June 27 – July 06, 2019
The Tramway was an expectant place as we congregated before the show. As we walked in we were handed ear plugs; you couldn’t have had a better forewarning of the event to follow. It was also testament to the Tramway’s complete versatility as a theatre venue with the whole space able to change at will. The performance event in question was a new show from the National Theatre of Scotland’s Stewart Laing and Pamela Carter. Them! was inspired by the classic 1950’s horror Sci-fi movie of the same name, in which giant mutant ants attack Los Angeles. No doubt then why the poster listed “the audience, the host, the guests, and band and the ants”. All of which elements were thoroughly examined in one way or another as the evening progressed.
Them! was a talk show, hosted by the irresistible and irrepressible Kirina (Pamela Carter) who began the evening’s interviews by turning to the audience and asking about who we are. An enormous proposition, but that’s just for starters… With Kirina at the centre, the show built with great professionalism, fun, and lots and lots of talking as the artists and musicians offered their own personal take on any and every issue under the sun. Topics were raised and just as quickly flew by as the passionate Kirina, enjoying herself tremendously, delved deeper and deeper, kept us straight as we tried to follow the chaos of the ever changing scenarios.
I have to say a word about the production – the whole enormous stage was filled with everything a major talk show might have: a couch and chair for the interviews, a performance area for the band (Pop Queen Carla, a young Glaswegian Indie band), all combined with clever lighting, spotlights and the large screen hung right in the middle, on which we could watch clips from the original 50’s movie and from the musical tribute remake produced by Stewart.
Again and again, the discussions came back to the question of who we are, what we are, what are we doing here and touched upon themes of loneliness and survival? All the “guests” offered diverse reflections and comments, which could have been baffling, but somehow we were guided throughout and if we got lost we had the sense of Kirina to rely on.
So where do the ants come in? As carefully as we were “captured” we were shown the escape and could choose to go into a tunnel (through the audience) where there was heavy strobing and beat music which seemed almost out of control. My choice was a whisky and the quiet exit which led to a room where there were two large glass tank filled with thousands of leafcutter ants all busy doing what they do – a fascinating watch.
Are we ants? No we are humans but with very similar tasks, strength and beauty. What do we need? What does it all look like? The idea of Them! showed up many times throughout this show in different guises and with deep and careful and skilled writing and creating. In the end the show explored all sides of being human and surviving the world, just like the ants.