Drew Taylor, The Arches, 21st October
Presented as part of Glasgay! and SMHAFF.
I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked.
Allen Ginsberg’s ‘Howl’ remains one of the most powerful poems, entwined with the fabric of both culture and subculture. It’s easy, then, to see why Drew Taylor, Julia Doogan and their cast selected this poem to explore Scotland, its politics and culture, after the Scottish referendum vote. The concept behind this performance is nothing short of inspired.
Taking important political themes into theatre and turning it into something both serious and fun is something that Drew Taylor seems to have a knack for. This rewriting of ‘Howl’ combines with a soundtrack composed and performed by Julia Doogan, Jennifer Hamilton and David Rankine in such a way that the score acts both as incidental music, and as constant undercurrent to the whole show. With a lighthearted tone, it felt designed to make the audience happy, however they felt politically. This is a show to uplift its audience.
HOWL(ing) is neither a Yes show, or a No show. Its success may be seen in how well it presents both sides of the debate. Three performers give voice to the poem, with Leyla Josephine giving voice to Yes, David Rankine to No and Drew Taylor himself to neither side. Each member of the cast delivers their poem with a passion that shows a love for Scotland, and for working together and supporting each other despite their differences in political stance. HOWL(ing)’s depiction of Scotland is of a country that works together, despite party lines. It may be idealistic, but sitting in the audience of HOWL(ing), it’s an ideal you cannot help but fully support and believe to be possible.
The performance is funny, bringing in fears about mitten crabs invading Scotland, but you could see beneath the jokes the underlying metaphors. While HOWL(ing) might hope for an ideal Scotland, it didn’t shy away from showing the problems within society, showing up the ridiculousness of fearing invasion of inhabitants from outside our own country.
This ability to uplift, yet still see the dark sides; to cloud in metaphors, both clear and entertaining, the issues that we must tackle, and to see a bright world with a better future possible, is what makes a piece of political theatre so successful, and what Drew Taylor captures perfectly. The angel headed hipsters thank him for his work and his dedication.
[Emma Ainley-Walker – @emaw23]