There’s No V In Gaelic

Citizen’s Theatre, Glasgow. Thu 25-Sat 27 Jan

New Work

People can be curiously disparaging about Gaelic as a cultural force for anything larger than localised music events, often with little personal experience on the topic beyond the odd maligned episode of Dotaman. The news that £1.3m worth of arts funding will be spent on an all-Gaelic opera commemorating St Kilda, which will go on to tour major European cities, was greeted with derisive howls from various cultural commentators at Christmas. What on earth is the point, they sneered, having obviously understood every word of the last Cosi Fan Tutte they caught, of sending an opera to countries where they don’t speak the language? Tosg, the only professional Gaelic theatre company in the country, predominately tour children’s productions based on myth and nature stories around Highland venues and the Gaelic-speaking primary schools in the central belt. Although there’s an undeniable audience base for the work, Gaelic theatre can often feel ghettoised, tucked away from bigger venues and contemporary city concerns, strengthening the perception that it is only of interest to a minority audience and has little to offer mainstream Scottish culture.

There’s No V in Gaelic, TAG Theatre’s collaboration with the new Glasgow-based arts hub An Lòchran, is setting out to promote Gaelic as a vibrant, urban language able to articulate concerns of contemporary women. While it’s glib and easy to dismiss the production as a ‘Gaelic Vagina Monologues’, playwright Seonag Monk has built up her text around a similar format to Eve Ensler’s confessional project, drawing on the male-domininated Gaelic oral storytelling tradition and subverting it for female voices. Significantly, all three lead actors (Kathleen MacInnes, Cathie Ann MacPhee and Margaret Bennett) are also musicians and storytellers, using the musicality of the language as much as the meaning of the words to communicate. Woven round the central performance are monologues written and performed by a group of 16-25-year-old Gaelic speakers who live in Glasgow. These pieces assert not only the performers’ right to have a voice, but the stereotype-confounding notion that there might be 16-25-year-olds living in Glasgow who not only speak Gaelic (fluently), but have something to say in it.

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