Arts Review: Ah Dinnae Ken

STAG, theSpace @ Niddry Street, Edinburgh Fringe, 3-18 August (not on the 5th and 12th), 16:15

“We’re gonna kill the neighbours!” This might seem a bit extreme, but in the wake of a second Scottish independence referendum, one family sees no other option to ensure that the ‘Yes’ campaign will succeed this time. While their ‘No, thanks’ neighbours want to rely on the magical powers of shortbread, a dramatic battle about the nation’s future ensues. In the midst of all this are, of course, two star-crossed lovers and two seemingly independent news presenters.

This hilarious political comedy blurs the lines between Yes and No while heavily referencing Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’. The dialogues are sharp and laugh-out-loud funny while never clearly favouring one side of the argument. As one might expect from a play about Scottish independence, many themes and props relate to the Scottish identity: the accents, the occasional bagpipe music, Irn Bru, an obsession with shortbread, and of course, the title itself (meaning ‘I don’t know’ in Scots for all the non-Scottish people out there).

The intimate setting in the theatre compliments the families’ gatherings, but it still gives the actors enough room for nervous pacing, fighting, and creating distance. The actors all show their skill by each portraying two characters from the opposing families and giving them distinctive features. This ambiguity also adds to the message of the play, showing that both sides of the conflict are not that different. The accompanying lighting and quick costume changes demand praise for the crew behind the scenes. The ensemble’s comedic timing makes the show entertaining and gives it an easy-going feel even though the messages behind the jokes are much darker.

Overall, the cast manages to strike an enjoyable balance of comedy and drama, creating memorable moments at the Edinburgh Fringe. This wonderful piece about love, politics, murder, family, and baking is a treat for true Scots and strangers alike, although I will say, that as a non-native speaker, a few parts were slightly hard to understand because of the accents. Nonetheless, Ah Dinnae Ken offers an entertaining afternoon with a talented young ensemble that raises hope for the future – at least the future of Scottish theatre.

[Christina Schröck – @bookmagnolias]


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