Jock Tamson's Bairns
- Gareth K Vile
- 27 February 2019
Cabaret for the contemporary age
Both celebrating the advances in human rights during the twentieth-first century and remembering the oppressions of recent history, Jock Tamson's Bairns straddles the divide between cabaret and theatre, with the cast wandering through a series of reflective stories, anecdotes and show-stopping musical numbers. There is a melancholy at the heart of the show – one story describes a brutal murder and the absence of justice – but also a determined defiance that insists on recognising advances in the rights of LGBTQI+ citizens without lapsing into complacency.
With Cat Loud and Chris Gorman – both successful artists with their own solo shows – as part of the ensemble, and a swinging selection of 1980s and 1990s pop classics, the musical numbers define the show's mood and drive its message of reflective activism: while many of the stories are hard-hitting and bleak, the company draws on the dynamism of club culture to articulate an often raw and emotive resistance to the established power that upheld systemic homophobia for so long and so tightly. Swinging between the personal and political, the show's atmosphere recalls the sharp agit-prop theatre of the 1980s, and well as contemporary cabaret revival, even while referencing the particular problems of social media modernity.
The mood is uneven – the shifts between celebration and confronting hard truths are sometimes abrupt, with a party atmosphere battling the melancholia – and while the storytelling and singing is consistently powerful, the ensemble are sometimes at a loss, pacing around the room to little impact. Audience interaction, although a welcome attempt to break down the usual barriers, can feel forced or flat. Yet the intention is brave: a serious look at where Scottish culture has been and an optimistic declaration for the continued support of the right to human self-determination.
Seen at CCA Glasgow.