Tam Dean Burn on Dear Europe: 'There's a desire for artistic expressions that help counter the sense of hopelessness'
- Gareth K Vile
- 25 March 2019
NTS's special event presents brand new performances that respond to this significant time in Europe's history
In contrast to the British government, the National Theatre of Scotland has organised a Brexit event for 29 March: Dear Europe, a series of dramatic reflections on Europe arrives at SWG3 to mark what might have been the final day of the UK's membership of the EU. With familiar Scottish artists, including Tam Dean Burn, Nic Green and Alan McKendrick, offering their thoughts, Dear Europe captures a moment in history from a wide variety of perspectives.
Tam Dean Burn's work, Aquaculture Flagshipwreck, draws together the visions of romantic poet and agitator William Blake with the complexities of fisheries policies. Burn, a committed and passionate artist who has previously addressed matters as diverse as the political cartoonist Harry Horse and the children's author Julia Donaldson, has a reputation for a ferocious style and presence, never afraid to explore his beliefs in challenging productions that are emotive and cerebral.
'From speaking to people about Dear Europe,' he explains, 'there is a desire for artistic expressions that help counter the sense of helplessness and hopelessness. My contribution intends to be hard-hitting in a fun way, involving the audience in a way only theatre can.' Burn is certainly sensitive to the potential of theatre's immediacy: in a series of works staged at The Arches, once the home of experimental performance, he ranged across political and personal polemics. Aquaculture promises a similar dynamism and Burn never minces his words.
'You could say that Brexit is proof that referenda are potentially ridiculous ways to conduct politics: asking for binary answers to very complex questions. Brexit has been a farcical soap opera so far and none of the options offer hope for the societal change needed to deal with the huge problems we face,' he continues. Yet for all the outrage, he refuses to give up hope.'I am still optimistic that radical change from below across Europe can happen.'
If Aquaculture recalls the radical interventions of the explicitly political theatre of the 1980s – an updated agit-prop that demands change and speaks directly to power, other pieces in Dear Europe present a more angular approach. Alan McKendrick's Cadaver Police In Quest Of Aquatraz Exit continues the writer's collaboration with Glasgow's 'avant-psych' Smack Wizards, detailing the adventures of a fictional band as they try to become the first export of the now blockaded country.