Underbelly Cowgate (Venue 61), Edinburgh – until 26 August 2017
Guest reviewer: Hugh Simpson
There is undeniable promise in The Last Queen of Scotland. It is told in a voice largely absent from the stage, and presents a story which seems to have been largely forgotten, but remains desperately contemporary in so many ways.
This Stellar Quines production, commissioned and supported by the National Theatre of Scotland and Dundee Rep, is by film-maker Jaimini Jethwa. Partly autobiographical but drawing on a number of sources, it tells of a woman (played by Rehanna MacDonald) from a family of Ugandan Asians deported by Idi Amin in 1972, and who ended up in Dundee.
The basic elements of the story – the flight from Uganda, the experience of urban Dundee with its minks and widos, a journey back to Africa – are, taken separately, compellingly told and presented. Yet for all the fizz and fire of the words, MacDonald’s energy, and the dramatic and musical support from the excellent Patricia Panther, there is something about it that does not quite cohere.
Scripts can occasionally get drafted and workshopped out of existence, with a plethora of ideas serving to obscure the original motivations behind telling the story. This play does bear some signs of such a process. Being performed in the midst of the Underbelly, surrounded by productions whose noise levels do not have the light and shade this one does, is also less than ideal at times.
That is not to say that it is in any way a bad production. On the contrary, it is brimming with ideas, lucidly directed by Jemima Levick, and tells a story that demands to be seen on the stage. This is enough to show that it could have been even better.
Running time 1 hour (no interval)
Underbelly Cowgate, 66 Cowgate, EH1 1JX (Venue 61).
Thursday 3 – Friday 26 August 2017
Daily (not Wednesdays) at 6.50 pm
Book tickets on the Fringe website: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/last-queen-of-scotland
Stellar Quines website: http://www.stellarquines.com
Dundee Rep: http://www.dundeerep.co.uk
Twitter: @Stellarquines, @DundeeRep, @NTSonline.