A rock band, whose No 1 hit glory days are long gone, is on the point of breaking up. Its four members are an Englishman, Scotsman, Welshman and Northern Irishman. The band, pointedly called The Union, is in financial crisis because it transpires the manger hasn’t paid any VAT for 12 years. The Scots guitarist has decided he is going solo.
Astonishingly, of the 2,871 shows on the Edinburgh festival Fringe this year only three or four focus on the issue of Scots independence, to which most Scots seem startlingly indifferent. Dangerously so, according to Tim Price the author of I’m With The Band another piece of new writing commissioned by Orla O’Loughlin, the artistic director of The Traverse, which is celebrating its 50th year as the epicentre of new writing for the Scottish theatre.
Price, whose previous Salt, Root and Roe at the Donmar was nominated for an Olivier award, is a Welshman. His central thesis is that the debate should not be myopically focussed on whether Scotland would be better off alone. With centuries of shared history, emotion, psychology and kinship there will be unexamined impacts on Wales, Ulster and England too.
The play is an allegory but a powerful and clever one which never becomes hammy, even if the band’s first track is called "We’re All In This Together".
A well-balanced cast are scabrously funny; James Hillier and Andy Clark create a good chemistry as the super-competent play-it-all Englishman and chippy creative Scot, but Matthew Bulgo and Declan Rodgers seize their moments as the cowed Welshman and the belligerent inarticulate Ulsterman. Gordon McIntyre’s music is effective while director Hamish Pirie ensures that the music serves the drama and not vice versa and adds some inventive touches to a provocative script. A play for all nations, on these isles at least.