The Yes/No Plays

Sep 18 2014 | By More

✭✭✭✩✩     Twitter gold

Traverse Theatre Thurs 18 Sept 2014

Sparkling with internal wit, David Greig’s translation of his Twitter Plays to the stage is a piece of event drama which marks Referendum Day with style, although with not quite the even hand some might think.

Twitter Profile picture for The Yes/No Plays

Twitter Profile picture for The Yes/No Plays

Yes or no, the referendum process has been fascinating to watch, not least on social media where people have become politicised in the most public of ways.

And Greig’s Twitter plays at @YesNoPlays have been part of that fascination. He has marked some of the twists and turns of the process with his little vignettes of Yes and No, a couple who live together but who support the different sides in the referendum debate.

What started as a bit of a challenge, provoked in the first instance by the Village Pub Theatre’s own Twitter play concept, has grown into a fully fledged narrative in itself.

In a reflection of how the two campaigns have worked on the ground, Yes has developed a vibrant life as an activist, while the grumpy, stay-at-home No has grown to accept the not-always helpful interventions of London-based politicians.

There have been moments of poignant reflection over the porridge spurtle and the horrified realisation that the new neighbours are not just Don’t Knows, but are also Don’t Cares.

All of which, on referendum day itself, Greig transferred from Twitter-feed into an hour-long piece of live theatre. Read by a cast of five, script in hand, with Rachel Newton providing a quiet – and often surprisingly ironic – backing on a traditional harp.

Frances Thorburn made a twinkle-eyed Yes, all enthusiasm and naive sincerity. Richard Clements, fresh from playing the civil servant in Spoiling, a dour No, opening the window and crying out DOOM to the winds.

With Callum Cuthbertson providing a deal of the narrative descriptions alongside Louise Ludgate, and Keith Macpherson popping up as Alistair Darling and Rory the Tory, the tweets came, much as they did over the twitter feed, bunched into collected bursts. Three or four tweets at a time, building up a larger picture.

Jackie Bird was a show-stopper

Entertaining it was, particularly when Ludgate had a character to get into. Her impression of Jackie Bird at the Hogmanay bells, was a show-stopper. While her enthusiastically seductive Radical Sindy, who seduces No when the pair pick up the wrong Burns Supper tickets, was a real treat.

Yet, for all that the characters grew and had a certain depth, it wasn’t a whole play in itself. A bit like reading the Broons annual at Christmas, if you had read the strips every Sunday they cause individual laughs, but all bundled into one, they are a bit too samey – rather than building up an ever-growing head of laughter.

That said, as a follower of the original Twitter feed, there was a real delight and buzz when familiar plot lines emerged. The Burns night story – with Yes following Rory the Tory into the woods and No losing his Chris Hoy thong in the Yes Yurt, was a real high point.

Then there is the issue of balance. Greig, who makes no bones of his allegiance to Yes, has chosen his own political targets. And while the comments are accurate, you do feel that the final mix could have contained more disparaging caricatures of the Yes side.

That, however, is really to miss the point. This was an event, no more, no less. A one-off production, seen only by the people in the room, to mark a one-off event in the history of the country.

Running time 1 hour 10 mins
Thursday 18 Sept 2014: 1pm, 9.30pm. Run ended
Traverse Theatre, 10 Cambridge Street, EH1 2ED

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