National Theatre of Scotland's Them!: 'Theatre that recognises the multiplicity of identities'
- Gareth K Vile
- 24 June 2019
Stewart Laing and Pamela Carter's new play remakes a paranoid 1950s sci-fi film for today's contemporary questions
For Them!, Stewart Laing draws together many of the team from his previous company Untitled Projects, music from Teen Canteen's Carla J Easton, an irreverent attitude towards predictable theatre structures and 150,000 leafcutter ants. Operating as a reinvention of the classic 1950s paranoid science-fiction film, Them! is a reflection on contemporary floating identities and a subversion of the TV chat show.
A Scottish theatre-maker arrives on-set to discuss his remake of the 'seminal creature-feature', but discovers (through a sudden shift to a nightclub at the end of the world) that issues of class, race and culture can never be ignored. 'About four years ago, writer Pamela Carter and I started to work on an idea about personality identity and the possibilities of change,' Laing says. 'I came across Them! in a list of JG Ballard's sci-fi movies. And I love that movie!'
The film operates as a foundation to contemplate 'change and remaking: the plot of the show is about how one could remake it,' he continues. And while this production follows Laing's familiar interests in science-fiction and meta-theatrical commentary, he's also interested in 'creating a complete world in the theatre: we are not trying to convince anybody that anything is part of something else. It's like a project with no back story!'
Although he states that the production is story-led, Them! promises Laing's distinctive combination of the fantastical and the naturalistic, presenting a theatre that recognises the multiplicity of identities, makes claims for the importance of inclusivity, and maintains a cerebral power without losing immediate and visceral thrills.
Tramway, Glasgow, Thu 27 Jun–Sat 6 Jul