How to Achieve Redemption as a Scot Through the Medium of Braveheart

Rachael Clerke is Scot-ish (a category whose ambivalence, being Jew-ish, I totally get), as she demonstrates by wearing kilt hose with knackered trainers. The performance artist combines hi-tech (some well-timed video clips on a projector) and lo-tech (scribbling on eyebrows to impersonate Alex Salmond). The result is a winning performance whose humour is a slow-burn and whose title is a mouthful.

Somehow, this unapologetic lovechild of pop culture and Scottish pride has me sold

The premise of the show is Clerke’s (timely) attempt to rediscover her Scottish identity in a whistle-stop tour of the country’s Hall of Fame (big names include Salmond, rent-a-Scotsman Donald Trump, and of course the show’s titular hero). Through the power of impersonation, Clerke attempts to channel the Scottish energy of these famous men and “redeem” herself as their countrywoman.

In reality, there’s a lot of rolling down sand-dunes and pranking of the public, yet never is Clerke’s punking gratuitous. One example is her dressing up as Donald Trump, who recently purchased an area of land upon which the performer’s grandfather’s ashes are scattered in order to build a golf course (which he didn’t even finish) and parade around said golf course. A minor and perhaps even petty act of defiance, perhaps, but as Clerke brandishes the framed clump of grass she pulled out of one hole, somehow meaningful.

Clerke fills the hour comfortably, managing to resist the urge to overfill a one-person show. In fact, never does Clerke seem anxious to please, instead allowing us to come to her, a refreshing rarity at the Fringe. What’s more, she sets up incredibly untenable arguments (such as that feelings of Scottish nationalism are best stirred by an American with anachronistic face paint and horrifyingly antisemitic views), and stands by them. Somehow, this unapologetic lovechild of pop culture and Scottish pride has me sold.

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The Blurb

Rachael feels uneasy about Scotland. She feels uneasy about Alex Salmond and Donald Trump. About golf, tartan and the independence referendum. She feels particularly uneasy about the fact that she once performed the Braveheart freedom speech to Rangers fans outside Ibrox. Exploring identity, belonging and machismo, How to… Braveheart delves into the personal-political debate of a country on the edge of a decision. Expect rousing speeches, bicycles dressed as horses, a woman dressed as Mel Gibson and your very own Scottish enlightenment. Winner, Ideastap Underbelly Award.