Cazalet

Jordanna, Bob and the Kielty Brothers. Photo Sandrine Cazalet

Despite being billed as a play by the Kielty Brothers, this has more of the feel of a revue. Hundreds of years of Scottish history are told in songs and jokes. The atmosphere is peculiarly evangelistic at times for a show dealing with sectarianism, and at least the music is largely performed with drive and zeal.

John and Gerry Kielty have real musical and vocal talent and considerable presence. However, the songs are not particularly memorable and the comedy is undistinguished. A joke about Luther’s ‘theses’ being ‘faeces’ is hammered home beyond any humour it may contain.

The old device of making one of the performers a stooge – Stanley Pattison’s Bob – who is the object of the others’ disdain, is not performed with any real conviction. At times the small size of the audience in the cavernous St John’s Church seems to affect the confidence levels.  The fourth performer, Jordanna O’Neill, is not really given enough to do to make much of an impression. It is noticeable that off-the-cuff moments of improvisation or when things go wrong seem to provide the biggest spark.

Considering the title of the show, there is very little about sectarianism, and the parts dealing with the causes of religious bigotry and possible solutions are a little facile. Attempts to be informative in a style reminiscent of Horrible Histories fall flat. There is an entertaining section about the fates of the various King Jameses, but it seems to have little to do with bigotry.

Similarly, a section on Sir Walter Scott’s role in the popularisation and invention of what came to be regarded as ‘Scottish culture’ shows promise, but is let down by the extraordinary contention that the Scottish Enlightenment was caused by George IV’s 1822 Edinburgh visit.

Perhaps to avoid controversy, there is nothing on the last hundred years and nothing about the modern face of sectarianism, its causes and problems. This points to the main problem here – it is all a bit mealy-mouthed. The performers and the music are perfectly nice, but have no real impact. It is all very well-meaning, but achieves little. What is needed is a bit of grit, rather than pretending that an audience singalong of ‘get over it’ will change anyone’s mind.

Running time 55 minutes
Just at St John’s (Venue 127) , St John’s Church, Princes St, EH2 4BJ
Fri 1 – Mon 25 August 2014 (not Suns or Tues 14)
Daily at 16.00.
Tickets from:


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