Just as Jaws isn’t really about sharks, How to Achieve Redemption as a Scot Through the Medium of Braveheart isn’t about the independence referendum. Not really. Rachael Clerke’s offbeat performance lecture resists easy categorisation and not only on account of the length of its title.
Like any lecture, it needs a topic. With Clerke setting out to ask searching questions about the notion of Scottishness and how identity is necessarily dictated by place. But don’t worry, it’s not nearly as boring as that sounds.
Having been ashamed of her Scottishness since her early teens, she’s on a quest for redemption, and she’s taking us with her. Armed with little more than some face paint, a kilt and a power-point presentation, Clerke guides us through her quest to find a robust emblem of indisputable Scottishness. We get a pillow-bellied Alex Salmond and a wild-wigged Donald Trump, but after some deliberation it seems the answer might just lie in a certain historically-inaccurate Mel Gibson movie.
Warming to her theme, Clerke decides to re-enact the famous Braveheart freedom speech outside Ibrox stadium with the assumption being that if Gibson can convince his rag-tag army of rebels to fight for independence in a dodgy Scottish accent, surely she can too. Little did she know that the video of the event would become the subject of a forum thread on a popular Rangers fan site. People were quite angry and the severity of their abuse forces her to re-think whether or not this historically inaccurate pop cultural representation of William Wallace is the emblem of Scottishness she thought it might be.
How to Achieve Redemption as a Scot Through the Medium of Braveheart is that rare thing, a piece with the necessary insight and intelligence to unpack an issue such as national identity without having to spell it out for us. I Heart Scotland mug in hand, Clerke disrobes the routinely spouted political ideals and delves into the personal-political debate of a country on the edge of a decision with biting satire and lightness of touch.
Clerke is a magnetic stage presence and her conviction allows her to carry it off and carry us with her. So much so that when she asks us to follow her onto Grassmarket for one last rallying cry, there’s not a moment’s hesitation.
How to Achieve Redemption as a Scot Through the Medium of Braveheart is at the Underbelly (Venue 16) until 24 August. For more information and tickets visit the EdFringe website.