Theatre review: Faslane

Jenna Watt's play Faslanewill perform at Summerhall
Jenna Watt's play Faslanewill perform at Summerhall
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Faslane is a naval base on the Gairloch, just 40 miles west of Glasgow, that houses Trident, the UK’s nuclear deterrent; the four huge nuclear submarines, one always on patrol, that carry our intercontinental ballistic missiles, each individual warhead eight times more powerful than the huge atomic bomb that devastated Hiroshima in 1945.

Star rating: ****

Venue: Summerhall (Venue 26)

Jenna Watt’s thoughtful, finely-shaped monologue on Faslane – where members of her family have worked for decades – begins with the observation that for people under 30, that familiar white-on-black symbol of the circle split into three by sharp triangular lines simply means “peace”; whereas people over 40 identify it instantly with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. And she goes on to explore her sense that just as Trident itself is “a relic or symbol”, left over from a previous Cold War, so the campaign against it has itself slipped into history, the familiar peace camp at Faslane a forlorn reflection of a long-gone peacenik culture.

Faslane is not an intensely theatrical show; part reflection, part lecture, its mood is one of gentle exploration, supported by the mere hint of a set, and by an unobtrusively fine, brooding soundscape by composer and musician Kim Moore. Yet the quality of the writing is exceptional throughout, conjuring up powerful images of the places Watt visits and the people she meets; and the show’s very calmness of style only makes it the more powerful, at the moment when Watt turns her steady gaze on the sheer horror of what nuclear weapons are designed to do to innocent civilians. In the end, she acknowledges that Britain’s not-really-independent deterrent has been part of the alchemy that has kept our part of the planet at unprecedented peace, for a long 70 years.

And although she seems unpersuaded that that sense of familiarity is enough to justify the continuing presence of these dark giants on our shores, she views the subject with a poise, a balance, and a quiet determination to form her own view that is fascinating, and completely gripping.

Until 28 August. Today 7:15pm.

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