Theatre review: It Wisnae Me

IT IS BLACK History Month, which makes it more than appropriate for A Play, A Pie, And A Pint to stage a play about Scotland's relationship with the slave trade, and our centuries-long complicity with the bloody and exploitative structures of the British Empire, from which many Scots greatly benefited.

Ali Watt and Andrew John Tait in It Wisnae Me, an Alan Bisset play at Oran Mor

Oran Mor ***

It is almost laughably inappropriate, though, to commission that play from a white male writer who wants to create a dialogue about empire for two other white male characters, one English, one Scots; and the belated entrance of a third character, a young black woman played with commendable poise by Danielle Jam, is so blatantly inadequate a nod to the actual voice of black people that even the playwright himself –the irrepressible Alan Bissett – is reduced to making jokes about it as part of the action.

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Those reservations apart – and Bissett would be the first to acknowledge that they cannot really be kept apart – Cheryl Martin’s production emerges as an interesting but slightly messy exploratory dialogue between a chippy working-class Scotsman, evoked in shrilly infantile style by Ali Watt, and a functionary of the British state who is sometimes posh English, sometimes sinister estuary, always relatively cool and controlled, played by Andrew John Tait.

Somewhere in the background of this piece, there is an interesting drama about the need for Scotland to grow up and take full responsibility for its past, and about what that would mean.

Bissett hasn’t quite written that play yet, though; and in the meantime, It Wisnae Me provides some entertaining notes towards it, inconclusive, and perhaps ill-placed in this particular month, but unfailingly interesting.


Oran Mor today, and Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, next week