EFR - Reviews of Ah Dinnae Ken

Ah Dinnae Ken

Fri 3rd – Sat 18th August 2018

reviews

Martha Crass

at 01:58 on 8th Aug 2018

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‘There never was a tale of more woe, than that of the vote between Yes and No’.

I’ll save you some time: you will probably want to see this show. After Student Theatre at Glasgow’s success at the Fringe last year, they’ve returned with a new production of ‘Ah Dinnae Ken’ which, while broadly focusing on the battle for Scottish independence in the run-up to a second referendum, centres more specifically on two families on either side of the debate.

The cast doubles up to play each family, the pro-Leavers dressed in yellow and the Remainers in blue. The tablecloth covering the kitchen table at the centre of the stage in the round is patterned - blue and yellow checked - and it is small details like this that really make the play. The action revolves, physically and metaphorically, around this table; characters circle it, climb on it, fight across it; and around it two newsreaders periodically update the audience with the conflict which divides not only a nation, but also the domestic lives of the two families.

It makes a change from all the Brexit- and Trump-themed political pieces that have come to the Festival this year, but politics isn’t all the show is about. In fact, predominantly it is a tale of romance, another adaptation of (as one of the father characters observes) everyone’s favourite overdone Shakespeare play: Romeo and Juliet. This struck me by surprise, and was introduced in a way that was instantly recognisable and immediately lovable, with our star-crossed lovers Julie (Amy Fraser) from the yellow family and Hugo (Sam Fraser) from the blues enacting THAT scene from Baz Luhrmann’s film adaptation. Here our newsreaders become the chorus, narrating scenes with passages from the play.

Despite the wealth of plays at the Fringe this year which have somehow shoehorned in the tale of the troubled teens, 'Ah Dinnae Ken' didn't smack of unoriginality as it might have if it had been described to me. There is a reason why ‘Romeo and Juliet’ has endured, and it is because ultimately, the story is both flexible and simple. Its plot stems from conflict, and this translates to a wide range of contexts. This was one of the few plays I’ve seen so far which got real laughs from the audience, not just chuckles. Ryan Rutherford as the two fathers was particularly brilliant, and each family transitioned seamlessly from one role to the other.

This show was as close to professional as anything I’d seen at the Fringe so far. Everything from set design to the lighting was clean and well-executed, and I was impressed with the originality and humour that had been injected into this show. ‘Ah Dinnae Ken’ passed quickly, and although its ending felt slightly abrupt, I feel this was a wise decision which prevented the play from becoming another in a long line of identical Romeo and Juliet retellings.

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Amy Barrett

at 09:39 on 8th Aug 2018

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Before even sitting down ahead of Student Theatre at Glasgow’s ‘Ah Dinnae Ken’ I was laughing. A very English me attempting to pronounce the production’s Scottish title only became funnier when people asked me what show I was seeing today; my response, “Ah Dinnae Ken” (that’s Scottish for I don’t know), sent me into further fits of giggles as I sounded like I had no clue what I was about to see. Maddie Beautyman’s play manages to remain firmly in the realms of comedy without being laugh-a-minute. Witnessing the feud between two families, “both alike in dignity”, as Scotland goes through another “indy ref” is a show you should definitely vote yes to seeing at this year’s Fringe.

‘Ah Dinnae Ken’ is performed as a parody of Romeo and Juliet. With one family voting yes and the other no to Scottish independence, things are bound to go wrong when their children fall in love. But unlike Shakespeare's tragedy, it's hilarious. The brilliantly written script subverts original extracts from Romeo and Juliet as a main source of wit. The altered prologue is a highlight, and providing an overview of the action (and laughs) to come.

A major part of the show’s success came from the fact that both families were played by the same set of actors, showcasing their talent in multiple ways. The distinction between the families was not only created by well-considered mannerisms, but through simple quick changes of yellow and blue accessories. By only swapping one item of clothing for each character change, the quick changes were extremely slick and didn’t affect the fast pace of the production.

Ryan Rutherford, who played both dads, Rupert and Roger, must be commended in particular. Not only were his contrasting characters equally show stealers, his delivery had the audience in stitches; ‘Leave the shortbread out of this!’ is a line I’m sure will stick in the heads of everyone who has seen it.

Another success was the direction. ‘Ah Dinnae Ken’ is performed in the round which has been an issue in some of the shows I’ve seen at The Fringe. Whilst it could’ve been easy to ignore some of the audience, the decision to set the scene with a round kitchen table meant every audience member could see at least one actor’s face at a time. Furthermore, to match the fast-paced show, every actor rapidly moved around all corners of the stage meaning you caught the hilarious facial expressions of each character.

‘Ah Dinnae Ken’ was the first Fringe show I’ve seen with a sell-out audience. While this put a lot of pressure on the production to be great, STAG completely pulled it out of the bag. The incorporation of tartan, shortbread and Irn Bru only added to the full Scottish experience. After the show, I ran out of the venue to devour a deep-fried Mars Bar and sink a can of that sickly sweet orange nectar.

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