Blood Orange

bloodorangeAug 19-24
1 hour
Suitability: 16+ (Guideline)
Group: Electric Theatre Workshop

This play, written and directed by Graham Main, is centred around a Scottish Defence League (SDL) demonstration against the opening of a Mosque in Dumfries. The SDL are an organisation which asserts that they counter Islamic extremists but who their opponents claim are racist or even ‘Nazi’.

The SDL is represented in the form of ‘Mole’. Mole is a skinhead (almost inevitably!) who seeks to manipulate the psychological insecurities and needs of those around him to political purpose. His life, and those on whom he preys, are set to a club beat with drugs and casual sex providing most of the highs.

Why is ‘Mole’ the way he is? Curiously, he is the only character whose psychological insecurities are not explored in the play. That’s maybe not surprising as he is the baddy, presented as an animal. The Nazis compared Jews to rats. This writer doesn’t use that metaphor instead plumping for a burrowing, underground creature. The effect is the same – dehumanisation of the ‘other’, ‘the enemy’.

Mole does not have any valid points. His criticisms of Islam are just pure bigotry without any foundation. Mole has no redeeming qualities. He is a pantomime villain. I half expected the audience to hiss and boo every time he appeared!

Mole seeks to manipulate Zander into murdering a Muslim. Zander scapegoats Muslims for the suicide of his mother. Mole befriends and rapes Jasmine (the anorexic and vulnerable girlfriend of Zander). Those around Mole are presented as weak, easy victims. Is it any wonder that others (whether Mole or Labour) need to think for them!

Once it has been established that Mole is thoroughly evil the play starts to promote the idea that violence is the solution: ‘if only someone could do something about that Mole the world would be a better place’. That’s the point where I get really uneasy about this story. It gets worse.

Mole is murdered in a wish fulfilment sequence. Zander is described as a ‘warrior’ or like a ‘soldier’. Cue Jasmine: “It’s over now“. It never is like that with violence, however. It is never over so simply. One brutal act just is the first step to the next. Tit for Tat is a simple game that is quickly learned. Ask the people of Northern Ireland!

There is great and passionate acting and enthusiasm for their cause in a very physical performance. There is interesting use of technology and footage from the SDL demonstration is mixed-in in sound and pictures. There is a fascinating mix of influences on the stage presentation featuring Shakespearian influences of asides and soliloquy as well as a kind of Greek chorus.

Despite all this I didn’t applaud at the end. The play made me sad as hate, prejudice, intolerance and the glorification of violence won the day, albeit in a different form.

Reviewed by Pat Harrington

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4 Comments »

  1. A Hunter said

    A totally one-sided play that missed the chance to address the issues involved. A shame, really as had there been a serious attempt to do so it would have lifted Blood Orange to being a much more worthwhile production.

    I detected shades of Irvine Welsh, Pink Floyd’s The Wall and even West Side Story! A heady combination indeed.

    The clichés flowed thick and fast, chants of “Nazi Scum”, warnings of the arrival of hordes of skinheads, etc….

    The use of media including footage of an SDL demo and megaphones on stage were good. Not so good was the projection of Swastika flags onto the set when SDL leader Mole was in full flow; more than a little over the top, in my opinion.

    The climax of the play sees Mole violently murdered by former protégé Zander. The reasons for this killing are to prevent something happening at 17:01 on the day of the demo. Perhaps I missed it, but I am not clear if the something was an invasion of the mosque or an even more diabolical event. Anyway, there is a disturbing lack of explanation as to why Mole’s killing was in any shape or form justifiable or if his death somehow prevented a greater tragedy. I am afraid to say that the whole tenor of the piece is that he got what he deserved just for thinking the way he did. A disturbing thought!

    At the end I did give a restrained amount of applause although this was simply for the energetic performance of the cast and certainly not for the content of the play. On the way out of the venue I was handed a leaflet by a member of the cast advertising an upcoming demo by Unite Against Fascism against the Scottish Defence League, which sort of confirmed in my mind where the whole thing was coming from……

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  2. culture matters said

    My god. What world are you living in? Its not your role to question the violence in the world, but to review the piece. This is by far the most outstanding piece I have seen in the Fringe. Just because its written in Scots the writer gets accused of wanting to be Irvine Welsh? How patronising

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    • Patrick Harrington said

      Living in a world where violence begets violence. I was questioning the glorification and justification of violence in the play. This was a play with a message and as such I am entitled in a review to question what that message was and whether it is a good one. It is an outstanding piece and it is particularly sad when talent is used for evil purpose. Can’t see where I accused the writer of wanting to be Irvine Welsh!

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    • A Hunter said

      I fear that I am the guilty one when it comes to making comparisons with Irvine Welsh, though this had as much to do with the common themes of the club scene and drug use and a skinhead getting a doing as much as the use of language!

      I would point out that in the official Fringe Guide it is advertised that Blood Orange “examines the turbulent rise of the new far right in modern Scotland”. Had it done so and been a balanced piece then it would have been a far superior production.

      Patrick’s examination of the themes involved is perfectly legitimate, in my opinion.

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