Theatre review: Why Scotland Why East Kilbride, Glasgow

A 1960s aerial shot of East Kilbride. Picture: submitted
A 1960s aerial shot of East Kilbride. Picture: submitted
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THE 1970s must be the most maligned decade in British history; frequently typecast as a period of economic decline and industrial chaos, the 70s in fact saw the highest levels of income equality and equal opportunities achieved in Britain.

Why Scotland, Why East Kilbride

CCA, Glasgow

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It was just before that wave of optimistic post-war modernisation began to recede that East Kilbride Development Corporation commissioned a short film called Why Scotland? Why East Kilbride? to encourage people from England to relocate to Scotland. And that film inspired Glasgow-based composer and academic J. Simon van der Walt to create this new one-hour show, featuring the film itself, a seven-piece rock band, quieter musical and electronic sequences, and live scientific experiments, designed to capture the technology-driven spirit of the age.

The result is a fascinating if sometimes slightly whimsical show, in which the story revolves around the imagined figure of one Dr Teddy Edwards, a scientist of ever-shifting gender who, in 1977, is said to have been working at the National Engineering Laboratory in East Kilbride, after an early career that provided technology for the legendary BBC Radiophonic Workshop.

In that context, it’s not clear that the heavy rock music sequence that opens and dominates the show, accompanying the film, offers much insight into the ambient sounds of the age. By the end, though, van der Walt’s show becomes pleasingly fragmented. In the end, the plane of the two fictional visitors to East Kilbride seems forever stranded in the air, just about to land at Glasgow airport; like the image of a future that could have happened, but somehow just failed to materialise.