Review: The Great Yes, No, Don’t Know 5 Minute Theatre Show (Daily Telegraph)






The Great Yes, No, Don’t Know 5 Minute Theatre Show is the National Theatre of Scotland’s latest contribution to the national debate ahead of Scotland’s independence referendum on September 18th. Curated by acclaimed playwright David Greig and dramatist and producer extraordinaire David MacLennan (whose death, aged 65, on June 14, is still being mourned by Scotland’s theatre community) it offers 24 hours of five-minute pieces performed in various venues throughout the world and streamed live on the internet.

Attending the opening performances at Glasgow’s Òran Mór venue was a strange experience, more akin to being in a television studio during a live broadcast than at the theatre. As one would expect of such a project, the first four pieces proved to be decidedly uneven.

The opener, Anthem: To a New One, written and performedby Victoria Bianchi, is a monologue for a heavily pregnant woman, who contemplates what kind of Scotland she wants her child to grow up in. As she concludes that she will vote Yes to independence, one feels slightly cheated that the work is more polemical than metaphorical.

Victoria Bianchi in The Great Yes, No, Don't Know 5 Minute Theatre Show
Victoria Bianchi in The Great Yes, No, Don’t Know 5 Minute Theatre Show

Greig’s neatly satirical Two Soldiers is more substantial. There are some tremendous jokes in this little comedy about a frustrated soldier of the post-independence Scottish Defence Force complaining to his sergeant about the lack of combat in the new Scottish army of “peace makers”.

A gag about the SDF “reading Emily Dickinson with the ex-Mujahedin” is particularly funny. It’s so good, in fact, that one almost forgives Greig his gratuitously incestuous final gag about the frustrated private joining the cast of the NTS’s hit show Black Watch.

Amy Conway’s one-woman satire, Northern Britain: Know Your Limits!, is humorous in its depiction of England in 2022 under “Prime Minister Farage” and his project to reconstruct Hadrian’s Wall. However, it disappoints when it descends into a list of the new, independent Scotland’s imagined achievements.

Lest the NTS be accused of a bias towards the Yes camp, McLennan’s own contribution (If Scotland) provides a defiantly Scottish voice against independence. Accompanied by live bagpipes, it asks a series of humorously rhetorical questions which encourage a No vote in September.

Whether this work, or the array of “community” (for which read “amateur”) productions available online, deserve to win the theatre lover’s vote is a moot point. Put me down as a “don’t know”.

 Live broadcast ends 5pm, Tuesday June 24. Available online thereafter, visit:

Mark Brown

This review was originally published on the website of the Daily Teleraph on June 24, 2013

© Mark Brown


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