Play Review: [Howl]ing

Review Howling

By Katie Mcevinney

Drew Taylor’s most recent play “[Howl]ing” was performed at The Arches on Tuesday 21st of October as part of Glasgay! as well as The Scottish Mental Health Film and Arts Festival. Involved were Drew Taylor, director based and living in Glasgow, along with actor David Rankine and slam poet Leyla Josephine. The show was beautifully narrated with folk music from Julia and the Doogans. The performance depicted post-referendum Scotland in a raw and completely honest way, portraying a generation; their attitudes before and after the result, the struggles they battle in modern life, and the idea that as a country, we will continue to stand together, no matter the division in opinion.

Taylor, taking inspiration from Allen Ginsberg’s poem ‘Howl’, written in 1955 San Francisco to dissect America at that time, created his own poem to deal with impact of the referendum on Scotland, and the wider economic and social problems we face in our society were referenced throughout. Drew Taylor took the iconic beat generation poem, which caused so much controversy at the time in which it was written, and used similar thematic and poetic elements to successfully portray the emotions and mental states of people in Scotland, only one month after the vote took place.

The set for the show was simple, including only a bench and several rags of various Scottish tartans thrown randomly around the stage. This allowed the audience to focus solely on the words we were hearing, and the way the actors performed them. From the onset, it was informal, dynamic and extremely funny. Some could have argued the actors were under-rehearsed, but this simply underlined the immediacy of what was happening, the need for the words to be heard now, right now, reflecting what Scots are really feeling in this moment, with the vote being so recent and feelings so fresh.

For me the stand out performer was Drew Taylor himself who presented us with something so un-pretentious and real, which is often difficult to find. He delivered his lines with such technical precision throughout. The overall passion of all the actors was fantastic, and I suspect the emotion they brought to the stage, was in fact pulled from their own recent experiences. A perfect balance of “Yes” versus “No” competition, with the message always clear, no matter how you voted, we are still Scotland and we need to fight for something better.

The line “eat, excrete, repeat” was blunt and built enough anger to convey the situation of those in Scotland today, mountains of debt, dead-end jobs and wages so low, they cannot compete with the climbing cost of living. This harsh truth of reality that so many people in the audience could  comprehend, combined with continuous, perfectly timed jokes,  observations about our society and an abundance of dry wit, led to constant laughs and cheers. My favourite joke of the performance was, “We Scotland, are sorry for Andy Murray’s mum. We Scotland, are sorry for Andy Murray’s mum on Strictly Come Dancing!”

An overall brilliant performance that dug deep into the attitudes of Scottish people, and brought to the table the variety of emotions we are feeling today; anger, disappointment, relief, angst. But the message the audience left with was clear: Scotland has experienced a political awakening and we will not be divided, we will not back down.