Language is personal. Nothing gets closer to our hearts. And yet, by its own nature, it’s always social. Who owns it? Who appoints it? Who governs it? And why?
In this one-woman show about the Scots language, Ishbel McFarlane presents collected fragments – stories, interviews, memories, characters and attitudes – to challenge and disrupt our expectations and prejudices about language. By interrogating the history of Scots, and the ways in which it is taught and subdued, the audience is invited to question the way forward for minority languages. Winner of The Arches Platform 18: New Directions Award 2014.
McFarlane portrays several historic Scottish figures and linguistic experts from Liz Lochead to Robert Burns. Audience members, prompted by a televisual bingo caller, read prompt cards addressing those famous alter egos and McFarlane at various stages and ages in her life. The revelations and stories challenge how we view the Scots language, and the ways in which it is taught and subdued to question the way forward for minority languages.
Isabel McFarlane said: “Most of the world are essentially Scots speakers, people brought up using a language which is considered ‘lesser’ than the ‘real’ language of state. I want to encourage conversations about Scots language, and minoritised cultures. Why is it we put language varieties into a hierarchy? Why do we think a ‘language’ is better than a ‘dialect’? Why do people who would never discriminate against someone for the colour of their skin, openly discriminate based on their word-choice? I love to talk, and, delightfully for me, talking is a vital part of the solution. The way we talk and the way we hear is the heart of the matter. This is a universal issue. I’ve had people come up to me after shows to tell me that everything I said applied directly to their experience of northern France, or urban Boston. We think we’re in a unique situation, but we’re really not. Most of the world are essentially Scots speakers, people brought up using a language which is considered ‘lesser’ than the ‘real’ language of state.”
Ishbel McFarlane is a performer, writer and director based in Glasgow, from Kinross-shire. She trained at the University of Edinburgh and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. Her work centres around social justice, history, place and language. For two years she worked with ScotRail on poetry shows on Scotland’s trains, including Even in Edinburgh/Glasgow for the Fringe 2011 (★★★★★ Three Weeks). She directed The Translator’s Dilemma, which was selected to represent Scotland in theaterszene europa 2012 in Cologne.
She collaborated with Amy Conway and Edd Crawley on an immersive piece about the experience of deaf-blindness and being a carer, I-HAPPY-I-GOOD, which performed at Arches Live 2013 and the Southside Fringe 2014 (★★★★ The Scotsman/The Herald). In 2014 she also collaborated with Vanessa Coffey making Newhaven Fishwives for the Stellar Quines show Untaught to Shine, at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.
As a performer she has worked at the Tron on Shakespeare readings and at Oran Mor in A Play, A Pie and A Pint. She was in the original cast for Ella Hickson’s Eight, winning a Fringe First, and touring to New York, and London’s West End (★★★★ The Scotsman/The Herald/The Sunday Times/Time Out).