As was always to be expected, the buzzword of this year’s Fringe is
independence. Forming part of the conversation is John McCann’s
The play feels slightly like a one-note sketch throughout, although one that is laced with excellent satire
While Spoiling does begin to present the audience with a new perspective on some of the burgeoning specifics of independence, it doesn’t offer a substantial response to the larger issue of independence itself. Fiona (Gabriel Quigley), designated Foreign Minister for Scotland refuses to say the words she has been given to speak at the first foreign policy event with the rest of the UK, post-devolution: they don’t represent a wholly independent Scotland, rather one that is still linked with the rest of Britain. Henderson (Richard Clements) is a new aide from Belfast to ensure, on behalf of the Orwellian “Party,” that she toes the party line. She’s also pregnant with – dare she admit it – an Englishman’s child, reminding the audience of the more subtle complexities associated with the possibilities of independence.
The play is enjoyable, commenting on what it will mean to be Scottish should the vote go Alex Salmond’s way come September. There are several lovely visual gags about Scottishness: a Tunnock’s Tea Cake makes a timely appearance as does a Saltire emblazoned mug. The problem is that the play feels slightly like a one-note sketch throughout, although one that is laced with excellent satire. It is clearly a timely response to the questions being asked of a potential future Scotland – McCann even manages to shoehorn in a slightly tenuous reference to Hillary Clinton – but this timeliness can’t disguise the singular nature of the piece.
However, the direction and acting is generally strong. The opening is excellently realised – congratulations to Quigley for holding the opening pose for as long as she did – and both Quigley and Clements bridge the gap between the naturalistic observation of the internal workings of a politician’s office and the lyricism of the end of the play, in which it becomes a rhyming comment on the malleability of a politician’s rhetoric. With a second act, and more character development, Spoiling might have become an important piece of political theatre. As it stands the play is an entertaining glimpse of some of the ideas associated with independence, but doesn’t offer any fundamental comment on a post-independence Scotland.