We chat to Rachael Clerke ahead of her work-in-progress show How to… Braveheart, as part of UK:RIP
What is the show about?
The show is about Scotland. And about me. It’s about my relationship with the place where I grew up, and my rejection of the word ‘Scottish’. It’s about trying to find ways to accept that word, and to become ‘legitimate’ as a Scot. Which I try to achieve by being Alex Salmond (first minister of Scotland), Donald Trump (American property tycoon and recent invader of a stretch of land in Aberdeenshire) and William Wallace, as portrayed by Mel Gibson in Braveheart. I guess in a way it’s a response to there being a word – British – that does a really good job of describing what I am (and is much less of a mouthful than ‘half-English-Scot-living-in-England’) and the potentiality of that word being taken away. It’s not totally about the referendum though, more about the idea of Scotland as a place and an identity. It’s also a reluctant acknowledgement and exploration of the fact that Braveheart still makes me hate the English.
Describe it in three words.
Political. Autobiographical. Silly.
How has the creative process worked for the show?
It’s been quite a long process, which started under the name Oh my God – I’m Scottish too!!, in 2011, as a university project in my final year as a student at Dartington/Falmouth. I did a two month residency in Glasgow during that time where I set myself the goal ‘become more Scottish’, so I was playing with stereotypes a lot, re-learning my Scottish history, and also doing a lot of interviews. That process resulted in the very first scratch version of what is now, finally, becoming a show. I performed that first version at Glasgow Buzzcut festival in 2012. Since then I’ve done a lot of thinking and a lot of writing, but as a making process it was fairly dormant until this year, when I was awarded the Ideastap Underbelly award, which means I’m taking it to Edinburgh. Yikes! So I’ve just spent the last three weeks up in Glasgow and driving around Scotland doing a lot of making scraps of material and filming on location on Donald Trump’s golf course. Now I’m starting to try and make it into a show… UK: RIP will be the first outing of a new kind of shape for the work, so it’ll be really good for me to see what works and what doesn’t, and hopefully the audience will come along with me on that.
What made you decide to create How to… Braveheart?
I lived in Turkey for a year in 2010. When I was there I realised that the turkish word for ‘British’ is Ä°ngilteriyim, and is interchangeably used to mean ‘English’. Much as I’ve always made a point of trying to introduce myself as British (not because I’m a massive unionist – because it’s the word that felt most appropriate – see above), I realised that I just couldn’t deal with the idea that people might think I was English. It struck me as funny, that even though I wanted to be British, I still had this shred of national pride that wanted people to know I was Scottish. So the project sort of began as a reaction to that. As an investigation into what that feeling of pride was, and trying to identify when that came about.
What do you hope your audience will feel?
I want the audience to feel how I feel when I listen to Dougie MacLean’s 70s folk song Caledonia. It makes me feel proud and passionate and a bit sick and repulsed all at the same time.
What’s next for you and the show?
I’m going to Edinburgh to do this show 24 times in a row and if I’m still alive at the end of that then I’ll have to think about what else can happen with it.
Rachael is presenting a work-in-progress of How to… Braveheart as part of UK:RIP on 4-5 June. Find out more here.