Review: Scenes for Survival: Courier Culture, National Theatre of Scotland

Courier Culture follows a new delivery driver’s route through the streets of Glasgow in lockdown, as he struggles to reach his destination, keep his star rating and break out of the place society has forced him into. 

A part of the National Theatre of Scotland’s Scenes for Survival project Courier Culture is one of over 50 new digital artworks made in response to the current Covid-19 crisis. All of the work is free to access while acting as a platform to raise money for the Scenes for Survival Hardship Fund: a fund for artists and theatre workers who have been hardest hit financially by the current crisis. While enabling artists to reflect on their experiences of lockdown, these scenes are far from being solely entertaining as they work to promote the arts and promote arts funding through the uncertainty of Covid-19. 

Written by Kevin P.Gilday and directed by Graham Eatough, the piece itself is also perfectly political. Highlighting how we undervalue key workers such as delivery drivers, are often ruled by our phones and have turned into a society that expects things to arrive now and arrive with piping hot chips on the side. The driver, skilfully played by Jatinder Singh Randhawa, navigates his way through an eerily empty Glasgow, avoiding rude customers and members of the public while being ruled by his new manager in his pocket: the delivery app. While this is commonplace to delivery drivers up and down the UK, watching it feels scarily Orwellian, making us as an audience question the little and large: how do we treat our delivery drivers, supermarket staff and other non-NHS keyworkers?  Have we let our lives be ruled by technology and fast culture? Have we forgotten how to be kind?

All of this is explored through the exceptional normality and humour of Randhawa’s performance. We empathise with him from the start through his inviting direct address and the genuine drive we see from him throughout, as his character imagines he’s taking part in a high stakes drug run as opposed to a KFC run. It is this playfulness that makes it all the more poignant when we learn how he is striving to better himself, but is struggling to break out of his circumstances, his parent’s opinion of him and the inherent prejudices of the UK. 

Gilday’s writing paired with Eatough’s direction turns a simple delivery into a high stakes chase across Glasgow. Outrunning the app, the pandemic and prejudice, in order to chase dreams of a better time and brighter future. Even though these issues aren’t immediately apparent, as you’re sucked into the five-minute-long scene you begin to realise what is really important here. An insightful look at the unseen aspects of lockdown, one that challenges us to be kind and hopes for a better time to come. 

Courier Culture is available to watch on the National Theatre of Scotland’s website.