Faslane is a unique one-woman show about the UK’s nuclear deterrent, written and performed by Jenna Watt. Following an award-winning Edinburgh Fringe debut last year, the show is now preparing for its UK tour. We caught up with Jenna and producer Callum Smith to hear about the journey so far.
Growing up with family living and working on the Faslane nuclear base (situated 40 miles from Glasgow and home to the Trident nuclear missile programme) Jenna was brought up with an awareness of the base, but not of what it really meant.
"As the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum rolled around and the issue of Trident became a political hot topic," Jenna recalls, "I decided it was time to find out what I really thought about the issue".
What followed was a two-year journey of research and self-discovery where the personal and political collided as Jenna tried to make up her mind about where she stood.
Callum explains: "Jenna's research efforts have lead to a really balanced piece which doesn’t try to convince an audience of one view or another on this issue, instead presenting a range of opinions and arguments drawn from Freedom of Information requests, visits to the base, interviews with family members and even forays into activism and protest.
"Jenna collaborated with composer Kim Moore, who created an immersive sound design featuring clips from parliamentary speeches and from protests alongside evocative music created by Kim. The process culminated in a month long run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe as the result of a seed commission and preview at Contact Manchester as part of their Flying Solo Festival in 2016."
"The show was a great success in Edinburgh," says Callum. "It garnered a slew of excellent reviews, picking up a Scotsman Fringe First award and an inaugural Summerhall Lustrum award. There was clearly an appetite for the show to be seen by a wider audience so we immediately started putting together a tour.
The response from promoters and venues was extremely positive and we’re looking forward to taking the show all over the country as part of this upcoming tour.
Whilst it's very much a product of Scotland, it has become clear to us that the issues raised are of international relevance.- Jenna Watt and Callum Smith
"Thanks to generous support from Creative Scotland and other partners we’re able to tour all the necessary technical equipment to allow the show to 'pop up' almost anywhere, so as well as traditional theatre spaces at venues such as the Tron, Mull Theatre and Macrobert Arts Centre we’re also able to inhabit some more intimate and unusual spaces such as the Bishop’s Chapel at Eden Court, the gallery space at Woodend Barn and a rehearsal room at Dundee Rep."
Jenna: "That's right, we’ve been able to work with the Touring Network as well as NEAT (North East Arts Touring) to book some great community spaces in more remote parts of the country. We're also thrilled that the official opening of the show will take place at the Cove Burgh Hall, just a couple of miles from the Faslane base itself."
Callum: "The Fringe is a fantastic way of not only securing interest from programmers and artistic directors at home, but also abroad. We were delighted to receive an email soon after the end of the festival from a promoter in Umeå, Northern Sweden who had seen and loved the show. Jenna and I have just returned from an excellent trip to this amazing part of the world, where we presented Faslane in a contemporary art gallery called Bildmuseet as a concurrent event to their exhibition “Perpetual Uncertainty”, featuring artworks inspired by nuclear energy and weapons.
"The reaction from Swedish audiences was excellent - whilst the country does not have nuclear weapons of their own they share the same concerns as many citizens of Scotland (both pro and anti) and were full of questions about the show and the current political situation in Scotland after the performance.
"We’re hoping to build upon this initial international interest with future dates around the world. Whilst it’s very much a product of Scotland and specifically about the UK’s nuclear deterrent, it has become clear to us that the issues raised are of international relevance.
"We were fortunate to have the support of Summerhall and Contact, Manchester in mounting the show at the Edinburgh Fringe – it remains an extremely expensive endeavour and a financial risk for all parties, but on this occasion it has proven fruitful and we’re looking forward to our next outing at the Fringe with a new production."
Jenna: "We've been extremely keen to get Faslane out on the road given its political significance and the lack of unbiased reporting on the subject in the media. Touring the show to an array of both theatres and community spaces feels like a way of opening up debate and dialogue about an issue which, for many of us, has been an open-and-shut case."
Callum agrees: "Almost every major political and constitutional question in the news today affects the status of the UK’s nuclear deterrent – Brexit, Indyref2, Trump, Putin… The show seems more and more relevant as we grapple with these issues, making the upcoming tour feel all the more vital and exciting.
"We both feel Faslane needs to be seen by a wider audience so are exploring options for further Scottish touring as well as engagements around the UK and indeed around the world for the show."
Correct at the time of publishing. Check the Faslane website for the latest information and dates.