The affected youth will most likely be a topic forever sealed to our newspaper headlines. Today, jobs are scarce, degree fees are astronomical and apprenticeships have been swallowed up by “CV internships”. Both Gary Gardiner’s Thatcher’s Children and Kieran Hurley’s Beats reflect on an adolescent culture tamed by political consequence and policing in this Platform 18 double bill.
Gardiner’s part multimedia, part physical performance begins at the end. Thatcher’s death, that is. With some overlapping audiovisuals, and TV screens scattered around the theatre space, the performers enlighten us about neoliberalism, that old Thatcherite economic ideology which taught us we could succeed, we are winners – even if that meant sacrificing every single form of stability known to us. Meanwhile, Hurley’s techno-rave, in which the writer himself performs an almost wistful monologue about clubbing on Ecstasy in the 90s, is a pulsating, thunderous glimpse into binging nightlife.
In many ways, these performances reflect a welcome, refreshed push forward into politics for the Traverse, picking up from Tim Price’s Occupy play, Demos. They offer a much needed conversation in the arts, Gardiner’s on the type of welfare restriction which has gradually crippled true profit and Hurley’s on how a 90s economic bubble shared a similar euphoria to taking Ecstasy and MDMA. Coincidentally, both shows fill holes in the other. Gardiner’s is politically astute and his writing shows nous as he rumbles through the life of and reaction to old Maggie yet lacks a real performance depth as it’s veiled behind projectors, music and rapid scene changes. Hurley’s however is a mighty force which pulls you into the strobe world of raving, the performance itself mirroring the description of taking E, but stays on the peripheries of true political insight.
That said, it’s Hurley’s effort which stands out, the throbbing “beats” provided by DJ Johnny Whoop morphing the theatre into a roaring nightclub. It’s this metaphor which rings true: the kind of euphoric sensation enjoyed by many during the apparent prosperity of the 90s crashed as hard as an eccy come down the following day. It captures that feeling of: what the fuck happened?
Without doubt, these are shows which deserve praise. The artistic community looks to the Traverse to spotlight that new writing and it signals a fundamental direction which the theatre must stick to if we are to truly engage with tackling economic theory. Scotland looks ahead to all kinds of social and cultural uncertainties: independence, education, funding in the arts, even the Olympics, and while both of these shows slightly miss the mark, they provide the platform for so much more.
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