Review: Scenes for Survival - When?, National Theatre of Scotland

Scenes of Survival is a collection of digital performances supported by BBC’s Arts’ ‘Culture in Quarantine’ project. It is a unique selection of over 40 performance pieces, each created by a different group of people and performed from the comfort of their own home or on location by themselves. The pieces deal with different human experiences, partially new material and partially inspired or taken from stories we all know. The concept serves as a wonderful outlet for creativity and sends important messages out into the world.

One of these powerful pieces is When?, an extract from Zinnie Harris’s play Further Than the Furthest Thing. In 1962, the volcano on the remote island Tristan Da Cunha erupted, leading to an evacuation of the island, and the relocation of Tristan’s population to England. They were settled into makeshift houses and factories waiting for their return home. Kathryn Howden and Gilly Gilchrist perform this extract with so much sensitivity and devotion that the urgency can be felt deeply. Just like so many people in the world, Mill (Howden) cannot help but ask herself, “when?” When will she and her people return to the island that they call home? And so, she turns to Mr Hansen (Gilchrist) with hopes that the answer to her question will be “soon”. The two actors take us into their world of loss and their longing to belong. Howden’s monologue at the end leaves nothing but goosebumps and a compassion for anyone who has ever felt displaced.

Scenes for Survival is using this opportunity to tell stories of actual survival, of heightened emotions and longing, in a variety of ways. The selection of digital performances serves as a beautiful showcase of Scottish talent. When? is an example of what significant art we are still capable of creating. 

Scenes for Survival is playing online. For more information and tickets visit the National Theatre of Scotland website.