Theatre review: A Conversation With My Father
Edinburgh Festival Fringe Scotsman review: A Conversation With My Father at Northern Stage at St Stephen’s (Venue 73), reviewed by Susan Mansfield
There are several shows on the Fringe this year which explore the nature of contemporary protest. However, in this thoughtful and well-written one-woman show, theatre-maker Hannah Nicklin manages to explore the topic from two perspectives simultaneously: hers as a protester, and that of her father, a retired policeman.
An interview with her father, Roger, about his experiences in the police forms the spine of the story. Around it, she sketches out details of some of the protests she has taken part in, from the cheerful climate-change activists attempting to join hands round a power station, to angry anti-fascist marches being kettled, or clashing with the other side.
We also start to learn more about her family: the night they all nearly died from carbon monoxide poisoning; the family car, bought with the overtime Roger earned policing the Miners’ Strike (any additional money he gave to miners’ charities). With good humour and sensitivity, she gradually unpicks any notion of “them” and “us”.
But, at demonstrations, both sides go prepared. Protesters set fire to things, so police wear fire-retardant clothing. Police use “forward intelligence teams” to film protesters and identify them, so protesters cover their faces. Fear can provoke unwise actions on either side. It becomes possible to see how escalations happen, even though the vast majority of people don’t go with that in mind.
While this show, with its story telling/slide show format, is part of a now recognisable genre, and is more documentary than inherently dramatic, Nicklin’s take on her subject is fresh. There are no big clashes of ideology between the generations. Instead there is a continuum: the sense of fairness that inspired Roger to treat people well when policing them is the same sense which inspires Hannah to protest.
Looking at the issues through the lens of a loving father-daughter relationship makes it impossible to deny the humanity of those on the side opposite to your own.
Until tomorrow. Today 8:05pm
More info: A Conversation With My Father is at Northern Stage at St Stephen’s
Originally published in The Scotsman