Summerhall, Edinburgh – until 28 August 2016
Reviewer: Joe Christie
Jenna Watt’s affecting exploration of Trident in Faslane may never go nuclear, but her sympathetic approach to a complex issue restores some much-needed humanity to an increasingly polarised body politic.
With the recent vote in the House of Commons securing the continuation of Britain’s nuclear deterrent for the foreseeable future, many politicos right now must see Trident as a sore spot. How brave, then, of performance artist Jenna Watt to strike while the iron is so hot and channel this frustration into a therapeutic look at the meaning of activism.
First, though, a confession from Jenna: many of her nearest and dearest work at Faslane, the Scottish home to the arsenal in question. And it is this personal entanglement with the nuclear debate which provides the real emotional thrust for her monologue.
Watt researched the piece over the course of a few months by visiting peace camps and demonstrations, interviewing family members, and even snooping around the base itself (don’t tell the MoD). After her encounters, what she comes away with aren’t clear answers about the nuclear question, but a growing crisis-of-conscience. What about the people who have devoted their entire lives to Trident? What about the lives that could be lost?
The conflicted relationship she has with her own project is a neat framing device that digs the big questions into their very real consequences. Watt tells us about a scientific unit which measures the devastation of an atomic bomb, whilst perhaps putting herself forward as a human equivalent. Conflicting arguments tug her around the space. The sparse movement work is an effective representation of her inner turmoil, jeered on by Kim Moore’s restless soundscape.
Leading us along this journey of self-discovery, Watt is never less than engrossing. Bright and candid in her choice of words, she undercuts her gentle inquisitiveness with a dry wit. A particular strength are her displays of spiralling self-awareness—she chastises herself for lending a liberal ear to her own unattractive thoughts. To more than a couple groans of recognition, I should add.
It is apt then that the revelations here are not about unilateral disarmament, party politics, or even whether we should support Trident—though Watt has a definite leaning by the end. No, the revelations are about how we engage with difficult ideas, regardless of which generation we come from. They are about challenging our own complacency and returning some light and shade to public discourse. Only by reaching out to others can we land on the right thing to do. That’s how you solve a problem like Trident.
Running time 1 hour (no interval)
Summerhall (Venue 26) Summerhall, EH9 1PL.
Friday 5 – Sunday 28 August 2016.
Daily (not 15): 7.15pm.
Tickets and details from EdFringe website: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/faslane
Jenna Watt Website: http://www.jennawatt.co.uk
Mamoru Iriguchi Twitter: @thejennawatt