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"Originally planned to coincide with the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, the National Theatre of Scotland’s night of cabaret and comedy was performed under a sombre cloud.
Imagine organising a wake only to find the corpse is not quite cold. Planned to finish at the hour the United Kingdom was due to leave the EU, Dear Europe is a theatrical cabaret about Scotland’s continental connections. Despite the nightclub air of SWG3, the mood of the National Theatre of Scotland production is one of resignation, if not quite defeat.
The half-dozen acts begin in pantomimic mode with a piratical Tam Dean Burn considering the fate of Scottish waters. In Aquaculture Flagshipwreck, he gives extravagant renditions of poems by Matt McGinn and Tom Leonard while encouraging us to throw scrunched-up pages from the Financial Times at an inflatable salmon and slipping in barbed remarks about a Scottish fish industry substantially owned by Norway.
The punning of host Gary McNair notwithstanding, Dean Burn is as frivolous as the evening gets. Even the comic turns of Alan McKendrick’s Cadaver Police in Quest of Aquatraz Exit seem more bitter than funny as he imagines a prison-like UK whose last remaining export is pop music.
Elsewhere, it’s all meditations on our interconnectedness. Performance-maker Nic Green and Cork choreographer Ruairí Ó Donnabháin find a metaphor for international support by balancing two dancers on chairs that have been sawn down the middle; the more they wobble, the more they need each other to stay upright.
Moving Through the Shadows, a three-screen documentary by Nima Séne and Daniel Hughes from a concept by Adura Onashile, explores links between Poland, Nigeria and Scotland before segueing into Ifi Ude’s powerful live rendition of Warszawo Ma. We put on headphones for Leonie Rae Gasson’s Death Becomes Us, noting the parallels between controlling borders and controlling sexual relationships, then take them off again to appreciate the force of a community chorus of European migrants asserting their presence among us.
It remains for Angus Farquhar to end the night with an angry monologue about his military family fighting for peace, and his artistic career repeatedly focused on Europe. Like the times, the mood of the evening is too sombre for satire yet too unresolved for mourning, so consider this less a review than a four-star indicative vote." - Mark Fishers, The Guardian.