The Importance of Storytelling
If we’re told that politics and religion are not appropriate dinner table conversation, then sectarianism is probably also out.
This proves an issue for me as the entire point of my play Warrior focusses on the need to talk about sectarianism in Scotland, particularly if you don’t think it’s an issue that concerns you or the area you live in.
I’ll also assume then that your reaction to Warrior due to be performed at the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow next month probably wasn’t;
“A piece of theatre that shows how blind ignorance to sectarianism in Scotland can cause the breakdown of an everyday unsuspecting family and the wider community?? - Sign. Me. Up.”
But when the Scottish Government passed emergency legislation in 2012, the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Act highlighted a need to increase discussion, education and awareness of sectarianism as a way of combating the issue.
This means engaging with community groups, focus groups, charities, organisations and arts groups. It also means reaching out and connecting with audiences (that’s you to be clear) in the form of a number of post show discussions, to listen to each other’s stories and experiences on the issue - however little you feel it currently affects you.
From Des Dillon’s play Singin’ I’m No a Billy, He’s a Tim to Joan Lingard’s Across the Barricades - there is a wide selection of novels, plays, poems, sketches and even a musical highlighting the issue of sectarianism in Scotland, often written by those who had experienced it and could write about the issue first hand.
Like Evan, Warrior’s central character, I come from an area of Scotland not normally associated with sectarian behaviour. I don’t come from a religious family and I can honestly say I have never sat through an Old Firm football match.
Any link to sectarianism I witnessed as a young person was all talk - words I didn’t really understand spoken by children younger than me, who were also most likely oblivious to the venom and violence behind their language.
Given that many Scottish people see sectarianism as a West of Scotland issue or one that’s mainly linked to football - and I’d be honest enough to put myself in that category prior to starting this project - It made sense to me then to challenge that opinion, to focus Warrior on the issue of blind ignorance to sectarianism as opposed to bigoted ignorance. If the piece was to be aimed at young people in an attempt to combat learned behaviour, then it seemed appropriate to set the piece around the Threatening Communications aspect of the legislation, to create awareness of the dangers when we post online.
In terms of the play’s structure, I chose to present the play with a mix of monologues and duologues to physically ostracise each character, to highlight their isolation and to show a lack of communication and unity where it ought to be strongest. And seeing as the purpose of all this is to get people talking, it was important for the actors to appear to be singling you out. Telling you their story as if you are the only one listening, the only one who can spread the word. Encouraging (I hope) an audience to consider their own views on the issue.
One of our reviews from our Fringe run stated, “Warrior doesn’t give answers, but sends an audience away with the knowledge that one simple act, or word, or phrase can cause devastation.”
I don’t personally believe it’s a playwright’s job to offer answers. Instead, we try to ask questions, encourage debate.
I’d like to know if people were aware specifically of the Threatening Communications side to the legislation.
I’d like to know if they thought the maximum penalty of a five year prison sentence and an unlimited fine is fair or how they might choose to punish someone in Evan’s situation.
I’d like an audience to think about a time when they might have witnessed sectarianism in Scotland.
I’d like you to consider the parameters of free speech
And above all, I’d like to hear your stories. The inappropriate and awkward dinner table stories.
And if you do too, we’ll see you there.
Warrior at the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow - 2016
Thursday, 10th March at 7.30pm
Friday, 11th March at 7.30pm
Saturday 12th March at 2.30pm and 7.30pm
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