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Fatherland , Battersea Arts Centre – Review

Nic Green

Pros: Nic Green’s absolute vivacity; a ferocious performer, sparkling with creativity and life.
Cons: On a practical level, having a group of audience members reading previously unseen lines in unison meant that the words were sometimes unclear, and some of the meaning gets lost.
Our Verdict: One to see if you like feeling fully immersed in a very personal performance.
Credit: Battersea Arts Centre
Every trip to Battersea Arts Centre is an adventure. They say it themselves in their mission statement; step by step, production by production, they are inventing the future of theatre. Nic Green’s Fatherland is part of their current festival, Cook Up, which marks the 120th anniversary of their Victorian, former town hall building. An intense and meaningful journey into heritage, Fatherland fits the bill to perfection.
Alone on stage but for three dashing drummers and a kilted piper, Nic Green uses concepts of space, energy and the relationship between them to explore her Scottish roots. Having only met her father once briefly, at the age of 16, she grants the audience entry into an intimate sphere of her consciousness of him and of Scotland. She takes the audience on this journey with her, exposing us first to uncertainty, perhaps even reluctance, through determination to absolute freedom and celebration.
Nominated Best Female Performer at the Dublin Fringe Festival 2013, Green is immensely personal with her audience, an element which is essential to Fatherland’s success. She begins with the words “I’m just going to look at you”, and then does just that, row by row, standing and making eye contact with every single audience member. With this simple gesture, she obliterates all possibility of her audience’s passivity and the atmosphere in the performance space went from hushed expectance to solidarity. Using men from the audience to read lines as her absent father strengthened this idea that, while Nic is the sole physical presence on stage, she is not performing to her audience, but rather with them.
The bulk of the performance consists of a slowly building highland dance. Its development is gripping, if a little on the slow side to begin with. As the dance builds and the drum patterns become more complex and interweaving, the tension of the reluctance beginning begins to lift. Green sheds her trouser suit as she dances, losing the everyday world behind and connecting with the liberated fearsomeness of Scottish warrior women. At the dance’s peak, the bagpipes join the drummers, the lights brighten and Green lets go. The whole audience smiled with her – some even laughed. But not at the woman dancing around clad only in tartan pants and trainers; in that moment everyone felt just as free.
In true Scottish style, Green ended her dance handing out bottles of whisky and sharing a drink with her audience. As far as theatre is concerned, if this is its future then its prospects are bright. The way in which Nic engages her audience and trusts them with her incredibly personal exploration of her heritage is inspirational. The removal of standard, sitting in the dark observing things passively, created one of the most engaging and fulfilling performances I’ve ever been lucky enough to see.
Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!
Fatherland runs at Battersea Arts Centre until 2nd November 2013, with no shows 27th-29th October.
Box Office: 020 7223 2223 or book online at https://www.bac.org.uk/bac/shows/fatherlandgreen

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