The multifaceted issues and implications surrounding nuclear arms – specifically through the lens of the UK’s Trident programme, housed at Faslane near Glasgow – cannot be summed up by one woman over the course of seventy-odd minutes. However, in the talented hands of Jenna Watt, Trident is explored in surprising scope and engagement. Watt relentlessly documents every step, every quote, and every interaction along her self-education about nuclear weapons and their multiple meanings today: to the community largely supported by Faslane’s industry, to the politicians intent on their UN Security Council seat, and to the activists who sport the peace symbol – or more accurately the Centre for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) symbol – while keeping the memory of Hiroshima alive.
Faslane’s approach to the moral and social consequences of Trident and nuclear arms is laid bare in the first fifteen minutes. After an introductory speech from Albert Einstein’s anti-nuclear weapons essay, Watt clearly states her intention not to obfuscate any facts, statements, or quotes throughout her exploration of the issue. Growing up among Trident workers, in an area whose economy was bolstered by the base, Watt invites the audience into her internal dialogues and debates surrounding her growing awareness of nuclear warheads and their implications for the UK and world. These investigations take her to the permanent caravan camp outside Faslane, an activist’s house in Edinburgh, her uncle (an employee of Trident), and to the base itself. While each turn is supplemented by sound bites of famous pro- and anti-nuclear speeches, it is these human stories and Watt’s relentless internal monologue which captures all attention. They are all conducted with honesty, and no attempt to override anyone’s opinion is made. That said, no attempt to hide the horrible destruction wrought by Little Boy is made either, even if other historical elements of the atom bomb’s creation and history are not as fully examined.
Watt is a magnetic performer with the charisma and presence to pull off the piece’s nuance and emotional changes easily and engagingly. She wins the audience’s trust through her amiable personality and honest – essential for such a judgement-free narrative. She imbues each story with the characteristics of her interviewees, slipping between performance and direct address while never losing focus. Her comic timing is impeccable and excellently executed, bringing levity to the discussion and winning the audience’s trust through her amiable personality. The care and consideration she gives her story and audience drive the show’s success.
While not everyone may have given nuclear weapons the same thought as Watt has, the indecision, confusion, and stress resulting from a conflicting heart and head are palpable and poignant – this struggle is relatable across many challenging issues affecting families, livelihoods, and lives. This clear connection and communication, combined with a judgement-free (albeit emotionally-charged) presentation of the issue, make Faslane a powerful work of art.
Faslane is playing at Summerhall as part of the Edinburgh Science Festival for two nights only, until Tuesday 11th April. Performances start at 7.30pm and last for 75 minutes. Tickets are £12, £10 concessions.
Writer/performer: Jenna Watt
Sound designer: Kim Moore
Dramaturg: Louise Stephens
Stage Manager: Sam Ramsay
Outreach Coordinator: Jack Stancliffe
PR: Miriam Attwood, Storytelling PR
Producer: Callum Smith, Showroom
Tour supported by Creative Scotland
Development supported by Creative Scotland, Cove Park, National Theatre of Scotland, West Yorkshire Playhouse, and Contact
Faslane is a Contact Flying Solo Commission.